Young vs. Old

Are the 2005 Dallas Cowboys as old as you think?

Are the 2005 Dallas Cowboys as old as you think?

In this month's edition of The Ranch Report Magazine, I wrestle with and then dismiss a Dallas Morning News-backed notion that the 2005 Cowboys are being built improperly because the 1992 Cowboys blueprint isn't being followed. I dismissed it by arguing that those Super Bowl Cowboys were a one-of-a-kind team built in a one-of-a-kind way -- and that it was all accomplished in a now-dead and impossible-to-emulate era of the NFL.

I did however enter that debate class by accepting the Morning News' thesis that, as they wrote it, "The Cowboys won a Super Bowl in 1992 with one of the youngest teams in the NFL. They are attempting to win in 2005 with one of the league's oldest lineups.''

Now I am prepared to not only challenge the newspaper's claim that the '92 Cowboys blueprint can and should be replicated. ... but I'll also challenge the basic notion of "young' and "old.''

Is the basis for Rick Gosselin's thesis even accurate? Is Jean-Jacques Taylor's article in Monday's News -- suggesting that too many Cowboys are an "Awkward Age'' -- even accurate?

Were the '92 Cowboys "young''?

Are this year's Cowboys "old''?

You can make these sort of numbers dance anyway you wish. Do you include the entire roster's age? Just the 22 starters? Punters and kickers? Stars only? Is "age'' vastly different than "years of experience''?

For our presentation, let's go with "years of experience.'' And let's go with measuring the starting 22.

The starting 22 Cowboys who won Super Bowl XXVII are remembered and lauded for being "kids.'' That is in large part due to the focal points of the club, Troy Aikman (in his fourth year), Emmitt Smith (third year) and Michael Irvin (fifth year). Aikman's Dallas draft class of 1989 was rightfully considered a notable gang, with the QB being joined by starters Daryl Johnston, Mark Stepnoski and Tony Tolbert. Two rookies, Robert Jones and Kevin Smith, were starters, and other front-line guys like Erik Williams, Russell Maryland, Larry Brown and Vinson Smith all had four years or fewer.

As a whole, the 22 starters had a combined 97 years of experience, or an average of 4.4.

Now to the Cowboys working on the fields at Oxnard today.

There are unquestionably some high-profile 2005 Cowboys who are considered "old.'' Drew Bledsoe has a "13'' next to his name in the "years of experience'' category. Larry Allen is a 12. Marco Rivera, Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson are all 10's.

Gosh, the 'Boys seem old already!

But let's keep filling out the lineup card: I've got to make some assumptions regarding some starters here. Allow me to insert Keith Davis at safety and maybe rookie Kevin Burnett at linebacker, joining first-round rookies Demarcus Ware and Marcus Spears as starters. Give me, say, Torrin Tucker as the right tackle. (Can we agree that none of this is a stretch, and that if I've got a name or two wrong, I'm still only going to be off by a year or two as well?)

Add up this year's probable 22. Dallas' projected '05 starters have a combined 121 years of experience, or. ... an average of 5.5.

What?! That's it? The baby-faced, peach-fuzzy, just-out-of-diapers, greatest-youngest-team-ever Cowboys of 1992 were 4.4-year veterans? And this assemblage of decrepit, Medicaring, where's-my-walker, I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up Cowboys of 2005 are 5.5-year veterans?

That's the difference between "old'' and "young''? Thirteen months?

Don't misunderstand; the '92 Cowboys were almost incomparable. Our eyes told us that then. History tells us that now. These 2005 Cowboys likely have no business even being mentioned in the same zip code, let alone in the same sentence.

But do understand this: That team won because it was great, not because it was "young.'' (And by the way, it was still winning Super Bowls three years later. ... so were the Cowboys who won a title in the winter of 1996, the Cowboys who were generally three years more advanced in age than the '92 players, suddenly "too old''?)

And what of this edition of the Cowboys?

"It is a young man's game,'' coach Bill Parcells says, almost in concession.

No need to conceed, coach, because know this: Your Cowboys are younger men than you think -- and I say these Cowboys will win or lose based on their abilities, not their birthdates.

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