For Cowboys, it’s Super Bowl or bust in ’10

Last season, the Dallas Cowboys exorcised some demons. They delivered in December. They won the NFC East. Coach Wade Phillips and quarterback Tony Romo each got their first playoff win.

Can Tony Romo end his December funk and get the Cowboys to Super Bowl 45?
Can Tony Romo end his December funk and get the Cowboys to Super Bowl 45?

However, as the Cowboys begin training camp Saturday, unfinished business remains. Their goal is to reach Super Bowl 45 and to become the first team to play a Super Bowl on its home field. Anything less will be a disappointment.

"You have about 10 elite teams and Dallas is one of them, but Dallas has more of an incentive," former Cowboys defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones said. "What else do you need to motivate you when it’s going to be in your backyard? I know it would motivate me. I would say, ‘Nobody is coming into my hometown and representing in the Super Bowl other than us."

Three questions that will help determine whether the Cowboys jump from contenders to champions:

1. Do the Cowboys have a left tackle liability?

The Cowboys gambled by releasing five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams in the offseason. Fourth-year player Doug Free is No. 1 on the depth chart and is backed up by Alex Barron, a ’05 first-round pick of the Rams.

Romo, however, was pummeled by the Vikings during the playoffs and shaky blindside protection could blow up any Super Bowl plans.

"Flozell is a great guy, a great offensive lineman and we’re gonna miss him," Cowboys running back Felix Jones said. "We have Doug Free; I think he’s going to do a great job."

When asked what could keep the Cowboys from winning the Super Bowl, former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon did not hesitate.

"The big concern I have right now with the Cowboys is the left tackle situation," said Gannon, now an analyst for CBS and SIRIUS radio. "But if Free and Barron can solidify that spot, you’re looking at a very good team.

"Offensively, they’re very balanced between the run and the pass. Romo took big strides last year. There was so much being leveled at them — they couldn’t win in December, they couldn’t win in the playoffs. They did it last year. They took care of the Saints late in the year. They destroyed Philadelphia in back-to-back games. They just have to build on that."

2. Can Phillips guide a team through the playoff minefield?

That question will be asked until Phillips does it successfully. His career record is an impressive 81-54 during the regular season but a poor 1-5 in the playoffs.

"I think they can win with him," "Too Tall" Jones said. "I’d give any coach 3-5 years to put his system in. That’s how long he’s been there, so now it’s time for him to win."

3. Does Romo have even more upside?

Romo is coming off his best season — 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions — but to reach the Super Bowl, he might have to play even better.

"Just nine interceptions was really impressive," Gannon said. "But every year, you want to improve."

The Cowboys are Sporting News‘ pick to win the NFC, but Felix Jones said expectations in Dallas never change.

"Every year I’ve been with the Cowboys it’s been like, ‘We’re gonna win the Super Bowl, we’re gonna win the Super Bowl,’ " he said. "One day at a time, and we’ll focus on that when the time comes."

Staff writer Ryan Fagan contributed to this article. Email him and Clifton Brown at rfagan@sportingnews.com and cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com

Last season, the Dallas Cowboys exorcised some demons. They delivered in December. They won the NFC East. Coach Wade Phillips and quarterback Tony Romo each got their first playoff win.

Can Tony Romo end his December funk and get the Cowboys to Super Bowl 45?
Can Tony Romo end his December funk and get the Cowboys to Super Bowl 45?

However, as the Cowboys begin training camp Saturday, unfinished business remains. Their goal is to reach Super Bowl 45 and to become the first team to play a Super Bowl on its home field. Anything less will be a disappointment.

"You have about 10 elite teams and Dallas is one of them, but Dallas has more of an incentive," former Cowboys defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones said. "What else do you need to motivate you when it’s going to be in your backyard? I know it would motivate me. I would say, ‘Nobody is coming into my hometown and representing in the Super Bowl other than us."

Three questions that will help determine whether the Cowboys jump from contenders to champions:

1. Do the Cowboys have a left tackle liability?

The Cowboys gambled by releasing five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams in the offseason. Fourth-year player Doug Free is No. 1 on the depth chart and is backed up by Alex Barron, a ’05 first-round pick of the Rams.

Romo, however, was pummeled by the Vikings during the playoffs and shaky blindside protection could blow up any Super Bowl plans.

"Flozell is a great guy, a great offensive lineman and we’re gonna miss him," Cowboys running back Felix Jones said. "We have Doug Free; I think he’s going to do a great job."

When asked what could keep the Cowboys from winning the Super Bowl, former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon did not hesitate.

"The big concern I have right now with the Cowboys is the left tackle situation," said Gannon, now an analyst for CBS and SIRIUS radio. "But if Free and Barron can solidify that spot, you’re looking at a very good team.

"Offensively, they’re very balanced between the run and the pass. Romo took big strides last year. There was so much being leveled at them — they couldn’t win in December, they couldn’t win in the playoffs. They did it last year. They took care of the Saints late in the year. They destroyed Philadelphia in back-to-back games. They just have to build on that."

2. Can Phillips guide a team through the playoff minefield?

That question will be asked until Phillips does it successfully. His career record is an impressive 81-54 during the regular season but a poor 1-5 in the playoffs.

"I think they can win with him," "Too Tall" Jones said. "I’d give any coach 3-5 years to put his system in. That’s how long he’s been there, so now it’s time for him to win."

3. Does Romo have even more upside?

Romo is coming off his best season — 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions — but to reach the Super Bowl, he might have to play even better.

"Just nine interceptions was really impressive," Gannon said. "But every year, you want to improve."

The Cowboys are Sporting News‘ pick to win the NFC, but Felix Jones said expectations in Dallas never change.

"Every year I’ve been with the Cowboys it’s been like, ‘We’re gonna win the Super Bowl, we’re gonna win the Super Bowl,’ " he said. "One day at a time, and we’ll focus on that when the time comes."

Staff writer Ryan Fagan contributed to this article. Email him and Clifton Brown at rfagan@sportingnews.com and cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com

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