Commentary

Winning squarely on players this time

Despite all their rings, Garrett and staff will take this Cowboys squad only so far

Updated: July 21, 2014, 10:57 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

Tony Romo, Jason Garrett, Jason WittenGetty ImagesWith head coach Jason Garrett basically still learning on the job, veterans Tony Romo and Jason Witten must use their influence to get the Cowboys back into the playoffs.
It has been 6,750 days since the Dallas Cowboys' most recent championship.

It has been 1,655 days since their most recent playoff win.

And it has been 1,660 days since they most recently finished an NFL season with a winning record.

Since the Cowboys last ruled the NFC East, in 2009, 18 teams have won division titles, including every other NFC East team. Four others have made the playoffs.

Folks, that's 22 of the league's 32 teams that have been to the postseason since the Cowboys most recently did so during their 2009 campaign.

Ridiculous.

The Cowboys arrive on the West Coast on Tuesday for training camp in Oxnard, California -- about an hour's drive northwest of Los Angeles - and the players and staff will be filled with the usual optimism for this time of year.

After all, every team is undefeated and sees ways it can contend for a championship.

For the Cowboys to end the longest playoff drought since Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989, this team must learn how to win. Clearly, that's easier said than done, as Mama used to say.

So much of winning in professional sports is about confidence -- and unwavering confidence, at that -- because there's not much difference in talent between the best teams and the worst teams.

Take a look at this Cowboys roster, and tell me who knows how to win at the pro level. Hardly anyone.

This squad has just six players who have won a playoff game wearing a star on the side of their helmet. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised the Cowboys collapse nearly every December and have lost three consecutive win-and-get-in games.

When Bill Parcells arrived in 2003, players followed him because he had two Super Bowl wins on his resume, earned while taking three different teams to the Super Bowl and four different teams to the playoffs. Everyone knew Parcells understood how to build a championship roster and organization, regardless of whether you liked his approach to doing so.

Even Wade Phillips was a proven winner in the regular season, and he certainly had no issue telling you about his 82-64 record as a head coach. Say what you want about Camp Cupcake and Phillips' familial approach to building a roster, but he delivered the Cowboys' only playoff win since 1996.

Jason Garrett, a first-time head coach at any level, has spent his first three seasons and eight games learning on the job. He's won nothing of note as a head coach.

Yes, Garrett earned two Super Bowl rings as a player, but he spent his entire career as a backup. Sure, you can learn by osmosis, but his experience as a Super Bowl player was considerably different than that of Troy Aikman.

Wade Wilson earned a ring with the 1995 Cowboys, and Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin garnered rings in 2002 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New tight ends coach Mike Pope won four Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants.

All of those men, including Garrett, can tell the players about winning. Ultimately, though, the players on the field must get it done.

It starts, as usual, with Tony Romo and Jason Witten. They're the team's most accomplished players, and their words carry the most weight.

They must impart their lessons learned from Parcells about seizing a game and winning it at the exact moment a tilt can be taken. Romo and Witten can't be the dudes making mistakes at winning time.

Orlando Scandrick must show his teammates how to play with an edge every day they put on a uniform. He backs down from no one, an admirable trait in a player.

Dez Bryant must show his teammates how to practice and play with passion every day, because that's the only way to ensure improvement.

Tyron Smith must show his teammates the importance of diligence and work ethic.

The coaching staff only is going to take this team so far. Garrett has spent the past three seasons acquiring the "right kind of guys" who can provide the foundation for a quality team that can sustain winning once it starts.

It's time for the players to accept the responsibility and get it done. It's the only way to start some new streaks.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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