Jones: Cowboys have Super Bowl talent
Despite lack of recent playoff success, owner says club is good enough to make a run
INDIANAPOLIS -- Saturday marks the 23rd anniversary of Jerry Jones purchasing the Dallas Cowboys.
He has seen the team win three Super Bowls in the 1990s with Hall of Fame players in Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, as well as Hall of Fame-worthy players such as Larry Allen, Charles Haley and even Darren Woodson.
Despite just one playoff victory since 1996 and a 14-18 record over the past two seasons, Jones sees his current team with enough talent to play for a Lombardi Trophy.
Really, he does.
"I see the talent level being able to put us in a competitive situation for the Super Bowl," Jones said in a 90-plus-minute session with reporters on the team's luxury bus Friday afternoon from the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. "I saw it at the start of that  season and I see it with what we had last year, that there's a talent level that can compete for a Super Bowl."
To paraphrase another Arkansan, Bill Clinton, it depends on the definition of "competing for a Super Bowl."
To Jones, qualifying for the playoffs means a team is competing for a Super Bowl, and he points to the past two Super Bowl winners -- the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants -- as examples of teams barely qualifying for the postseason being able to leave with a championship.
"We fell short of not competing for a Super Bowl by letting the Giants come back at Cowboys Stadium," Jones said, noting the fourth-quarter pass from Tony Romo to Miles Austin that fell incomplete when the Cowboys could have delivered a knockout punch in a 37-34 loss on Dec. 11.
This was a lot easier for me to live with when we were not where we wanted to be at quarterback. That's not where we are. We've got an outstanding quarterback and we've got good talent and we ought to be knocking on the door.” -- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, on his team's Super Bowl drought
The 8-8 Cowboys dropped four of their last five games to lose the NFC East title by a game to the Giants, who rode their late-season run to their second Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots in the past five seasons.
Jones sees a roster that needs help but not an overhaul. With as much as $20 million in salary-cap room with a couple of moves, the Cowboys will be active in free agency and use the draft to close the gap on the conference's playoff teams. Jones also sees improvement from within that will help on the offensive line and the pass rush.
"I don't see a position that if we get to opening day and don't have a new face there, that it is terminal for us relative to competing," Jones said.
Jones remarked that it was only three years ago that many believed the Cowboys had the most talent in the NFL. With the help of hindsight, that opinion was incorrect.
"We all should recognize that what's on paper is far different than what ultimately wins that Super Bowl and very seldom reconciles going to it," Jones said. "It always has a way of doing that after the fact. The present champs, the Giants, going in the talent evaluations by everybody that's interested -- fans, our media, whoever -- was not really giving them high marks for their talent. Certainly coming out of training camp, it was not. Now they're getting high marks for their talent. Same guys.
"So, my point is the success that you have has a way of defining talent."
And that would seem to undercut just how close the Cowboys are to competing for a Super Bowl, because the Cowboys have won just 14 of their past 32 games. Jones said he focuses more on the first six games of the 2010 season before Romo suffered a broken collarbone and Jason Garrett's first full season as a head coach as a barometer of the team's talent.
Using that pool, the Cowboys are 9-13, so how can he reconcile the positivity going forward?
"We'll have better coaching," Jones said, pointing to a full offseason with Garrett, the ability to digest and master Rob Ryan's defense -- which Jones hinted will have some schematic changes -- and the addition of offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Callahan.
The Cowboys have gone 16 years without a Super Bowl win, the longest drought in franchise history. In the 12th year of the franchise's existence, Tom Landry won Super Bowl VI. The Cowboys went 15 years between wins in Super Bowls XII and XXVII.
"It's been very disappointing," Jones said. "As disappointing as anything has been to not have been in a Super Bowl in these key years in Romo's career. This was a lot easier for me to live with when we were not where we wanted to be at quarterback. That's not where we are. We've got an outstanding quarterback and we've got good talent and we ought to be knocking on the door. And that is very frustrating, but it's happened to other teams and it happens. It's quite a challenge to get one of these teams in the Super Bowl. What, in the last 11 years from our NFC only one team has gone to the Super Bowl twice and it's the Giants, and in both cases, you might say, at our expense. And so we've certainly not been one of them, and that stands out in my mind.
"And that's where I'm committed with every ounce of energy and financial resource that I have."
Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.