NEW ORLEANS — San Francisco is back. The Cowboys’ fiercest rival from the 1990s has returned to prominence. A win over Baltimore on Sunday evening in Super Bowl XLVII would allow the 49ers to break their tie with Dallas and join Pittsburgh with six titles as the league’s most successful franchises.
That’s got to hurt. “I can remain professional and say no, but why do that?” Cowboys Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin said. “Absolutely it does.”
Eleven NFC franchises have appeared in the Super Bowl since the Cowboys last took home the Lombardi Trophy on Jan. 28, 1996. Perhaps the only solace found at Valley Ranch was that San Francisco had also fallen off the competitive map.
The absence of the Cowboys and 49ers made it a little easier to rationalize that all, proud franchises must spend some time in the valley before they return to the mountain top. That excuse is no longer available to the Cowboys.
Here’s another sobering thought: Not only are the 49ers appreciably better than the Cowboys, they appear built to stay. Only five players who will start in Sunday’s game are in their 30s.