Daryl Johnston played all 11 of his NFL seasons in Dallas. During that 1989-1999 stretch, the Cowboys won three Super Bowl and made the playoffs eight times. Johnston played with five future Hall of Famers, notably quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin.
"It was amazing," Johnston says. "I think when you look around the league today, or even historically, when you around the NFL, it's a cool trio to have played with."
As for the past decade and a half of Cowboys football, success is limited. In the 14 seasons since Johnston's retirement, the Cowboys have won one playoff game in just four postseason appearances.
In 2014, the Cowboys are headed in the right direction. After dropping the season opener at home against the 49ers, Dallas won six straight against such teams as the Seahawks, Saints and rival Giants. However, the Cowboys followed with two home losses, to the Redskins while losing Tony Romo to a back injury, and to the Cardinals.
"Every team is going to face adversity at some point in the season," Johnston says. "Through the first seven games, I think things were relatively smooth sailing for the Dallas Cowboys. They run into adversity Monday night against the Redskins. Tony Romo's out of the lineup the next week against Arizona and all of a sudden, you're on a two-game losing streak."
One player who gives the Cowboys hope to get back on track is DeMarco Murray. The running back is a midseason MVP candidate with 1,133 rushing yards under his belt. Arian Foster is second in the NFL with 822 rushing yards and the two Texas running backs lead the league with seven rushing touchdowns.
As a former fullback, Johnston can appreciate Murray's tricks. He thinks Cowboys fullback Tyler Clutts and others should be excited to get out in front of Murray.
"It's not just the fullback, but everybody in the blocking scheme, the offensive line and the tight ends," Johnston says. "He runs with some power and drive. You're going to be the guy who's downfield more because you're never going to know if he's going to break through on that run."
Perhaps the highest praise Johnston can give to Murray is comparing him to the Hall of Famer Moose lined up in front of.
"Emmitt was the same way, being able to break through on any play," Johnston says. "He was more vision-based and had the ability to make people miss in open spaces. It forced you to get downfield to spring a second block. DeMarco does the same thing."
Even without Romo, the Cowboys are not without weapons. Johnston points to Murray, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten as some of the other pieces in Dallas' arsenal. As a part of the "Kenny, Moose and Goose" Fox Sunday broadcast team with Kenny Albert and Tony Siragusa, Johnston sees NFC teams every week.
"We've seen this a lot throughout the course of the season," Johnston says. "In St. Louis, the Rams lost Sam Bradford before the season started. They now have Austin Davis as their quarterback. He has wins against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers."
Moose's teams did not find success without barriers. Steve Young's 49ers, Brett Favre's Packers and Jim Kelly's Bills proved formidable opponents.
"Adversity will come," Johnston says. "The most important thing is to keep everything in perspective. You just competed a six-game winning streak. Let's go back and see what we were doing there. Obviously you have a different quarterback, but you have a lot of weapons on this team."
That quarterback was having a career year through eight games. In his ninth season as the Cowboys' starter, Romo had a 103.6 passer rating that was on pace for a single season-high. Romo was rolling and the Cowboys were winning.
"I think right now they're not leaning on him as much for success offensively," Johnston says. I think that's played to his advantages. Number one, he's got to get back on the field and get healthy. Then he's got a nice supporting cast around him that he hasn't had in a couple years to help him make a run."
Romo has had lived a roller coaster ride in Dallas for the better part of the last decade. Off the field, he dated Jessica Simpson and married Candice Crawford, a former Miss Missouri USA and Dallas-area news reporter. On the field, he has been expected to bring another title back to Dallas. Winning is a challenge for Romo, who has just one playoff win.
"You're always going to be compared to Roger Staubach or Troy Aikman," Johnston says. "Those are two Hall of Famers and two very difficult careers to live up to. He's had a lot of statistical success, but has not been able to translate that into playoff victories and championships. That's one thing he has to learn how to do. This league measures itself based on championships. There's individual statistics that may help you in other areas, but to be considered one of the best, you have to win."
Despite other superstars coming through Dallas during Romo's tenure, the quarterback has taken the brunt of the criticism (although, Terrell Owens came to Romo's defense). Romo's play is sometimes criticism for his high-profile lifestyle -- he went on a vacation to Cancun, Mexico, with Simpson during the Cowboys' 2008 wild-card round bye week. Johnston believes at the end of the day, Romo and his long-time Cowboys teammates would exchange anything for a Super Bowl ring.
"Jason Witten has a similar situation," Johnston says. "He'll go down as one of the best. I'm sure he'd tell you he would trade in those statistics for a championship."
This past week, Johnston was in Houston calling the Texans host arguably the Cowboys' chief rival, the Eagles.
"They faced their own sort of adversity," Johnston says of the Eagles. "With Nick Foles getting injured, Mark Sanchez came in and actually played well."
Johnston says one of the most common questions he is asked is about his objectivity in the broadcast booth. As a former player who only wore Cowboys' colors, fans are surprised to see Johnston steer away from a Texas-sized biased.
"I like to see good football," he says. "I don't see the color of the uniform. I just see good football or poor technique. I love a close football game. I have tremendous respect and appreciation for the athletes out there. I've actually done a Dallas-Philadelphia game and come out of that game with people saying I was overly critical of the Dallas Cowboys. If Philadelphia's winning the game and they're playing well, there's not a lot of positive things to say about Dallas."
In the booth, the "Kenny, Moose and Goose" team has gained a sort of cult followings among NFL fans. One distinct characteristic of the group is Siragusa is more than just a sideline reporter.
"A lot of people are surprised Goose actually has a live microphone the entire time," Johnston says.
Siragusa does indeed keep his microphone open, while he is followed around by a camera. It makes for a bit of a unique setting on the call among the three broadcasters.
"Over time, we've been able to develop a rapport between each other where we don't step on each other's toes and don't talk over each other, but that came with a year and a half of stepping on each other's toes," Johnston says with a laugh.
Despite Siragusa playing as a defensive tackle for the Colts and Ravens around the same time Johnston played fullback for the Cowboys, the two never faced-off in an NFL game. Even before that, both went to then-Big East schools, Johnston at Syracuse and Siragusa at Pitt, but age difference and injuries prevented the future broadcast partners from taking the field together.
"I always let him know I never lost to Pittsburgh, though," Johnston says.
Johnston is long removed from playing with Aikman, Smith and Irvin, but his work with trios is not done. Johnston is partnering with T.G.I. Fridays to help unveil the new Rib Flight Trio. The three new flavors, Applewood Bacon Crust, Chipotle Smoked BBQ and Sweet Memphis Rub, join existing flavors, Fridays signature Jack Daniel's and Tennessee BBQ.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.