The Cowboys aspire to be the Niners

The Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers have been attached at the hip from the start of their pursuit of championships. Here we are at Super Bowl 58 and both remain tied at 5-5, still atop the NFC, but one trophy behind Pittsburgh and New England.
(AP file photo)
The Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers have been attached at the hip from the start of their pursuit of championships. Here we are at Super Bowl 58 and both remain tied at 5-5, still atop the NFC, but one trophy behind Pittsburgh and New England. (AP file photo)

DALLAS -- I believe it's time for Cowboys fans to just let it happen, to sit back and cheer for the dreaded 49ers today and concede they will move past Dallas in terms of all-time Super Bowl glory. It's not like it hasn't happened before, and the Cowboys still managed to recover from that.

The two franchises have been attached at the hip from the start of their pursuit of championships. While everyone knows what "The Catch" did to ignite Joe Montana's career in the '80s, and the "How 'Bout Them Cowboys" and "Put It In Three-Inch Headlines" highlights for Dallas in the '90s, few remember or talk much about how Dallas, after two great disappointments against Vince Lombardi's Packers, beat San Francisco in consecutive seasons to reach their first two Super Bowls. The Doomsday defense nickname was well established before the 1970 and '71 seasons but it was in those 14-3 and 17-10 NFC Championship Game victories against John Brodie's Niners that the unit sent the Cowboys on their way.

That began the back and forth that had Dallas grabbing a 2-0 lead in Lombardi Trophies, the 49ers surging ahead 4-2 by 1989 and the Cowboys responding with their greatest era and making it 5-5. After 30 Super Bowls, these teams had represented the NFC 13 times and won 10 of them. Here we are at Super Bowl 58 and both remain tied at 5-5, still atop the NFC, yes, but one trophy behind Pittsburgh and New England.

So let it happen. Make it 6-5 San Francisco and give the Cowboys a legacy motivation for 2024 since nothing else seems to do the trick. With Mike Zimmer now joining the staff as a 67-year-old defensive coordinator, certainly Mike McCarthy's staff has the wisdom to remember this history. Maybe they find a way to impart it on today's players who look upon Tony Romo as an old-timer.

I do recognize that, in many respects, nothing changes if Kansas City wins today, and that the 49ers are still the team to target in the NFC whether you are the Cowboys or Eagles or, especially, the new kids on the block from Detroit. But if the Niners are the defending Super Bowl champs, it just makes the measuring stick that much more intriguing whenever the Cowboys return to Levi's Stadium next season.

The Cowboys' game at San Francisco certainly begins the offseason as Dallas' toughest on paper, and I don't see any way that changes no matter what goes down in the draft and free agency. That's not to say road games in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and, of course, Philadelphia won't be challenging along with those non-division home dates with Baltimore, Detroit, Cincinnati and Houston.

But if San Francisco is the ultimate target, there's at least a bit of safety in that thought, despite whatever residue remains from the 42-10 beat down in October. If Kansas City wins a third Super Bowl in five years, well, that just sends the message that it's all about Patrick Mahomes in this time and place. Not to say the Chiefs' defense isn't a key component of this magnificent playoff run, but the manner in which Mahomes directed that offense without a turnover or sack through three rounds of AFC playoffs was another quarterback clinic from the former Red Raider. And the Cowboys do not have a Patrick Mahomes at their disposal.

But don't they at least have a Brock Purdy? Isn't the guy who finished second to Lamar Jackson in the MVP voting that was announced Thursday at the NFL Honors night at least worthy of that? Admittedly, it was a distant second -- Dak received none of the 50 first-place votes -- but it was two spots ahead of Purdy all the same. Both quarterbacks can light up defenses and occasionally use their legs as weapons, too, even if Purdy almost never showed as much until the Detroit game and Prescott, at 31, is not going to run like he did in college.

The Cowboys have a similarly overlooked talent at quarterback. They want to run the ball efficiently and often, although Tony Pollard is no Christian McCaffrey and the Cowboys don't have a tight end who's going to bury defenders the way George Kittle does. I think Micah Parsons holds up just fine against Nick Bosa on the defensive side, but the Cowboys don't have anything close to the power and leadership Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw (Arkansas Razorbacks) bring to the linebacker position.

For three years, the Cowboys have shown themselves to be San Francisco light, if you will. I don't know if they have the capacity to improve this offseason. While today's players may not be likely to study history, the Cowboys certainly benefit from it in all sorts of ways. Maybe the harsh reality that the 49ers have a better Super Bowl legacy would inspire the Jones Family to realize things have been getting away from this storied franchise for a long, long time.

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