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Oh, the pain Dallas Cowboys fans feel the Monday after this Super Bowl.

Gone is the opportunity to continually taunt Philadelphia Eagles fans over their lack of Super Bowl wins. Yes, the Cowboys can point to five championships, but those are ancient history. The Eagles, with their thrilling 41-33 victory in Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots, have bragging rights for at least the next 12 months and likely longer.

The pain runs deep because Philadelphia’s winning touchdown looked similar to a non-catch that ended the Cowboys’ chances to stop their Super Bowl drought in 2014.

On Zach Ertz’s 11-yard touchdown catch with 2:21 remaining, the Philadelphia tight end took two steps and dived for the end zone, with the ball hitting the ground after crossing the goal line.

Every scoring play is reviewed, and this one took a longer time than expected.

“I didn’t even think there was anything to review,” Ertz said. “I knew that you kind of had to after every touchdown, but I didn’t know there was a reason behind it, that it was going to be that close, that they had to go over and spend what seemed like an eternity over there.”

That Gene Steratore was the referee should not have been lost on Cowboys fans. He was the referee in Oakland in Week 15, pulling a piece of paper out to measure a Dallas first down. He was also the referee in the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers in the 2014 season.

Late in the fourth quarter and facing fourth down, Tony Romo sent a pass down the sideline to Dez Bryant that would have given the Cowboys a first down at the 1. Bryant leaped over Sam Shields for the pass, wrestled the ball away, took two steps and dived for the goal line. The ball popped in the air, but Bryant took control of it again in the end zone.

The initial signal was a catch for a first down, but Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play. After a similar eternity, Steratore overturned the call on the field, and the Cowboys never got the ball back, seeing their season end in controversial fashion.

In Super Bowl LII, Steratore was talking with Al Riveron, the director of officiating. In the 2014 playoffs, he was talking with Dean Blandino.

What was a catch Sunday was not a catch in the 2014 playoffs.

To this day, Bryant believes he caught the ball. The Cowboys believe he caught the ball. Their fans, to their last breath, believe Bryant caught the ball. Just last week, the obituary of Dallas fan Robert Clyde Drew of Wichita Falls, Texas, made reference to Bryant’s catch. Bryant shared the obit on his Instagram account.

As Steratore confirmed Ertz’s touchdown catch Sunday, thousands — if not millions — of Cowboys fans had to wonder why he did not do the same for Bryant’s catch.

Had the call been overturned, Philadelphia likely would have settled for a field goal attempt and taken a 35-33 lead. The Patriots’ strategy would have been different, knowing a field goal would win the game in the final two minutes. Instead, needing a touchdown they had to be more aggressive, and Brandon Graham was able to force a fumble on the only sack of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, leading to an Eagles’ field goal and eight-point lead.

There are no what-ifs for the Eagles — just a Super Bowl victory.

The Cowboys have plenty of what-ifs from 2014. Had they scored the go-ahead touchdown against the Packers, there is no telling whether they could have stopped Aaron Rodgers. But they would have liked to have had the opportunity to see what happened.

Had the Cowboys won, they would have played the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game at Century Link Field, where they had won the previous October. A win would have been difficult but not impossible.

Who knows — maybe the Cowboys would have gone on to win, appear in Super Bowl XLIX and beat the Patriots too.

Romo’s narrative could have been changed forever. Jason Garrett’s ability would not be questioned as much. And Jerry Jones could finally find peace in success without Jimmy Johnson.

But now Nick Foles’ narrative is changed forever, Doug Pederson is a genius and Howie Roseman is a guru.

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When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, nothing is simple.One must read between the lines when deciphering just what the Cowboys might do.

Without question, Dez Bryant’s future is the biggest question facing the Cowboys in 2018. Yes, Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is set to be a free agent, but the Cowboys know he will be in their lineup one way or another because of the franchise tag. Yes, they would like to sign Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin to an extension, but they know they have him under contract for 2018 thanks to the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. Yes, defensive lineman David Irving is set to be a restricted free agent, but the Cowboys will likely put a second-round tag on him and either match a deal if one comes from another team or accept a second-round pick in return.

With Bryant, nothing is certain.

On Monday, executive vice president Stephen Jones went on the team’s “Hangin’ with the Boys” podcast and seemed to set up the Cowboys’ offseason position with Bryant. Since signing his five-year, $70 million deal after the 2014 season, he has not been the same receiver. This past season he played in every game and caught 69 passes for 838 yards and six touchdowns.

“We pay Dez a lot of money, and he knows that. He’s aware of it as anybody when he talks to Jerry and myself,” Stephen Jones said. “He knows when you get paid that kind of money, there’s high expectations in terms of the productivity. Those are all things that we have to look at as a team, as an organization, when we start to put our team together for next year.”

Bryant is set to make $12.5 million in 2018. He has a $16.5 million cap figure. The Cowboys can release him and save $8 million. They can designate him a post-June 1 cut and save $12 million and he will count $4 million against the 2019 cap.

The Cowboys could ask Bryant to take a pay cut, but the last time they faced a dicey contractual situation with one of their all-time greats, DeMarcus Ware, they did not make him an offer because they did not want to hurt him with a lowball contract. They eventually cut Ware and he signed with the Denver Broncos, winning a Super Bowl in his second season there.

