IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys’ fans had better hope Jerry Jones was not watching the New York Giants beat Green Bay on Sunday to advance to the NFC Championship Game.
If he was, then they better hope he didn’t watch that game and come away with the feeling that the team he owns and general manages is close to being in the same spot as the Giants.
Ever the optimist, it’s difficult to not hear Jones say to anybody, “We had a 12-point lead on these guys with 5:41 in the fourth quarter at our place, we’re right there.”
It’s that sort of validation that has doomed the Cowboys here in recent years.
After losing to the Giants in the 2007 divisional round, the Cowboys looked at that as a one-time issue because they shut it down late in the regular season when they clinched homefield advantage.
In 2008 they missed the playoffs by a game and they pointed to Tony Romo’s three-game absence because of a broken pinky finger.
In 2009 all was well with the playoff win against Philadelphia and the 34-3 defeat at Minnesota was merely part of the process the team has to take to advance in the postseason.
In 2010 it all came crashing down, costing Wade Phillips his job after a 1-7 start. But Jason Garrett righted the ship and took them to a 5-3 finish and the three losses were by a combined seven points.
Jones put the failings of the defense on Phillips and believed Rob Ryan would turn things around in 2011. The defense was better in part because it could not be worse.
If two coaches of different 3-4 defenses could not make it work well enough, then it’s the personnel.
At least that's how Jones should approach this offseason, which brings us back to the New York win Sunday at Lambeau Field.
The Cowboys had a chance to be in the position of their NFC East rivals but could not beat the Giants at Cowboys Stadium on Dec. 11, 2011 or at MetLife Stadium on Jan. 1.
Undoubtedly Jones – and those who will believe the Cowboys are “this close” to being a true contender – will point to the missed connection between Romo and Miles Austin in the first meeting and the 44-yard catch by Victor Cruz in the second meeting on third-and-7 after the Cowboys cut a 21-0 deficit to 21-14 as the only parts that separate the Cowboys from the Giants.
Or he might look at the Oct. 16 game against New England as positive reinforcement. The Cowboys had the Patriots, who will play in the AFC title game against Baltimore, on the ropes, but saw Tom Brady deliver a late game-winning touchdown drive in a 20-16 affair.
Jones can’t be fooled again.