NFL Training camp season is always a time for irrational exuberance. Every team thinks it can win the Super Bowl, even though 31 of those teams will end up being horribly wrong. And so, to preview the upcoming NFL season, which could be the most unpredictable ever, we now give you five reasons why your favorite team could win the Super Bowl. Today, it's the Dallas Cowboys.
1. Because there's finally a grown-up in charge. For four years, the Cowboys were content to have Wade Phillips bumble up and down the sidelines and squander the potential of what has been a consistently talented roster. Now, pinning this all on Wade isn't exactly fair. He's a very nice man who probably knows deep down that he's better suited to be a lifelong defensive coordinator. And the reason he was in charge for so long was because Jerry Jones wanted to coach the team by proxy (and still wants to and always will). But under Phillips, you saw how horribly undisciplined the Cowboys could be. Turnovers. Penalties. BAD penalties, ones that always came at the wrong time and weren't at all necessary to the play at hand. You can't win Super Bowls like this, which is what caused the Double J to finally can Wade and elevate Jason Garrett to the top position. Over the final half of last season, Garrett proved to be in the inverse of Wade: Someone seemingly far more suited to being in charge than sitting back and taking a coordinating role (Garrett's playcalling was never great). Under Garrett, the Cowboys demonstrated an almost instant improvement in discipline and organization. Now, Garrett has the team for his first full season, and you get the sense that he will get this roster to overachieve, whereas Phillips always seemed to do the precise opposite.
2. This pass defense shouldn't be so awful. The Cowboys should send the 2010 Houston Texans a $50 Home Depot gift card, because that outfit's incompetence was the only thing keeping the Cowboys pass defense from being the worst in the history of the universe. And the worst part of it is that there was no good reason for this pass D to be so terrible last season (again, this is where we blame Wade). DeMarcus Ware was there! And Jay Ratliff! And cornerback Mike Jenkins once actually made a Pro Bowl, which is hard to believe given how awful he was last season. This is not an untalented defense. They should never have played that badly. And so new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan (brother of Rex) has been brought in to maximize that talent. Expect Ryan to move Ware around wherever he thinks there's a weakness to be exploited. The linebackers were lousy in coverage last season, so a lot of this hinges on whether or not Ryan can make it work with what he's been given. This is a man who's had to coach for Cleveland and Oakland, so he knows a bit about working with spare parts.
3. OMG Dez Bryant BOOSH! Dez Bryant says his injuries and jewelry lawsuits are a thing of the past now, which is good because it was clear, right before he got injured, that he was on the verge of becoming one of the most dangerous wideouts in football last season. With Bryant healthy and Tony Romo fully healed from a busted collarbone, the Cowboys boast no shortage of offensive options. They also finally committed to making Felix Jones an every-down back, something they should have done ages ago. The biggest question mark is whether or not the overhauled line can make all this work (Eagles fans know the feeling). If it can, this is one of the better offenses in football.
4. Tony Romo is settled down! We're all used to Tony Romo leading the league in both smiles and botched snaps. But Romo's days of datin' ingenues and flyin' to Mexico appear to be over. Oh, he's still got some rebel in him (turn your hat around!), but this is the guy who got hitched in the offseason and says he spent his bachelor party playing hide and seek while sober. After breaking his collarbone and seeing his career flash before his eyes, Romo is going out of his way to be a boring, effective quarterback. He certainly has the boring part down.
5. They aren't the Eagles. You have to do a lot to wrestle the spotlight away from Dallas. And by a lot, I mean reform a convicted dog-killer, sign 500 free agents, and have your shoddy backup QB declare your club the "Dream Team." The Eagles did all that, and now the onus falls on them to win the NFC East. Meanwhile, this Cowboys outfit is clearly the second best team in the division, and if the Eagles falter (cue the Mike Vick ACL injury), this is the team that stands poised to take advantage.