Tony Romo, recognizing that quarterbacks are "defined" by Super Bowl titles, said he won't be satisfied with his career until he wins one.
And Romo believes the Cowboys, fresh off of signing the biggest free-agent class of Jerry Jones' ownership tenure, have taken significant steps to put the team in position to contend after missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Jones, also the team's general manager, considered the Cowboys to be contenders last season until they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the New Year's Day season finale with the NFC East title at stake.
"It's about time that we go to that next step and I think our team is going to be ready for that," Romo said during a Thursday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3's "Ben and Skin Show."
Romo, a three-time Pro Bowler, had arguably the best individual season of his career last year, throwing for 4,184 yards and 31 touchdowns despite playing several weeks with broken ribs. However, the Cowboys crumbled down the stretch after putting themselves in the driver's seat of the division, losing four of their final five games, including two losses to the Giants.
Romo, whose wife, Candice, gave birth to the couple's first child on Monday, said he doesn't spend any time thinking about regrets.
"It's all going forward," Romo said. "I mean, to be good or great at what you're trying to do athletically or in sports, you've got to have a singular focus about what matters. That's good and bad. Whether something great's just happened, you have to put that behind you and just move on, because you have to go do it again. Something bad happens, you have to learn from it, put it behind you, get better from it and then move right on. I think that's our approach.
"When I look at just myself, it's about how can I improve? How can I get better? How can I bring my teammates along with me? How can they get better and our football team can take that next step? We're doing some things that I think will allow us to do that. I feel good about some of the stuff that we've got going on. I think we're going to be an improved football team next year."
Romo, who turns 32 this month, is in some ways one of the NFL's great success stories. He was an undrafted free agent out of Division I-AA Eastern Illinois who established himself as the franchise quarterback for one of the highest-profile teams in sports, following in the footsteps of Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.
Yet, at this point, Romo's career is recognized as much, if not more, for his failures as his accomplishments. He has only one playoff victory, and Romo's most memorable moments have been disappointing season finales: the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks sealed by his botched hold on a field goal, losing to the Giants as a No. 1 seed in the 2007 playoffs, a 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008 with a playoff berth on the line and the loss to the Giants in last season's finale.
"You never really get over letdowns," Romo said. "You just use them as a tool to get better. I think what you do is you don't basically use it as a crutch. ...
"There's a couple different ways you can go mentally when things don't go your way. One of them is just to sulk and have pity about either, 'Why me?' or 'How come we're not good enough?' or 'How come we didn't get the job done?' and all that. The other side is, 'OK, why?' You just say, 'Why wasn't our team good enough?' or 'Why wasn't I good enough?' or 'How can we do things to get better?' And you analyze it and you learn from it. Every time you can do that, you get better the next time."
Romo said he wants to be remembered as a player who reached every bit of his potential.
"And when I say that," Romo said, "I'd like to think that the bar is pretty high and I can get to a level that's very high."
The Super Bowl is the standard for a franchise that has five Lombardi Trophies. Romo realizes that, saying the chance to compete for a championship is the driving force that motivates him.
"The Super Bowl is obviously the biggest team accomplishment, and also as a quarterback, it's what we're defined as," Romo said. "I think for me that would be the one obvious (thing) that you play the game for. All the hours and the sweat and the time that you do and those tough moments when I'm alone doing what I do, that's what you think about.
"You don't rest until you feel that accomplishment. For me, that's always going to be there. That's going to be a very singular-driven focus. That's the way I am, and that's the way it's going to be until that happens. That's the way I'd like to be remembered."