Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones looks over warm ups before...

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones looks over warm ups before the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on December 02, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Credit: Getty Images/Jonathan Bachman

There are a lot of reasons for Jerry Jones to dream about winning the Super Bowl for the first time since the Cowboys’ dynasty years in the 1990s. Not the least of which is the sentimental attachment he has to where Super Bowl LVI is being played on Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium.

"You know, I was born in a house about a mile from that stadium," Jones told Newsday this past week at the NFL owners' meetings in Dallas. "In Inglewood."

A broad smile crossed his face.

"So I might have been dreaming of this in 1942," said Jones, 79.

He might have as good a chance as any in recent years to live out that dream. The Cowboys are 9-4 and have a comfortable lead in the NFC East heading into Sunday’s game against the undermanned Giants at MetLife Stadium. Dak Prescott is enjoying a season in which he likely will earn Comeback Player of the Year honors, and a defense led by rookie linebacker Micah Parsons is among the best in the NFL under first-year coordinator Dan Quinn.

"We’ve got the availability of players, which is unique to have that with players coming back from early-season and training-camp injuries," Jones said. "That technically gives you a lot of encouragement or hope. I see our defense definitely improve, just by availability."

It is the offense that has been a concern of late, with Prescott having cooled off a bit after a strong start. He has thrown 24 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions overall but has four TD passes and five interceptions in his last three games.

Jones believes that will change in the coming weeks, perhaps as early as Sunday against a Giants team that surrendered 37 points to the Chargers last week.

"I’ve got real confidence that we can do a lot better than we’ve done [offensively] because we’ve got the players and the kind of commitment to figure it out," he said. "I don’t have to stretch my imagination to see us get better offensively. We can do it."

He takes nothing for granted against the Giants, however. After purchasing the Cowboys in 1989, Jones has experienced enough highs and lows in this decades-old rivalry to never take this team lightly. In fact, some of Jones’ most enduring memories since becoming one of the most high-profile owners in sports history involve the Giants, both good and bad.

In the final regular-season game of the 1993 season, running back Emmitt Smith suffered a separated shoulder but continued to play in the Cowboys’ 16-13 overtime win over the Giants. The outcome clinched the NFC East title for the Cowboys, who went on to win their second straight championship. Smith had 168 rushing yards and a receiving touchdown and set up Eddie Murray’s winning field goal in overtime.

"I’ve never walked into that stadium when I don’t see an image of Emmitt Smith running with that shoulder injury, taking that thing out and then clinching our [second] Super Bowl," Jones said.

There also was the Giants’ upset win in Dallas in the 2007 playoffs. The Cowboys, who had earned the No. 1 seed, were beaten by the Giants, 21-17, in the divisional round.

"All they did was kick our butt, and we had home-field advantage all the way through," Jones said. "They went up the back side to the Super Bowl. So I’ve got too much pain from the Giants in the time that I’ve been involved to take them easy at all. It will be a dogfight [on Sunday]. I believe that."

What’s next in Jacksonville?

There is a franchise quarterback in place and a decent core of young players to surround him. Which is not a bad scenario for the next coach of the Jaguars, who will get to work with Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in 2021 and a quarterback considered by many to be a can’t-miss star.

Urban Meyer’s firing creates a unique opportunity for the next coach, especially if Lawrence can develop into a big-time player. The list of available coaches is a good one, with several viable candidates. Some of the top contenders:

Byron Leftwich, Tampa Bay offensive coordinator. Leftwich, a former quarterback, has deep roots with the Jaguars, having been drafted by them in the first round. He has done a terrific job in Tampa, albeit having the advantage of working with the greatest player of all time in Tom Brady. Still, he is earning his coaching chops, and his connection to Jacksonville is a plus.

Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City offensive coordinator. Bieniemy has interviewed several times in the past two years but has been passed over despite rave reviews from coach Andy Reid. This could be — and should be — his year to get the chance he deserves.

Doug Pederson, former Philadelphia head coach. Pederson was fired after a last-place finish in 2020, but he is only the second coach to beat Bill Belichick’s Patriots in the Super Bowl. Pederson wanted to take a year off to recharge, and his excellent work with quarterbacks makes him a terrific candidate.

Josh McDaniels, New England offensive coordinator. Teams still might be reluctant to engage with McDaniels, who accepted the Colts’ head-coaching job in 2018 but reversed course and remained alongside Belichick.

