-Every year, NFL fans are wildly excited about watching the Conference Championships on TV. The best four teams of the season going at it for a shot to the Super Bowl, the only game that matters when it’s all said and done. But for some fan bases, it serves as a painful reminder. For the Dallas Cowboys, it’s one that doesn’t let fans forget… it’s been more than 25 years.

The Cowboys haven’t reached the NFC Conference Championship Game since 1996 when they won their fifth and last Super Bowl ring. Since then, it’s all been downhill. Tony Romo’s career came and went. So did DeMarcus Ware’s, Jason Witten’s, so on and so on.

They’re five years into Dak Prescott’s career and they haven’t been able to make it to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

But you know how sports work. Hope springs eternal. And as the Dallas Cowboys try to make a comeback to the NFC Championship Game, one 25 years in the making, they should realize they have to take advantage of a wide-open NFC.

The teams that have dominated the conference for a while now might all be taking a step backward. On one side, you’ve got the New Orleans Saints, who have a conference-best 59-28 regular-season record since 2016. But Drew Brees is reportedly retiring and the team is $100M over the cap. Sean Payton’s unit is about to go into a deep rebuild phase and isn’t likely to keep being a threat in the NFC.

The Green Bay Packers will surely get Aaron Rodgers back for 2021 and judging by what he accomplished in Matt LaFleur’s second season as head coach, they’ll remain serious contenders for at least one more year. But their future is uncertain, especially with Aaron Rodgers making postgame comments questioning his future.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are headed to the Super Bowl, but it’s not like they’re about to start a dynasty. I mean, it’s been years since I decided to never doubt Tom Brady, but my point is he’s not a young, up-and-coming quarterback.

As for the rest of the conference, the Seattle Seahawks will be around as long as Russel Wilson is there. But we’ve seen them become a less scary team in the past few years and confidence in Pete Carroll is rapidly fading. The Rams, 49ers, Vikings, and other teams will get themselves in the mix every now and then and new teams will take over the NFC.

And that’s exactly the point the Dallas Cowboys can’t miss right now. The NFC is wide open for any franchise to take over. The Cowboys have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and weapons for him to exploit. They have a long way to go on defense talent-wise, of course.

But right now the main concern for Cowboys fans should be becoming a main character in the NFC and not the character who shows up every other episode. David Moore from the Dallas Morning News recently said it best:

“Every season is a stand-alone proposition. You never get the sense the Cowboys are building toward something better. You just wait for the other shoe to drop.”

It’s high time for the Cowboys to become a protagonist in the National Football Conference. And they should realize, as we get ready for the 2021 offseason, they’re already late.

Featured Image Via Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports