What went right
Receiver Dez Bryant finally lived up to expectations as a former No. 1 pick and could be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Anthony Spencer also had a career year at linebacker, and tight end Jason Witten proved to be an inspiration after starting the season with a lacerated spleen and ending with the most catches by a tight end in NFL history.
Cornerback Brandon Carr lived up to Jason Garrett's description of being the right kind of player and person the Cowboys want in the locker room with his play on the field and his handling of tragic deaths in Kansas City and Dallas.
As a team, the Cowboys bought into Garrett's message of one game at a time, one play at a time and kept battling through on-field adversity and off-the-field tragedy.
What went wrong
Everything starts and ends with quarterback Tony Romo, and one season after having a career best 31-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he matched a career high with 19 interceptions. He was hampered by a poor running game and poor line play, forcing him to do too much. Romo's bad decision-making was a huge disappointment.
The running game was woeful at best, totaling the fewest yards per game in franchise history. Injuries on defense decimated what appeared to be a promising unit.
Six starters were lost for the season, and that doesn't include linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who played the last half of the season with shoulder, hamstring and elbow injuries that limited his effectiveness.
1. Defensive linemen
Nose tackle Jay Ratliff played in only six games and saw his sacks decline for a fourth consecutive season. He is aging, declining and likely in the doghouse after his run-in with Jerry Jones.
Ratliff's backup, Josh Brent, is facing an intoxication manslaughter charge. Finding a nose tackle is paramount.
The Cowboys also need upgrades at defensive end, where Kenyon Coleman is unlikely to return and Marcus Spears could be aged out.
The Cowboys spent last off-season looking to upgrade the guard position and ended up with the disappointing play of Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings.
They also have no answers at center with Phil Costa and Kevin Kowalski, both being question marks because of their play and recent surgeries.
The Cowboys should draft an interior lineman in the top three rounds.
3. Running back
Felix Jones is likely not returning. And with DeMarco Murray's penchant for finding his way on the injury list every season, the Cowboys need to bring in a capable and durable running back to share the load and possibly serve as a starter if necessary.
4. Pass-rush linebacker
The biggest decision of the off-season will be on linebacker Anthony Spencer. If the Cowboys can't re-sign him and don't put the franchise tag on him for the second consecutive year -- guaranteeing him more than $10 million -- then they need to find his replacement.
He was the team's best pass rusher at the end of the season with DeMarcus Ware wearing down.
The Cowboys are not going to replace to Tony Romo at quarterback in 2013. But it is time for them to start thinking about his replacement.
Drafting a quarterback and developing him for the future should finally be a priority for owner Jerry Jones.