The Pro Bowl is a meaningless game that barely qualifies as football, but the title “Pro-Bowler” still carries weight. Although the selection process is not perfect, it is a good indication of the best players in each position in a given season. And it’s common for the Dallas Cowboys to send their fair share of attendees.
However, the Cowboys haven’t made the Super Bowl since the mid-1990s, so the Pro Bowl often represents a disappointing season despite having more than enough talent. There’s a disconnect somewhere because Dallas has arguably seen more talent flow through its building than any other team since 1996.
Talent on Cowboys roster compared to Dallas success is baffling
Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs and Brian Anger all deserve to play on Sunday. When healthy, these five players were top five at their position in 2021 and should be recognized as such.
But it’s the same story in a different year. Dallas has had more Pro Bowl selections since 1996 than any NFL team.
So first, let’s review the players who have donned the star since the Cowboys last Super Bowl appearance. The 139 Pro Bowl selections over that 25-year span are the most in the NFL, with the Ravens coming second with 132. The average team has sent 89 players to the Pro Bowl over the past two and a half decades, which which means Dallas has 50 players. above average in this respect.
Here are some examples of the Perineal Pro Bowlers the Cowboys have had since 1996 and their number of selections:
- Jason Witt (11)
- DeMarcus Ware (7)
- Tyron Smith (8)
- Deion Sander (4)
- Zack Martin (7)
- Andre Gurode (5)
- King Glover (4)
- Travis Frederic (5)
- Larry Allen (9)
- Flozell Adams (5)
- Tony Romo (4)
- Jay Ratliff (4)
Now it is worth noting the power of the “Dallas Cowboys” brand. If there are two players with equal Pro Bowl qualifications, the Cowboys player is more likely to win. There is some bias in the selection process, but for the most part it is fairly fair. So we can’t fire the 139 players Dallas sent just because “Team USA is unfairly selected.”
So, now that we know the Cowboys have been jam-packed with talent since 1996, arguably more talent than any other team, it’s fair to wonder what they did with those players?
The answer is four playoff wins. If you factor in the eleven playoff losses, Dallas has the third-lowest playoff winning percentage over that span at 26.7%. The two teams trailing the Cowboys in playoff winning percentage, Washington and Detroit, have combined for 121 Pro Bowl selections over the past 25 years.
In fact, of the 19 teams that have less than ten playoff wins since 1996, only the Cowboys, Vikings and Chiefs have fielded more than 100 Pro Bowlers. Other teams are also struggling to make the playoffs, but at least they can say there has been a lack of talent in their rosters.
Let’s review some teams that have done more with less; remember, Dallas has four playoff wins since the last Super Bowl:
- Giants: 65 Pro Bowlers, 10 playoff wins
- Rams: 66 Pro Bowlers, 12 playoff wins (potentially 13)
- Jets: 61 Pro Bowlers, 7 playoff wins
- Jaguars: 49 Pro Bowlers, 7 playoff wins
Texans: 57 Pro Bowlers, 4 playoff wins
And it’s not silly to compare the Pro Bowlers to playoff wins, because there’s actually a very strong correlation between these two measures (0.67). Based on their Pro Bowl appearances, Dallas is expected to win 17 playoff games, which would be tied for third in the NFL over that span.
But they didn’t win 17, they didn’t even reach double-digit wins despite losing eleven. They have as many wins in 26 years as the 2021 Super Bowl champion will have in a season. It was bad in Dallas, and they didn’t produce anything with rosters full of potential.
Okay, the Cowboys have struggled since their last Super Bowl win, even non-football fans are probably aware of that fact by now. So what should we take away from this?
The implication is that perhaps we should focus less on list building and more on leadership. There’s no reason, given the Cowboys’ talent, they should only produce four playoff wins.
We’re never going to build the “perfect” list, simply because a perfect list doesn’t exist. The Bengals are in the Super Bowl with a porous offensive line. If we continue to consider the idea that we’re just one offensive skill player away, or a corner of lockdown, it distracts from the larger issue.
Because the truth is, there are four or five rosters of Cowboys in the last 25 years that have been good enough to win a Super Bowl. At the very least, they were good enough to make a deep playoff run. But they failed, and we repeat the cycle of blaming a lack of talent in a specific job group.
It’s probably a symptom of poor leadership. Maybe coaching has been the problem for the past two decades, maybe the property is getting too involved in day-to-day operations, or maybe it’s a combination of the two.
Whatever the reason, the team needs a change somewhere. Because allowing 139 Pro Bowl players to produce a grand total of four playoff wins is unacceptable, and it’s not their fault. The roster was rebuilt three times, and each time there was a team good enough to win it all.
So before you think picking up an offensive tackle in the draft or a middle linebacker in free agency will be enough to make a deep run, consider that the Cowboys have done a lot less with more. It’s a sad situation, but we can’t continue to blame roster building alone.
The Cowboys need a drastic leadership change before we can trust this team.