Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has instilled in his team the ability to focus on the task at hand without bringing historical significance or outside praise or criticism into the weekly work.
That’s the job of the professional.
The significance of the moment is the thing the Cowboys will celebrate or lament when their NFC Divisional playoff game at Los Angeles on Saturday is complete.
For those watching, whether they’re Dallas supporters, Rams fans or just spectators enthralled by the spectacle of NFL playoff football, the context is everything.
The Cowboys are attempting to advance to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since the 1995 season, which was the last time Dallas won a Super Bowl. Since then, the Cowboys have reached the Division round five times with losses to the Packers (twice), Vikings, Giants and Panthers.
The Rams haven’t been to the conference finals since the 2001 season, when the St. Louis Rams defeated the Eagles in the NFC Championship and then lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
This week, the local media filled in Dallas wide receiver Amari Cooper on the Cowboys’ playoff history since the team’s last Super Bowl victory in 1996. He warmed up to the topic and discussed his perspective on making a deep playoff run.
“I’m not surprised just for the simple fact that it’s so hard to make it into the postseason,” Cooper said. “To be in that NFC Championship Game is only two teams. … I’ve been in the league four years and this is my first time winning a playoff game. … That’s how rare this thing is."
The signs that Dallas has a higher standard than the team has lived up to the last two decades are all around Cooper in Cowboys headquarters.
“You look up and see those guys on the wall and you know what they’ve accomplished,” Cooper said. “You know, by being here, how hard it is to accomplish it. It allows you to have a certain level of respect for those guys.”
EXTRA POINT: This will be the ninth matchup between the Cowboys and Rams in the playoffs, but the first since 1985. The teams have split the previous eight playoff games.