Mac Engel

Dallas Cowboys: How do you like us now?

Nick Hayden, left, and Jeremy Mincey celebrate after sacking Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Nick Hayden, left, and Jeremy Mincey celebrate after sacking Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. Star-Telegram

This team has been trashed, ridiculed, mocked and made into a national punchline by the fans and the media, so it has earned the right to celebrate.

No team has earned the right to say “How do you like us now?” more than the Dallas Cowboys.

“A lot of people chose us to win three games,” Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey said after the Cowboys’ upset the Philadelphia Eagles 38-27 on Sunday night. “We got 10 wins, so that’s great. A lot of people picked us to win nothing hardly.”

OK...that was a lot of fun, but now that the celebration is over, this team needs to acknowledge that only losers or settlers party when they win 10 games and nothing else.

One of the primary reasons the Dallas Cowboys remain one of the biggest names in all of sports is because for decades they adhered to a particular level of excellence. It would be nice if this team could start a trend by aiming at, and returning to, that standard.

These Cowboys have already trampled every preseason prediction, so they may as well complete the makeover and re-establish the real reason the franchise is so popular. The reason people loved the Dallas Cowboys for so long is not the cheerleaders (but they help), the glitz, glamor, the stadium or anything other than the fact that they won all the time.

So, go win 12 games. Win the NFC East. Reach the playoffs. (They can actually still be the No. 1 seed in the NFC.) And do something in January.

Ultimately, this season will be regarded as a success because they won 10 games, but now is not the time to recognize this achievement.

“We ain’t won nothing yet,” defensive back Orlando Scandrick said.

You don’t become America’s Team across many generations by winning 10 games and nothing else. There was a day when winning 10 games around here was no reason to celebrate. Ask Roger, Tony D, The Manster, Michael, Emmitt or Troy about winning 10 games.

When you have won 10 or more games four times since 1999, expectations change and the bar is unknowingly and unintentionally lowered.

The only reason so many people are so happy with 10 wins is because nearly all of us outside of the Cowboys’ locker room expected this team to be no better than 8-8. Even the world’s most optimistic man — Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — has conceded his own expectations for this team have changed because the results are not exactly what even he expected in August.

For this team, winning 10 games means there will be a parade of contract extensions this off-season — everybody from the head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, wide receiver and middle linebacker to the general manager. Jerry always gets an extension.

But before that party begins, they should raise the bar some more.

The Cowboys have their flaws, but they are not frauds. They are good.

No NFL team can be 7-0 on the road and stink. No team goes into Seattle and wins by accident. No team that has a six-game winning streak is awful.

“A lot of teams celebrate too soon and they miss the playoffs,” safety Barry Church said. “We have not had double-digit wins in a long time.”

A long time as in 2009.

“It is a milestone,” Church said, “but we should not gloat about it.”

This is not the first time anyone has suggested the expectations be raised. Bill Parcells tried, but his timing was off. Wade Philips celebrated bye-week playoff wins. Jason Garrett talks about playing to a certain standard and the results will come, and now in his fourth full season that is happening.

Yes, there is still that chance that, despite winning 10 games, the Cowboys will miss the playoffs.

But the way the season has evolved, there is a better chance they will make it. While they are at it, they may as well redefine what is a good season around here in the process.

Ten wins deserves a high-five, but it is no reason to celebrate.

Win 12 games. Win the NFC East. Do something in January. We’ve been wrong about everything else, may as well add all those to the list.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports/.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof

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