Also on the podcast, Stephen Jones said that Bryant’s sideline outbursts are a distraction. Over the years, Jason Garrett has defended Bryant’s actions as a sign of passion. On Wednesday at the Senior Bowl, Stephen Jones was asked to clarify what he meant.

“Well, Dez is an emotional guy. He plays with emotion. That’s part of his game,” Stephen Jones said in this Dallas Morning News story. “We work with him constantly on trying to really channel his energy in positive ways. I just think when he has those types of emotional roller coasters, I think at the end of the day he needs to understand that it does affect more than just Dez. He loves his teammates. He obviously has made so many great plays for us over the years but when you start to look at the things that we need to be better at, that’s one of them. I think he needs to understand that it’s not something that’s just affecting him, it does affect his teammates.”

On Tuesday from the Senior Bowl, Jerry Jones played something of the good cop when he was asked if Bryant was still a Dak Prescott-friendly receiver as the Cowboys look to direct their offense around their third-year quarterback’s talents.

“Well again, I’ve said this and I’m so proud of Dez and proud of where he is today, with us,” Jerry Jones said. “I believe Dez to have a lot of gas in the tank. I think we need to improve across the board with our receivers, and I think we will. In doing so, it should be an opportunity for Dez.”

Does he expect Bryant to be on the team?

“Well, everyone we’ve got under contract right now — and I’m not addressing anyone — but everyone we’ve got under contract and have years left on their contract, I expect to be with the team,” Jerry Jones said.

And this is where you can read between the lines. If Bryant was a dead-set lock to be on the roster in 2018, Jerry Jones could have just said yes. He was direct in some of his answers about the coaching staff. Here he left the door open with the “expect to.”

Nothing that has been said this week is new to Bryant. He addressed his situation late in the regular season. He knows the NFL business. And he said he would not take a pay cut if asked. He has not been asked yet.

Like Ware, he might not be asked either.

The door for Bryant’s departure seems to be open.

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The Dallas Cowboys will hire Sanjay Lal as wide-receivers coach, according to multiple sources.

Lal interviewed with the Cowboys last week, but he had drawn interest from the Oakland Raiders and had a chance to remain with the Indianapolis Colts.

Lal, 48, was with the Colts for just one season after a two-year run with the Buffalo Bills and three years with the New York Jets. He broke into the NFL in 2007 with the Raiders and became their receivers coach in 2009.

Lal will replace Derek Dooley, who left to become the offensive coordinator at Missouri. Dooley had coached Dallas’ wide receivers since 2013. Former Cowboys receiver Miles Austin, who has worked in the scouting department the past two seasons, also interviewed for the position.

Lal will inherit a group that could look a lot different by the time the 2018 season begins. Dez Bryant is under contract for two more years, but the Cowboys could look for Bryant to take a pay cut or risk getting released. Terrance Williams signed a four-year deal with the team last year and his base salary is guaranteed. Cole Beasley is entering the final year of his contract, while Brice Butler will be a free agent. The Cowboys also had Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown on the 53-man roster at the end of the season.

The Colts had quarterback issues for most of the season, but lead receiver T.Y. Hilton had 966 yards and averaged 16.9 yards per catch with four touchdowns. In Buffalo, Lal oversaw the development of Sammy Watkins, who had more than 1,000 yards in 2015.

Lal becomes the second new coach to join Jason Garrett’s staff, with offensive-line coach Paul Alexander coming on board Monday. A source said running-backs coach Gary Brown is expected to return to the Cowboys, but the team has openings at tight ends, special teams, linebackers, secondary and quarterbacks coaches.

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Wide receiver Dez Bryant does not want to leave the Dallas Cowboys and has not thought about life with another team, but he understands the way the NFL works.

Scheduled to make $12.5 million in 2018, Bryant understands questions about his lower-than-expected production compared to his high salary. But he will not take a pay cut if the Cowboys ask this offseason.

“I haven’t heard no talk about that but if it comes, I don’t know, probably not,” Bryant said Wednesday. “Hell naw, man. I believe in me.”

Bryant is set to count $16.5 million against the salary cap. The Cowboys can free up $8.5 million if they release him or $12 million if he is designated as a post-June 1 cut, with him counting $4 million against the cap in 2019.

After Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks, owner and general manager Jerry Jones, who has an affinity for Bryant, did not want to discuss the receiver’s future.

Bryant was asked if he could envision playing anywhere else.

“I don’t know, but if that came about, I’m still Dez Bryant,” he said Wednesday. “I’m still going over the top. If it’s there where I can grab it, I’m going to grab it. That’s who I am.”

Bryant, 29, leads the Cowboys with 66 catches for 815 yards with six touchdowns, but those numbers are a far cry from the 91 catches, 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns he averaged from 2012 to 2014.

In 2015, Bryant missed seven games with foot and knee injuries. He missed three games last season with a tibial plateau fracture. He has played in every game this season, but he said he has been bothered by tendinitis in his knee the past eight games. He has not been listed on the injury report.

