The other day, I couldn't sleep, so I watched old Super Bowl films on ESPN.com. They showed Super Bowls 27 and 28, the first two Super Bowls the Cowboys won in the 1990s. Being the big Cowboys fan that I am, this brought back a lot of happy memories. It was nice to see Troy, Emmitt, Michael, Moose, Alvin, Jay, and the Cowboys' top-ranked defense at their absolute peak, wreaking havoc on the hapless Bills. Seeing the Super Bowl XXVIII film, though, got me thinking a bit.
That Super Bowl film gives you a sense that the Cowboys were on their way to being a great dynasty on the level of Walsh's 49ers or the Steel Curtain Steelers. And certainly in 1993 they were. They had the best defense in the league, Emmitt Smith was the best running back, Troy Aikman was on top of his game, and he had 3 great targets in Michael Irvin, Alvin Harper, and Jay Novacek. They had talented assistants like Dave Wannstedt, Butch Davis, Norv Turner, and Dave Campo, all of whom would later get head coaching jobs. With 7 Super Bowls left before the end of the decade, they had a good chance to get 2 more and be the "Team of the Decade"
What we didn't know at the time is that the offseason after Super Bowl 28 was, despite another Super Bowl victory in 1995, the beginning of the end for the Cowboy dynasty.
People point to the departure of Jimmy Johnson as the beginning of the decline, but really it was the salary cap which caused the Cowboys descent. Slowly but surely, free agents defected for bigger paychecks, injuries forced key players into retirement, and the Cowboys frequently lacked the cap space to replace their losses. By the 2000 season, only Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson remained from the 1993 team. Sure, they were still "Team of the 1990s" but only because no other team won more than 2 Super Bowls.
I look at this year's Patriots heading into the championship game and see a team a lot like that 1993 Cowboys' team, a team that has a lot of potential to be this decade's dynasty. But they have to beat Pittsburgh and win the Super Bowl this year to have a chance. Who knows when players from this years' team will go elsewhere because the Patriots' won't be able to afford them?
Missouri's tournament hopes continue to slide. They lost to Texas Tech, a team that has struggled on the road under Bob Knight, at Mizzou Arena. Considering all the scandal and mediocrity Mizzou has had under Quin Synder, why is he not on the hot seat?
Tomorrow: Conference Championship preview.