It was a tough year for the Dallas Cowboys.
As is the case nearly every year for America’s team, expectations were high entering the 2012 season. Anything short of a playoff season and a potential Super Bowl run wasn’t going to be enough, and in an NFC East division that experienced a lot of changes in the offseason, the Cowboys looked poised to come out at the top of the division.
A lot changed during the season, though.
Injuries, questionable coaching decisions and an overall sense of underachievement created turmoil, resulting in an 8-8 season and a campaign that ended just short of the playoffs.
The 2012 season wasn’t all bad, and the Cowboys are not a bad football team. Six of Dallas’ eight losses were by a touchdown or less—a big reason frustration seemed to boil over by the end of the year.
Victories over Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh late in the season created a sense of excitement, but it all came crashing down with an overtime loss to New Orleans in Week 16 and a crushing 28-18 loss to Washington, which would have secured a playoff berth for the Cowboys had they won.
This offseason promises changes. There won’t be a shakeup at quarterback as some fans may wish to be the case, but Dallas’ roster will look a lot different by Week 1 of the 2013 season.
The Cowboys have already replaced Rob Ryan with legendary defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin—a move that will require some personnel and schematic adjustments. Still, Kiffin has been the mastermind behind some of the best defenses in the NFL, and he’ll set his sights on recreating those results in Dallas.
Dallas needs to make the most of this offseason, and free agency and the draft will dictate a lot of those changes.
We’ll take a look ahead at some of Dallas’ biggest strengths, areas of need and potential draft candidates and break down what the Cowboys must do in the coming months to return to dominance in the NFL.