Dallas hasn't won a playoff game since 1996, and if the franchise is to pull itself out of such an ignominious rut, the three-time Super Bowl champion said quarterback Tony Romo and coach Wade Phillips need to do better jobs as leaders of the Cowboys.
Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher, told Sirius NFL Radio that Romo should "demand excellence" from his teammates and that "it is a coach's job to get his team to come together."
"I never saw [Romo] go snatch somebody up, and say, 'Hey, we can't win like this. We can't have guys jumping offsides. I can't have [a defender] coming at me unabated. Who is making the mistakes up front? Why aren't you picking this guy up? This is not going down this way. If you can't get your job done, get off the football field,' " Smith said in his interview with Sirius.
Romo has faced similar criticism from another Cowboys icon. Last January, Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman questioned whether Romo understood what it takes to be quarterback of the Cowboys. During the offseason, Romo vowed to become a more "active" and effective leader for the coming season.
Smith, who won three Super Bowls in a four-year stretch in the 1990s with Dallas and will appear on the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot, said he's not convinced it will happen.
"So when you say things are going to change, and you've never been that dominant personality or in that leadership position then, as a player, you lose me," Smith said. " I'm sitting there saying, 'OK, now you're going to become a leader?' What happened [in previous playoff seasons] when we got knocked out both times?
"Now all of a sudden, you're going to change? And our talent level is less than it was two years ago [when the Cowboys made the playoffs as the NFC's No. 1 seed, only to lose to the Giants]. How much better can we be?"
If discipline creates more focused teams, then Smith said Phillips should model his approach after no-nonsense coaches like Patriots coach Bill Belichick or the Giants' Tom Coughlin. Belichick's teams have won three Super Bowls this decade; Coughlin's Giants won two years ago.
Phillips should "instill discipline from day one. [Belichick and Coughlin] don't come in trying to make friends," Smith told Sirius. "Matter of fact, they created a bunch of enemies and then made the enemies get on their terms, and then they moved forward. And that's one thing I believe the Dallas Cowboys can use."