Jones still optimistic

It's been 16 years since the Cowboys last appeared in a Super Bowl.

It's the longest such streak in the history of a team that has eight Super Bowl appearances and five titles.

The Cowboys have just won one playoff game since 1996 and are coming off their second straight year in which they missed the postseason.

Yet owner Jerry Jones has no doubts that his team can compete for a Super Bowl next season. He felt that way last season when the Cowboys finished 8-8 and in third place in the NFC East.

And he feels that way going into 2012 and that's before the Cowboys get the benefit of a full offseason, which they didn't have last year, under coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and the addition of talent through the draft and free agency.

"I see the talent level as being able to put in a competitive situation for the Super Bowl," Jones said. "I saw it at the start of that season. I saw it last year. The talent level can compete for a Super Bowl. We need to have the benefit in having a full offseason and a full coordination of what Rob Ryan on defense is doing with where the talent is.

"I'm not saying we don't have room to have better talent. I think between free agency and the draft we are going to have talent to compete."

The Cowboys have $12.6 million in cap room and can restructure contracts to gain even more financial flexibility to fill needs on the offensive line and on defense, specifically at cornerback and linebacker. The Cowboys plan to be very active and aggressive in improving the talent in free agency and the draft.

But Jones says the biggest reason the team will be able to compete better next year even if they don't make a move in free agency and the draft is the improvement and expected improvement in coaching he believes the Cowboys will have next season.

Jones says this staff is set up to have even more success than the group under Wade Phillips in 2009 that won the team's first playoff game in 16 years but also opened the following season 1-7.

Garrett will be in his second full season as coach after taking over for Phillips midway through the 2010 season. He will have his first full offseason of minicamps and conditioning programs.

The team will have a chance get acclimated to Ryan's defense during the offseason after being rushed following the lockout last season.

"We will have better coaching," Jones said. We have changed from where we were in the first half of 2010 to where we are today. There have been a lot of coaching changes. The staff will be better. That is going to be significant."

Jones believes the change on the offensive line with Bill Callahan replacing a retired and aging Hudson Houck is just as significant.

Jones said bad play on the line was a big reason for the Cowboys' struggles the last two years as they created problems and concerns for quarterback Tony Romo.

"That helped create ambiguity for our quarterback, awareness to either have guys come free or someone up there get beat," Jones said. "He makes adjustments subconsciously and consciously. Callahan is not only someone who going to make good contributions to the offense but he is also a heck of an offensive line coach. We will be benefit from the freshness he brings and I was the no. 1 Hudson Houck fan in the building."

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