Quick question: Name the season that has been the most frustrating for you in the past 15 years.
“Yes” is not an acceptable answer. Understandable, but not acceptable.
There was once a season in which the Cowboys led in every game yet only finished 8-8. That season was 1999. For me, it was the most frustrating season I’ve ever seen…until this year.
Thus, the catchy title. And this blog isn’t known for anything catchy titles.
There are quite a few parallels between the 1999 and 2011 seasons. Here’s a look:
1999—Leads in 17 games, 8-9 record
The Cowboys played 17 games in 1999, including a playoff game against the Vikings. Dallas led in every single game yet couldn’t manage a winning record.
The worst: Dallas had a 24-17 lead over the 2-12 Saints on Christmas Eve during week 16. New Orleans pulled out the win. Dallas also had a 17-0 lead over the Vikings and a 17-6 lead over the Colts in back-to-back weeks. Both were losses.
2011—Leads in 13 games, 8-7 record
The only games in which the Cowboys did not lead in 2011 were the two losses to the Eagles. Dallas has lost double-digit second-half leads three times. The worst: blowing a 27-3 lead at home to the Lions.
1999—OT Win vs. Washington
The Cowboys had no business winning the opening game at Washington. Dallas trailed 35-14 heading into the fourth quarter, but Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin led a comeback. Aikman’s legendary pass to Rocket Ismail in overtime gave Dallas the win.
2011—Loss to N.Y. Jets
There was simply no way the Cowboys were going to blow a 24-10 fourth quarter lead to the Jets. But that’s what happened. Tony Romo committed two costly turnovers in the loss.
Garrett was in his final season as the Cowboys backup quarterback. He filled in for Aikman in a handful of games, including two starts. He threw two touchdown passes in a win over the Packers but looked poor in games against the Vikings and Cardinals.
Garrett is in his first full season as the Cowboys’ head coach. Most expected the Cowboys to struggle, but few expected those struggles to be the result of Garrett’s bad decisions.
Former Head Coaches Visit Dallas
1999—Jimmy Johnson, Miami
Former Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson faced Chan Gailey and the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. Dan Marino threw five interceptions in a 20-0 Dallas win. The loss dropped Johnson’s record against the Cowboys to 0-2. Neither Johnson nor Gailey survived the 1999 season.
2011—Chan Gailey, Buffalo
Gailey coached in the college ranks for several years but returned to coach the Bills. He brought his 5-3 team to Cowboys Stadium on November 13 only to see Ryan Fitzpatrick throw three interceptions in a 44-7 Dallas win.
Weak Effort vs. Weak NFC East
1999—Sweep of Redskins but Maddening Losses to the Eagles, Giants, and Cardinals
The Cowboys swept Washington, but the Redskins went on to win the NFC East with a 10-6 record. The NFC East had not been as week in quite some time, as none of the other four teams managed a winning record. Dallas suffered a pair of 13-10 losses to the Eagles and Giants, followed later by a 13-9 loss to the Cardinals.
2011—Sweep of Redskins but Maddening Losses to the Eagles and Giants
For the first time ever, the winner of the NFC East will have fewer than 10 wins. Dallas swept a weak Washington team but lost twice to the Eagles and once to the Giants (thus far).
Season Finale vs. N.Y. Giants
1999—Win Meant Playoff Appearance
The Cowboys were 7-8 after their loss to the Saints, but losses by the Packers, Panthers, Lions, and Giants meant that five teams had 7-8 records heading into week 17. Dallas had to beat the Giants in the final week, and a 26-17 victory ensured the Cowboys of a playoff berth. Few were excited about the Cowboys’ chances.
2011—Win Means Division Title
Dallas travels to New York for a winner-takes-all matchup with the Giants. You probably know that already.