“Well, I’m a warrior,” Bryant said. “I consider myself as a warrior. If I can walk, I can move, I’m going to go out there and try to play. It’s probably dumb, but, hey, that’s just who I am. I love this game and I try to push it.”

Bryant has gone 22 regular-season games without a 100-yard game. He has eight games this season with fewer than five catches, and nine games with fewer than 60 yards receiving. The low point came in the loss to Seattle when he dropped two passes, including one that led to an interception, and he fumbled once. Seattle turned both of his turnovers into touchdowns.

Bryant said he has allowed personal and professional things to impact his play, but he would not go into detail as to what those are.

“I just got to focus on the things that I can control and only I can control,” Bryant said. “All I know is if my mind’s not cluttered, I can beat whoever, whenever, anybody at any time. It’s just sometimes I let certain things get to me that I shouldn’t.”

Bryant has acknowledged the Cowboys have a different offense than the one they ran from 2012 to 2014, leaning more on the run, but he expressed frustration with the scheme, not with quarterback Dak Prescott.

“That’s something you got to discuss with them coaches, not Dak or me,” Bryant said. “You got to discuss that with them.”

Bryant is planning on sitting down with coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan after the season. He also will meet with Jones.

“Because it means something to me,” Bryant said. “Like, I don’t really do much in the offseason. I don’t. I like to be in Texas. I like to think about football. I like to focus on football. That’s all I care about. Just me thinking about this long-ass offseason is frustrating, and I just got to see what it is.

“But, hey, it’s probably going to be my best offseason yet because I’m going to enjoy the s— out of it. You better believe that. … I’m going to enjoy it. I’m going to get my body checked out. I’m going to make sure I’m right in all angles. And I’m looking forward. I’m just looking forward. I got my mind on 2018. I got my mind on spending time with my family. I got my mind on everything that I need to have it on. I’m set in stone. Like, I’m ready.”

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With one more touchdown catch, Dez Bryant will break Bob Hayes’ record for the most in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.

Bryant’s focus will not be on the record Sunday when the Cowboys take on the Washington Redskins.

“You don’t want to be thinking about that. That will take away from everything you’ve been trying to do or working on,” Bryant said. “You’ve got to let that stuff come to you. That’s what I’m going to do. If it comes, it comes. If it don’t, it don’t. It eventually will come.”

Bryant and Hayes, the Hall of Famer, are tied at 71 touchdown catches. In 12 games against the Redskins, Bryant has seven touchdowns.

Hayes was nicknamed “The World’s Fastest Human,” after winning two gold medals in 100 and 4×100 relay in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The next year, he joined the Cowboys and went on to earn three Pro Bowl appearances while putting up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 1965-66. He caught 71 touchdown passes in 128 games.

Because of his speed, defenses introduced zone defenses.

“I know who exactly Bob Hayes is,” Bryant said. “He changed the game. Fast guy. Super-fast guy.”

When Bryant tied Hayes with a 2-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter of the 40-10 win against the San Francisco 49ers, he said he was unaware he was that close to the mark.

“I’m just being honest, it’ll be cool but try to put a bigger stamp on it if that makes sense,” Bryant said. “I’m not thinking about it. I’m just trying to go. I want to score as many touchdowns as I possibly can, and that’s just my attitude. I don’t have anything to do with the record. I think I’m a scoring machine. I always felt that way since high school. That’s how I roll.”

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With just nine catches for 102 yards and a touchdown on 25 targets in the first two games, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant knows his numbers need to improve, but he is not about to panic.

Much has been made about the Dak Prescott-to-Bryant connection early in the season, especially after things appeared to go smoothly in training camp and in the latter half of last season. In 15 games together, Bryant and Prescott have connected for 59 catches on 121 targets for 898 yards and nine touchdowns.

“Of course that’s not acceptable, but this is the National Football League,” Bryant said. “Things are going to go right and then when they do, it’s going to be the exact opposite … Everything is going to be great. You got to treat the lows like the highs and highs like the lows. That’s what it’s about. This is minor. That is minor to us. If we focus on that, pay attention to that, we are just feeding into what everybody is talking about. We can’t do none of that. We understand how this game goes. These are great football players and great teams we are going up against. It’s not just me and him. It’s everything. It’s 11 guys versus 11 guys. That’s the last thing on our mind because we know when it hits, it hits.”

In the opener, Bryant was matched up mostly against New York Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins. In Week 2, he saw Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. of the Denver Broncos. On Monday, he faces Patrick Peterson.

“He is a super athlete, that’s who he is,” Bryant said. “He is a helluva corner. He is arguably the best cornerback in the league. The guys is phenomenal. You got to be ready when you are going up against a guy like that. A real friend of mine. He knows how I am. I know how he is. It’s going to be pretty darn good matchup Monday.”

Bryant said he loves that he sees the best cornerbacks each week. He said his practice approach has been “phenomenal.”

“There is no pressure. It’s no pressure. It’s my job. It’s what I do,” Bryant said. “This is the National Football League. My confidence is sky-high. It’s going to always be that way. Monday night I got another shot at it. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to get out there Monday.”