Jerry Jones says Dallas Cowboys 'need to be viable' in playoffs for it to be successful season

OXNARD, Calif. -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones turns 80 in October. Jones' team has gone 26 seasons without a Super Bowl, and he expresses an urgency when he meets with coaches.

"I told them I've got a birthday coming up here real quick and I don't have time to have a bad time," Jones said at the team's opening news conference of training camp Tuesday. "It ain't on my schedule."

While that might seem like a Super Bowl-or-bust message, Jones would not go that far in determining a successful 2022.

"Well, I need to win it. I need to win it, but I'll be candid with you, there's degrees. I want to be fair to everybody concerned," Jones said. "We need to be in the playoffs. We need to be viable in the playoffs for it to be a successful season."

Jones said he feels better about the Cowboys, who have not made playoff appearances in consecutive years since 2006-07 and haven't made it consecutively with the same head coach since 1998-99 (Chan Gailey), at the opening of training camp in 2022 than he did last July.

The Cowboys finished 12-5 last season and won the NFC East but lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs to the San Francisco 49ers.

In the offseason, they traded Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns, released right tackle La'el Collins and lost pass-rusher Randy Gregory to the Denver Broncos in free agency while not making any big-name or high-cost additions.

"I knew we were going to have adjustments with this team coming into this year. You always do," Jones said. "But I knew we had a couple of our best shots out there financially last year. And so before we even started the season last year, I knew we were going to be making some adjustments with our players this year. We had it teed up pretty good and in my mind made a helluva run at it. We got disappointed, but we made a run at it."

Why does he believe Dallas is in a better position this summer?

His first mention was Mike McCarthy, who is entering the third year of a five-year contract he signed in 2020, and Jones backed his coach once again.

"I will say it one more time, this guy's sitting right here. The staff he's got. I like the staff," Jones said. "And I frankly like the makeup of the players one year later that were on this team last year. And I like the new players that we brought on. You say it's hard to count on a rookie. A rookie has trouble making that kind of impact. We are fresh off seeing one have a helluva impact in Micah [Parsons]. I know it can happen. Does that happen often? No, but can you get players come in and be real impactful? That is possible. We got a couple of shots at that."

The Cowboys have more than $20 million in salary-cap space, which ranks near the top of the league.

"We do have some dry powder if we want to use it," executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

However, a good portion of that money is currently earmarked for wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and cornerback Trevon Diggs, who can sign contract extensions for the first time in 2023, as well as some other players, including right tackle Terence Steele. With how the quarterback market has ballooned since Dak Prescott signed a four-year, $160 million deal in 2021, Stephen Jones said the team could look at extending the quarterback's contract as well.

While the franchise is in its longest Super Bowl drought, Jerry Jones believes the team has had "three or four" chances in recent years to win a championship. In 2007 and 2016, the Cowboys had the best record in the NFC only to lose in the divisional round. In 2014, they lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to McCarthy's Green Bay Packers. And then there was last year.

"I can live with the fact that we've been closer than the zeros we have in line here over the last years that you're talking about," Jerry Jones said. "That sustains me. That's food for me. That keeps me going. That's not a loser you're talking to, though it sounds like it. What you have is somebody that wants to go again and feels like we've got the tools to win it. ... We won 12 games last year. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't get a little bit of feel-good out of those 12 games. I understand where our fans are. They should understand where I am. That's not enough, but it's enough to go again."