If a team didn’t win a Super Bowl, perhaps the next best thing is to claim that it could have.
That’s what Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did Friday while holding court with reporters for more than 90 minutes on, yes, the team’s luxury bus.
“I see the talent level being able to put us in a competitive situation for the Super Bowl,” Jones said, via Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com. “I saw it at the start of that  season and I see it with what we had last year, that there’s a talent level that can compete for a Super Bowl.”
But many non-playoff teams could say that they have “Super Bowl talent,” especially in an era where teams that barely got into the playoffs run the table and secure the Lombardi Trophy. The question is whether “Super Bowl talent” translates into results.
“We all should recognize that what’s on paper is far different than what ultimately wins that Super Bowl and very seldom reconciles going to it,” Jones said. “It always has a way of doing that after the fact. The present champs, the Giants, going in the talent evaluations by everybody that’s interested — fans, our media, whoever — was not really giving them high marks for their talent. Certainly coming out of training camp, it was not. Now they’re getting high marks for their talent. Same guys.
“So, my point is the success that you have has a way of defining talent.”
Annnnnd that’s the exact opposite of what Jones initially said. Whether a team has “Super Bowl talent” isn’t determined prospectively. The teams that get to the Super Bowl necessarily have “Super Bowl talent.”
While the Cowboys may not have gotten to the Super Bowl themselves, they failed to keep the Giants from demonstrating “Super Bowl talent” by blowing a chance to bury Big Blue’s postseason dreams on a Sunday night in the middle of December. Leading 34-29 with 2:25 to play, quarterback Tony Romo overthrew receiver Miles Austin, or Miles Austin underran the ball. (Austin later said he lost it in the lights.) If Romo and Austin had connected, and assuming Austin wouldn’t have tripped on his way to the end zone or done something stupid like spike the ball before crossing the plane, the Cowboys win and the Giants lose and the Giants most likely don’t make it to the postseason.
Heading into 2012, if the Cowboys have “Super Bowl talent,” then pretty much every team does. Because pretty much every team can find a way to win their division and then, by January, piece together a playoff run that allows everyone in hindsight to declare that this was indeed the best team, because they became the best team.
That’s ultimately what it’s all about. And any effort by Jones or any other owner or G.M. to apply that label before the season starts serves only to increase the expectations of the fans and the pressure on the coaching staff.
Maybe Jones would realize that if he hadn’t suffered 50 concussions.