Michael Irvin sees the glass half full for the Dallas Cowboys

As soon as Hall of Fame receiver-turned-NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin said it, I had one thought: drug test.

The words just seemed so crazy, so obviously delusional, so Dallas Cowboys Kool-Aid-ish, the only explanation was that Irvin was on that stuff again.

What did he say?

"Not only do the Cowboys have a chance to win the division, but the conference. The only team I'm worried about is the Green Bay Packers," Irvin said.

Yes, he was talking about the Cowboys, the ones who went to overtime Sunday to barely win a game against the lowly Cleveland Browns that they probably should have lost.

The ones who sheepishly improved to .500 with a 5-5 record, who have yet to provide a definitive and complete performance this season, never mind their two-game winning streak against teams with a combined five wins.

So while eternal optimist owner Jerry Jones is starting to waver in his belief in the Cowboys' playoff chances with each passing nondescript performance, Irvin, the heart and soul of the Cowboys' three Super Bowl title teams of the 1990s, believes they still have a chance to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995.

With all due apologies to Irvin for bringing up his inglorious past, but, seriously, how about that drug test?

"That's OK. I will do that if I need to," Irvin responded during a Monday afternoon phone call while he was watching tape of the Cowboys' game against the Browns.

Irvin said most people are looking at the Cowboys through a prism from the past. They want it to be thing of beauty as it was in the 1990s.

They want the Triplets -- with Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Irvin doing their thing like nobody else.

"That might not be the way to go and it doesn't have to be the way the league is," Irvin said. "Right now, the Cowboys have an opportunity. They just have to keep winning."

Irvin points to the team's soft schedule as a partial reason for his opinion.

They have just one game left on their schedule against a team with a winning record, and they will face their third consecutive rookie quarterback on Thursday when they host the Washington Redskins and Robert Griffin III.

Irvin doesn't think Griffin is an ordinary rookie, but said the Cowboys just need to win.

That was his attitude about the team's sloppy play against the Browns, even though it had him frustrated and wanting to cut right tackle Doug Free after the game.

"That gets under my skin," Irvin said of Free's unforgivable effort. "He has to be better than that. You can't let guys walk you back into the quarterback. Risk your body and stop risking Tony [Romo]."

One of the Cowboys' biggest problems is that they don't have the attitude of a winner, Irvin said, which is why they continue to have concentration breakdowns, leading to turnovers and penalties.

He believes the wins, even over bad teams, will help them gain confidence and build a feeling of invincibility.

"When they get another win and another win, that attitude will become like a virus on a computer and take root in that locker room," said Irvin, who likes to turn a phrase as much he fancies a nice suit.

Irvin believes the Cowboys' problems are more mental than physical.

Even with the problems on the offensive line, Irvin said the Cowboys have the personnel to get it done, especially on defense. He said cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have transformed this team into one that can match up with any receiver in the league.

"We finally have a secondary," Irvin said. "Those corners play aggressive and they don't back down."

Irvin said the Cowboys won't be at their best offensively until they get running back DeMarco Murray back.

Murray has missed the past five games with a sprained foot and is doubtful for the Redskins' game.

Until then, Irvin said they need to continue to ride their two best, although their two most combustible, players in Romo and receiver Dez Bryant.

Romo still has his issues at times with reckless play. But how can you blame him for trying to make something happen with the shoddy line play and no help from a running game? He was sacked a career-high seven times Sunday by a bunch of no-name rushers.

"Tony is a piece of work on the field," Irvin said. "He goes through so much. I don't know how he does what he does sometimes."

And say what you will about Bryant's bouts with inconsistency, he was the spark the Cowboys needed against the Browns.

Not only is Bryant playing the best football of his career, but he is also the only one who can give the Cowboys a boost and wake up the crowd when they are sleepwalking through a game.

"You need some of that crazy," Irvin said. "You need somebody to be that. You need him to have a controlled crazy and be where he is supposed to be when the ball is coming.

"But the way he plays, the suddenness with which he plays, his passion and emotion, you got to ride him. But is he ready for all of that?"

Add it all up and Irvin said this team has as good a shot as anyone to reach the Super Bowl.

"They got a chance; they got an opportunity here," Irvin said. "It's not about what you think."

Nope, it's not.

Clarence E. Hill Jr.


Twitter: @clarencehilljr

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