FRISCO, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys aren't in the playoffs, a funny thing happens.
Everybody seems to remember the guys who were Cowboys who left town for a variety of reasons, or guys who could have been Cowboys, and why the heck they never came to town.
When Myles Jack intercepted Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter of the Jacksonville Jaguars' divisional-round upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers, immediate reactions targeted the Cowboys' decision to select Jaylon Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft despite a serious knee injury.
Many teams had serious concerns about a knee injury that forced Jack to leave UCLA early, believing there would not be a long career because of it. But with Jacksonville winning and Jack making a big play that swung the game's momentum, it just added salt to a playoff-less wound no matter what kind of promise Smith might hold.
Then you saw Telvin Smith return a fumble for a touchdown and remember the Cowboys passing on him in the 2014 draft. It doesn't matter that every team passed on Smith until the Jaguars took him in the fifth round, one after the Cowboys took Anthony Hitchens. It's only the Cowboys' mistake.
Then there's Jalen Ramsey, who is among the best cornerbacks in the NFL despite only being in his second year. The Cowboys could have selected him at No. 4 overall instead of Ezekiel Elliott. That would have answered their cornerback questions and they could have tackled running back concerns later in the draft. The Ramsey-Elliott question wasn't really asked much when Elliott led the NFL in rushing in 2016, but it makes for a good talking point in 2017 with Elliott missing six games because of a suspension.
Then you see ex-Cowboys offensive lineman Jermey Parnell at right tackle for the Jaguars opening holes for Leonard Fournette, and ex-Cowboy Barry Church (seven tackles) all over the field at safety. It didn't matter that the Cowboys couldn't -- and wouldn't -- pay Parnell (five years, $32 million, $14.5 million guaranteed) what Jacksonville did or wouldn't pay Church (four years, $21.6 million, $12 million guaranteed) what Jacksonville did. It's only a Cowboys' mistake.
Mike Zimmer was a Cowboys assistant coach from 1994-2006. He won a Super Bowl ring under Barry Switzer. He was a defensive coordinator under Dave Campo and Bill Parcells. When Parcells walked away after the 2006 season, Zimmer was not among those interviewed before Jerry Jones selected Wade Phillips as head coach.
When the job opened after Phillips was fired midway through the 2010 season, there was no question Jason Garrett would get the gig. Zimmer had a number of head coach interviews but didn't land the Vikings job until 2015.
Zimmer now has the Vikings one win away from becoming the first team to play a Super Bowl in their stadium.
Terence Newman was the Cowboys' first-round pick in 2003. He was cut after the 2011 season and immediately rejoined with Zimmer, who was the Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator at the time. He followed Zimmer to Minnesota and is still playing at a high level at 39 years old. He has had at least one interception in each of his 15 seasons.
It's easy to remember Newman. It's not easy to remember Andrew Sendejo. He was a Cowboy for a short time in 2010. The Cowboys knew of him from his days at Rice, where then-director of scouting Will McClay played, and saw him play in the United Football League. He played in two games in 2010 but was among the Cowboys' final cuts in 2011.
He has developed into a dependable starter for the Vikings and had an interception of Drew Brees in the first half before he suffered a concussion and was knocked out of the game.
Fewer still might remember Vikings guard Joe Berger was a Cowboy for a few seasons. Oh, and his offensive line coach is Tony Sparano, who was a tight ends coach, line coach and play caller for the Cowboys from 2003-07. And the guy who kicked what looked like the game-winning field goal with 1:29 to play before the crazy finish, Kai Forbath, was a Cowboy for a spell in 2011 before Dan Bailey won the job.
A lot of this kvetching, of course, is revisionist history.
Some of these players were Cowboys almost a generation ago, at least when it comes to football age. Nobody was ruing the day the Cowboys said goodbye to Newman or Parnell. Nobody was really saying in 2007 or 2010, the Cowboys should have named Zimmer the head coach. Maybe more than a few people wanted the Cowboys to take Ramsey and/or Jack but nobody was questioning the Elliott pick after one season. More than a few questioned the wisdom to let Church walk, but the price was out of the Cowboys' range.
This is what happens when you don't make the playoffs.
Every decision, even ones made more than a decade ago, is questioned.