It’s been more than two decades since the Dallas Cowboys won a championship, and Emmitt Smith is as surprised as anyone.
Smith was part of the Cowboys’ most recent Super Bowl winning team following the 1995 season, and was in somewhat disbelief discussing it Tuesday.
“Man,” Smith said.
He paused and repeated: “Man … I thought we were close when [Bill] Parcells was here, I really did. I thought we may have been a year or two away from being as good, but things change. But I never imagined it taking almost 20 years before we even sniff an NFC Championship game or even have a chance to go to the Super Bowl.”
Smith jumped on the bandwagon a season ago with the Super Bowl-or-bust mindset that many fans had. After all, the team had gone 12-4 in 2014 and were a controversial non-catch by Dez Bryant away from possibly advancing to the NFC Championship game.
But injuries wrecked the Cowboys’ 2015 campaign. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick went down with a season-ending injury in training camp, Dez Bryant injured himself in Week 1 and Tony Romo found himself sidelined in Week 2.
“Last year was one of those injury-plagued years and it does happen,” said Smith, serving as the keynote speaker at The Salvation Army’s annual “Doing the Most Good” luncheon at the Omni Fort Worth. “Don’t try to over-analyze it, try to place blame certain places. I mean, people get hurt. It is a very physical sport. Period. And it’s going to be physical. The thing we have to do now is hopefully get guys back healthy and get off to a fresh start.”
Smith reiterated that he feels the Cowboys’ are closer to the 12-4 version of 2014 than the 4-12 version of last year. Therefore, he is optimistic that the Cowboys can return to their glory days sooner than later.
“I know they can play. They’ve had talent for a long time, so we know they can play,” he said. “I think the issue last year was confidence. We lost confidence.
“People don’t realize that chemistry is such an important thing to sports, but so is confidence. … First off, you start off by losing your starting cornerback – Scandrick goes down in the preseason. Then you lose your starting wide receiver [Bryant] to a broken foot. Then you lose your starting quarterback [Romo] to a collarbone. Then it just went on.
“When you lose starters, even coaches themselves have to go through this mindset of, ‘OK, this guy that I have can only do certain things.’ So the playbook is scaled down and you deal with those kinds of dynamics. This year, it’ll be interesting to see how we start and how healthy the team is able to be. A lot of it is predicated on health.”