The Dallas Cowboys finished 2013 as they did the past two years, losing to a division rival for the NFC East crown. Until the organization takes a deep look at its inner problems, there is no reason for Cowboys fans to look for hope in the "there is always next year" saying.
Instead of getting to try their luck in the postseason the last three years, the Cowboys have settled for three straight 8-8 seasons. At the very least, this is a consistent franchise. Unfortunately for Dallas fans that consistency is one of mediocrity.
The reason for that mediocrity originates from owner Jerry Jones' refusal to allow this franchise to go through a rebuilding phase. He also doesn't like head coaches who challenge his authority and has no plans of letting an experienced and proven general manager take over the duties from, well, him.
Because the Cowboys are always in a "win now" mentality, they constantly finish with a record that puts them smack in the middle of the NFL draft order.
Since 2005, Dallas has only held a selection within the first 10 picks on one occasion. The team did trade with the Rams to take Morris Claiborne at No. 6 in the 2011 first round but held the No. 14 draft position before doing so.
The problem with the Cowboys is that they're never bad enough to grab a top prospect in the draft and never good enough to make noise in the playoffs. They also haven't had a coach or scout team that has been great at predicting future stars as of late.
Dez Bryant and Sean Lee are exceptions to that statement, but guys like Mike Jenkins, Felix Jones and Martellus Bennett didn't exactly work out. In fact, Jenkins, Jones and Bennett aren't even with Dallas anymore.
This franchise needs to get back to the techniques and research that brought gems like Tony Romo, Jay Ratliff and Miles Austin to the roster.
It's no secret the lights shine brighter on Dallas than other teams in the NFL. That comes from the Cowboys' popularity and their old nickname of "America's Team" from the Tom Landry era.
A large part of the reason for this franchise's recent struggles with living up to that nickname, though, comes from Jones' inability to handle an outspoken head coach.
Jimmy Johnson brought Jones two of the Cowboys' three Super Bowl titles in their glory years of the 1990s. Despite the success and Hall of Fame players Johnson brought to Dallas, Jones ultimately let him go. Many to this day believe the main reason for Johnson's departure was that he and Jones butted heads quite a bit over things like player-personnel decisions.
The only other time Jones has allowed someone like Johnson to coach his team during his ownership is when he brought Bill Parcells to town in 2003.
Cowboys are 0-4 in win-or-go-home games in last 6 seasons— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 30, 2013
Parcells is the reason Dallas has players like Romo, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten on its roster. Many of the Cowboys' cornerstone players even now are a result of Parcells' short time in Dallas. The Tuna also brought Dallas to the playoffs twice in his three years with the team.
Jones simply cannot stand having someone coach his team that has as big an ego as himself or one that will speak up to him. Guys like Barry Switzer, Wade Phillips, Dave Campo and Jason Garrett are not known for their outspokenness.
Lots of people like to put the bulk of the Cowboys' failure since the '90s ended on the feet of their owner, and that's pretty fair. It's not all Jones' fault, but there are plenty of issues with his team that stem from him.
Until Jones can look at himself and see what the rest of the world does, his team can't create new glory days. Jones needs to see how he's hurting his team and then properly assess who else in the organization is holding his beloved team back from greatness.
If history has shown Cowboys fans anything though, it's that Jones is not the type of man that self-reflects all that often.