Brian Daboll, Buffalo offensive coordinator. Daboll has been on a track to become a head coach, and his superb work in developing Bills quarterback Josh Allen has earned him head-coaching interviews the last two seasons.

Matt Eberflus, Indianapolis defensive coordinator. He is a very highly regarded assistant under Frank Reich, and Eberflus has done fine work with Indy’s defense since 2018.

Kellen Moore, Dallas offensive coordinator. Moore will attract a lot of attention after helping the Cowboys’ offense flourish. The former backup quarterback is an imaginative play-caller with good leadership skills.

Parsons can join LT in history

By all measures, Parsons is enjoying an extraordinary season for the Cowboys, and maybe an historic one.

He already has 12 sacks and three forced fumbles, the fifth rookie to have that many sacks and forced fumbles since 2000 (Mark Anderson, Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, Terrell Suggs). His 12 sacks are tied for the fourth-most in a player's first 13 games since sacks became an official stat in 1982.

Now for the potential coup de grace: Parsons can join Giants great Lawrence Taylor as the only players in NFL history to win Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Taylor did it in 1981 to open his Hall of Fame career, and he is regarded as arguably the greatest defensive player in NFL history.

Let’s not put Parsons in that class just yet, because there may never be another LT. But the Cowboys are delighted with their 2021 first-round pick, a player who became available to them in part because the Giants traded their own first-round pick to the Bears.

"He’s being disruptive in the pass rush, he’s being disruptive in the run game, that’s why he was drafted where he was drafted," Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said of Parsons, the 12th overall pick. "He’s a good football player. Just hope he doesn’t have a good game on Sunday."

Former Penn State teammate Saquon Barkley said Parsons is in Taylor’s class.

"I’ve never really seen anything like him," Barkley told Yahoo Sports this past week. "He’s really LT-like, to be honest. He’s insane. Every week, he is one of those guys that, even if I can’t watch this game, I’ll look and say, ‘What is he doing?’ And I’m not just saying this because we’re friends. If he keeps working hard and keeping his head on straight, he can be even better than he is now. That’s the scary thing."

Brady keeps rolling along

Have we told you lately how great Tom Brady has been?

The guy is 44 years old, and he’s still playing some of the best football of his legendary career. Consider: Brady leads the entire league with 4,134 passing yards and 36 touchdown passes. He has thrown at least four touchdown passes in six games this year, the most in the league. His 39 games with at least four touchdown passes are an NFL record.

Brady is on track to throw at least 40 touchdown passes for the third time in his career. He had 40 last year and 50 in 2007. He would join Aaron Rodgers of the Packers as the only players with at least 40 touchdown throws in three seasons.

Time for Jones' season to be over

Daniel Jones will miss a third straight game with what the Giants have termed a neck strain. And while coach Joe Judge continues to suggest that the injury won’t necessarily keep him out the rest of the season, the Giants ought to do just that: shut Jones down.

At 4-9, there’s no hope of making the playoffs, and with Judge giving all indications that the team will continue to move forward with Jones next season, there’s no reason to risk those plans by subjecting him to further injury if he plays in meaningless games in the final month of the season.

Extra points

At 10-3, the Buccaneers are tied for the best record in the NFL and hope to earn their first back-to-back 11-win seasons ever. They can clinch the NFC South title with a win over the Saints on Sunday night as they look to remain unbeaten at home (6-0). The Bucs can become the third team to score at least 30 points in eight straight home games (including last season) . . . Call it the season of the last-second drama. Through last weekend, there were a record number of games decided on the final play of the game — 28. And that doesn’t include Thursday night’s overtime thriller between Kansas City and San Diego, when Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce connected on the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime to give the two-time defending AFC champs the win in Los Angeles . . . Key stat: Since Week 13 last season, NFL teams that have won on Monday night are unbeaten the following week: 16-0-1. The Rams, coming off a Monday night win over Arizona, are home to the Seahawks on Sunday . . . Rams receiver Cooper Kupp, who led that win over the Cardinals with 13 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown, is having a career year with 113 catches for 1,489 yards and 12 touchdowns — all tops in the NFL. Kupp can record his 10th straight game with at least 90 yards, breaking a tie with Odell Beckham Jr. (2014 Giants) and Michael Irvin (1995 Cowboys) for the most consecutive games with at least 90 receiving yards.


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