Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dungy was in Fort Worth on Day 1 of the NFL Draft, the perfect time to ask him what’s wrong with the team he frequently watches every Sunday night.
His answer will only frustrate you.
“The Cowboys have been there. They’ve been close. They’ve been good,” he said. “The expectations are that you can win every year, or that you can win five or six Super Bowls because New England did it. People don’t understand how hard that is.”
Dungy flew in to DFW on Thursday morning from his home in Tampa to promote his charity, “All Pro Dad,” his non-profit foundation that supports and encourages fathers to be active with their children.
Since he retired from the NFL in 2009 as the head coach for the Indianapolis Colts, he has served as NBC’s top studio NFL analyst on its “Football Night in America” telecasts.
Because the Cowboys are the Cowboys they are on Sunday Night Football as much as any team in the league, and Dungy has been forced to watch them play, and evolve.
The way he sees the Cowboys, they’re not doing necessarily doing anything wrong.
“It’s right place, right time, right chemistry. They’re not lacking much,” he said.
At least since he joined NBC, the Cowboys always lack one element that prevents them from going on that January/February run missing around here for more than 20 years.
When quarterback Tony Romo was in his prime, the defense wasn’t good enough. Or they had a leak in their offensive line.
Or the New York Giants got ’em because it was not in head coach Wade Phillips to stay on a team that had grown overly enamored with itself in 2007.
When they had a more complete team, for instance in quarterback Dak Prescott’s rookie season in 2016, they ran into Aaron Rodgers and barely lost on a pass that only Rodgers can make.
Last season’s team was exposed by an offensive line that was whipped in the wild card round because San Francisco effectively rush the passer with four players.
Also, last season’s team loved to commit penalties, too.
It’s always been one fatal flaw. But that flaws is never the same.
“The difference between being a championship team and not is very, very slim,” Dungy said.
Last season’s Super Bowl winners, the LA Rams, won by three points in the NFC title game, thanks largely to a dropped interception by the 49ers.
The Rams won each of their final three playoff games by three points.
“That run is hard to get on. I played for the Steelers, when the Oakland Raiders were a tremendous team at the same time in the ’70s,” Dungy said. “The Steelers won a bunch of championships. The Raiders won one Super Bowl. But the Raiders had a fantastic team.
“Had (the Steelers) not been there, I don’t know how many the Raiders would have won. I saw that again in Indianapolis (where he coached from 2002 to 2008). The Patriots won a bunch. It wasn’t that we were doing anything wrong. We weren’t quite there, and that’s the way it works sometimes.”
It’s been the way “it works” for the Dallas Cowboys for 20 years and counting.
As Dungy said, the Cowboys aren’t “lacking much.”
Whatever they do lack, however, always is just enough to prevent them from winning those coveted January games. The postseason games that once made the Dallas Cowboys into one of the most celebrated brands in professional sports.
Dungy knows. He’s played it. He’s coached it. He’s lived it.
The Cowboys aren’t really doing anything wrong. They’re not the Detroit Lions, New York Jets, or Washington Whatevers.
The Cowboys are a pretty good team.
The Cowboys, likely, will have another decent draft.
The Cowboys, likely, will have another decent, interesting season.
And something will come up that will prevent the Cowboys from going on that postseason run the team lacks, and needs.
It is frustrating.
Until proven otherwise, it’s also just the truth.