Poor Jerry Jones really believed these Dallas Cowboys could be a Super Bowl team.
He believed it until the final seconds ticked off their 8-8 season, which finished with four losses in the last five games. That included a couple of losses to the New York Giants, whose playoff run could convince the Cowboys owner and general manager that he really was close to being right.
But there are plenty of reasons the Cowboys aren't anywhere near Indianapolis this week. Here are 46 reasons, in no particular order, the Cowboys aren't in Super Bowl XLVI.
I. Jerry doesn't wear a headset during games. If he did, the play-calling late in the loss to the Patriots wouldn't have been so conservative and the Cowboys would have saved about 15 seconds before calling a timeout late in the home loss to the Giants.
III. Miles Austin's hamstrings are about as strong as ex-girlfriend Kim Kardashian's wedding vows.
IV. The Cowboys blew more double-digit leads in the fourth quarter this season (three) than the previous 51 years of franchise history. That isn't a joke.
V. It takes a least two playoff wins to reach a Super Bowl. The Cowboys are good for only one playoff win per decade and a half at this point. That math works about as well as a red zone shovel pass to Tashard Choice.
VI. Jerry might not be joking when he often says he made a deal with the devil to build the Team of the '90s.
VII. The owner won't even consider canning the general manager who has been responsible for one playoff win -- and five head-coaching changes -- in the past 15 years.
VIII. The general manager spends countless hours trying to schedule events such as monster truck shows and tennis matches to pay the bills in his palatial $1.2 billion stadium that hasn't hosted a Cowboys playoff game in the past two seasons.
IX. Those 60-yard big screens are too bright. No way Austin loses the ball in the lights with the chance to make the coffin-nailing catch against the Giants if that's a standard-definition screen.
X. The Cowboys missed a bunch of guys who didn't make impacts for their next team: Marion Barber, Roy Williams, Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode and Marc Colombo. At least, that's what Jason Garrett hinted with his revisionist rebuilding ridiculousness the day after his team failed to show up for a win-and-get-in game.
XI. The lack of a full offseason prevented Garrett from putting his stamp on this team and Rob Ryan from fully implementing his scheme. (Never mind that it didn't stop new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio from overseeing the NFL's most impressive turnaround. We're in excuse-making mode here.)
XII. Use of Timeouts 101 is not part of the curriculum for Princeton history majors.
XIII. Garrett apparently considers a 49-yard field goal a chip shot for a rookie kicker.
XIV. Cornerback Terence Newman had some mystery injury that didn't keep him from missing a single practice rep, or so the Cowboys keep hinting. Amateur diagnosis: Fractured ego.
XV. Newman can't catch. See: his drop on what would have been the easiest pick six of the season in the first loss to the Giants.
XVI. Newman can't tackle. See: his two convincing portrayals of a hurdle with a playoff berth on the line in the second loss to the Giants.
XVII. Newman can no longer cover. See: the last half of the season.
XX. A foot injury apparently robbed Sensabaugh of his ability to find the football in the air.
XXI. Free couldn't block Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on Twitter.
XXII. The Cowboys' best offensive lineman by far -- and that's way-too-faint praise for Tyron Smith after a terrific rookie season -- couldn't legally buy a beer until Dec. 12. That was the day after the Cowboys had the kind of loss that drives a man to drink, blowing a double-digit lead against the Giants at home in the last six minutes.
XXIII. The Cowboys' best cornerback by far -- and that's faint praise for Mike Jenkins -- had his body held together by athletic tape and bubble gum.
XXIV. Alan Ball, a liability in coverage as a safety, actually had to play significant snaps at cornerback.
XXV. The confidence of the Cowboys' defense was so low, coming off a 2010 season in which it allowed the most points in franchise history and the NFC, that Ryan was willing to look delusional by constantly proclaiming this the most talented defense in the NFL. (We're giving Ryan the benefit of the doubt that he had sound reasoning for sounding so silly.)
XXVI. There's nothing in Ryan's track record that suggests that he's a great defensive coordinator, considering that this is the first time he served as a defensive coordinator for a team that didn't finish with a losing record.
XXVII. Garrett was a great offensive coordinator only when Tony Sparano coached the offensive line and played a critical role in devising game plans.
XXVIII. Wade Phillips became an X's and O's genius again while driving his U-Haul down I-45. Or maybe that had something to do with getting rid of the Cowboys' personnel and inheriting an upgraded Texans defense.
XXIX. DeMarcus Ware had 19.5 sacks and you can't think of any that changed a game.
XXX. Ware didn't exactly disprove Warren Sapp's slap-in-the-face statement about not being able to lead ants to a picnic.
XXXI. The Cowboys' only other Pro Bowler had a grand total of two sacks. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff made his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance despite his sacks total dropping for the fourth consecutive year.
XXXII. Felix Jones, who vowed during training camp to prove that he was the NFL's best running back, scored a grand total of one touchdown.
XXXIII. The Cowboys combined for five rushing touchdowns all season, which Emmitt Smith used to consider a mediocre month.
XXXIV. Tony Romo had arguably the best season of his career, setting a franchise record with a 102.5 passer rating, but the Cowboys still ranked 15th in the NFL in points scored.
XXXVI. Romo had a flashback to playing beach football in Sean Payton's backyard and found good buddy Bobby Carpenter wide open for a touchdown. Too bad Carpenter was playing linebacker for the Detroit Lions.
XXXVII. Garrett called plays during the historic second-half meltdown against the Lions like a pimple-faced middle school kid playing "Madden." How about an occasional handoff when protecting a 24-point lead?
XVIII. The All-Hype Team, a.k.a. the Philadelphia Eagles, actually lived up to it against the Cowboys.
XXXIX. The Cowboys thought Phil Costa could be a starting center. Aside from his ability to remember the snap count and block, he wasn't too bad.
XL. The best player in the Cowboys' 2009 draft, a.k.a. the Dreadful Dozen, is a backup outside linebacker who isn't good enough to challenge average Anthony Spencer for playing time.
XLI. The Cowboys didn't think Brian Waters was a starting-caliber offensive guard, opting not to pursue him when the Chiefs cut Waters this summer. He would have started in the Pro Bowl if he wasn't busy preparing to play for the Patriots in the Super Bowl. (Of course, the Cowboys thought Waters was a fullback when they signed him as an undrafted free agent out of North Texas years ago.)
XLII. Martellus Bennett was an eligible receiver, which seemed like an especially bad idea during the Cowboys' trip to Philadelphia.
XLIII. The NFC East second-year receiver who vaulted into superstardom was the Giants' undrafted Victor Cruz, not Cowboys first-round pick Bryant.
XLIV. The Cowboys played only three teams whose head coaches have been fired.
XLV. The Cowboys beat only one team with a .500 or better record.
XLVI. The NFL refuses to consider scheduling the playoffs for November.
Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.