It started a few weeks ago when Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said the window was closing on his team's ability to win a Super Bowl.
Jones could have meant the window was closing on himself from a personal level, given his age (69) and what he's invested in the team from a financial perspective.
It also could have meant something else:
1. Tony Romo. If the window is really closing, the Cowboys have a major decision regarding the QB's future. Romo has two seasons left on his contract and, while he's still an elite quarterback, the time is now for a deep playoff run. If Romo fails, the Cowboys could draft another quarterback in 2013 to prepare for the future. Logan Thomas (Va. Tech), Matt Barkley (USC) and Landry Jones (Oklahoma) are considered the top quarterbacks from the 2013 draft class. Nothing against backup Kyle Orton, who signed a three-year contract this offseason, but a rookie would be an upgrade over what the Cowboys currently have at the No. 3 spot.
2. Jason Garrett. His philosophy prevails all over Valley Ranch, from the staff to the players. Now he needs wins. If the Cowboys fail to make the postseason, it will be the third consecutive season that's happened. Garrett took over for Wade Phillips at midseason in 2010. The last time the Cowboys failed to reach the postseason three consecutive seasons, Jones fired Dave Campo. Missing the postseason in 2012 would add tremendous pressure on Garrett for 2013.
3. DeMarcus Ware. His skills aren't eroding, his value within the franchise hasn't diminished, but the Cowboys' best defensive player doesn't want to be considered the Ernie Banks of his generation. Ware can't do it by himself, yet he's under the microscope more this season than any other. The Cowboys need Ware to continue being a dominant force. If he slides and the Cowboys again miss the playoffs, the scrutiny will only increase.
4. Dez Bryant. This could be a breakout season. If the Cowboys' window is closing, you have to wonder just where he is in terms of his development. Bryant is a talented player who knows the offense and seems to have solved his off-the-field antics. The Cowboys need more from Bryant this season. They can't be afraid he'll get injured if he returns punts. The franchise must let this man play special teams and become a force on offense so they can truly see his potential.
5. Rob Ryan. The defensive coordinator talked smack last season and, while the secondary struggled at times, the pass rush was improved. With a full offseason program to teach his scheme at a slower pace, expect big things. Ryan wants a head coaching job and should get one at some point, but 2012 is the key to achieve that.