IRVING, Texas -- In 2009, the Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East, finished 11-5 and won a playoff game before losing in the divisional round to a team from the NFC North.
Wade Phillips' staff coached the Pro Bowl and everybody had a grand old time in the Fort Lauderdale sun.
The feeling then was that the Cowboys were close to contending for a Super Bowl, that they would make the jump in 2010 after Tony Romo finally got the playoff monkey off his back.
And then 2010 happened.
The Cowboys finished 6-10, Phillips was fired at the midway point and it started a four-year run without the playoffs.
Yes, Romo broke a collarbone and started only six games, but the Cowboys were 1-5 in his starts.
The jump never came and it put the Cowboys on a re-tooling process -- remember, rebuild is a taboo word at Valley Ranch -- that finally paid off in 2014.
In 2014, the Cowboys won the NFC East, finished 12-4 and won a playoff game before losing in the divisional round to a team from the NFC North.
Jason Garrett's staff coached the Pro Bowl and everybody had a grand old time in the Phoenix sun.
The feeling now is that the Cowboys will contend for a Super Bowl in 2015 and make that jump after coming within possibly an overturned Dez Bryant catch of at least making it to the NFC Championship Game.
How do the Cowboys make sure 2015 is not like 2010?
Keep Romo healthy would be a good start, but the makeup of the team is different.
"It's about building," Garrett said. "This is about building, keep building, keep bringing in the right players, keep doing things the right way and building a program. Within that you're building a football team for the 2015 season."
The 2010 Cowboys did not sign an unrestricted free agent. Since the inception of the current system, the Cowboys did not sign an unrestricted free agent in 1993, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2010. The 1993 team was so loaded it didn't need much help in winning consecutive Super Bowls. In the other five years, the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs.
Free agency is not the cure all. Teams are never a player away, but the Cowboys can make smart additions in free agency in 2015 to help grow the program.
In 2010, the Cowboys had seven starters 30 or older and three players at least 29. Four of the five starters on the offensive line -- Marc Colombo, Kyle Kosier, Leonard Davis and Andre Gurode -- were older than 30. Inside linebacker Keith Brooking was 35. Cornerback Terance Newman was 32.
With players under contract for 2015, the Cowboys have just three starters more than 30 years old: Romo, Jason Witten and Jeremy Mincey. Right tackle Doug Free (31) and fullback Tyler Clutts (30) are free agents to-be and could be re-signed.
The Cowboys will welcome linebacker Sean Lee back in 2015 after he missed last season with a knee injury. He turns 29 in July. They could also bring back defensive end Anthony Spencer (31). DeMarcus Lawrence figures to be a starter in 2015. He's turns 23 in April. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens also turns 23 in June.
Looking back at 2010 with the perspective of what happened, that Cowboys team was one that was hanging on, not building.
"I think we're a better football team right now," Romo said. "At the same point, you've got to start over. To me, you just can't try and just recreate what you had. You're going to be a different team in certain areas. Each guy has to commit himself to being a better version of himself than he was the year before. If everybody does that, you'll come back as a whole better team than you were."