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Can’t quite forget these facts—
His defense allowed a receiver to gain 329 yards due largely to a pathetic defensive scheme. His team still had a 99% chance to win with just over a minute to play but found yet another way to lose a game. His team is now 4-4, and his head coach has not shown that he is any better than mediocre.
So how does Jerry Jones make the news this week following the loss? By saying that a cornerback who has not played in Dallas since 1999 (Deion Sanders) would be able to stop the receiver (Calvin Johnson) who gained the 329 receiving yards.
(Oh, and he later said he was “disappointed” in the team’s 4-4 start.)
During Deion’s last season in Dallas in 1999, the Cowboys only managed to finish with an 8-8 record. The Cowboys had lost Michael Irvin, and Troy Aikman had to make due with Rocket Ismail (not really a #1 receiver) and the likes of Ernie Mills, Jason Tucker, Jeff Odgen, and Chris Brazzell.
Thanks to parity in the NFC in 1999, though, the Cowboys snuck into the playoffs as a wildcard. The Cowboys traveled to Minnesota but could not hold on to a first-half lead in a 27-10 loss.
Two days later, Jerry fired head coach Chan Gailey, who had not returned the team to prominence.
Here’s a summary of Jerry firing Gailey:
Team owner and general manager Jerry Jones spent most of Tuesday morning and early afternoon alone in his Valley Ranch office. Late in the afternoon, he went to Mr. Gailey ‘s office, where the head coach was meeting with assistants.
Mr. Jones stressed that he had no criticism of Mr. Gailey the person. He praised the coach’s integrity and diligence but pointed to the Cowboys’ offensive struggles as the reason for the move.
Mr. Gailey , 48, was the franchise’s fourth coach, hired in February 1998 to succeed Barry Switzer. Mr. Gailey ‘s record was 18-16 in two seasons, including two playoff losses.
“This decision that I had to make today was about football,” said Mr. Jones, who declined to give a timetable for naming a replacement. “It was not about egos. It was not about friendships gone awry.”
It was, in a nutshell, about a Cowboys offense that started strongly each of the last two seasons but waned in November and particularly December.
It was about a team that was the NFL’s most-penalized this season. It was about a team that started this season 3-0 but lost its final eight road games en route to an 8-9 finish, including Sunday’s 27-10 playoff loss at Minnesota.
Was it a product of an aging team wearing down, one that sorely missed injured wide receiver Michael Irvin? Or was it an offense that failed to use the talents of established stars such as quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and offensive lineman Larry Allen?
Mr. Jones sounded like a man who clearly faulted the system more than the players.
“They tried their hearts out,” he said. “They worked at it to try to make it productive. We just aren’t as productive offensively as we need to be, and we haven’t been the last two years.”
It’s easy to say that Jason Garrett has had less to work with than Gailey did, but that is hardly the case. Troy Aikman in 1999 was near the end of his career, and Emmitt Smith was hardly a dominant runner. The offensive line still had Larry Allen and a young Flozell Adams, but Mark Stepnoski and Erik Williams where nowhere near the linemen they had been six or seven years earlier. The defense was good but not dominant as it was during the Super Bowl years.
The coach who replaced Gailey was Dave Campo, who inherited a mess. The team had to survive salary-cap hell without first-round draft picks sent to Seattle in a trade for receiver Joey Galloway.
Campo’s teams were never better than 5-11. In his final season, the team had a two-game winning streak and hosted San Francisco at home. Dallas took a 27-17 fourth-quarter lead but could not stop the 49ers, who scored their final 14 points with less than six minutes remaining. Terrell Owens’ eight-yard touchdown reception sealed the win for San Francisco.
Jerry was ticked:
A visibly angry Jerry Jones stormed out of the locker room following San Francisco’s 31-27 win over the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 64,097 at Texas Stadium.
The Cowboys’ owner was in no mood to answer questions.
“That was a stupid [expletive] ballgame,” Jones said from a stairwell in the stadium’s bowels. “The players played well enough to win. We [expletive] it up.”
Then he turned and stalked off.
So was Jones talking about defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s scheme that left seldom-used cornerback Dwayne Goodrich covering Terrell Owens – widely considered the game’s best receiver – with 15 seconds left, even though he was supposed to have safety help?
Or was he talking about coach Dave Campo’s decision to let Billy Cundiff attempt a 47-yard field goal that would have given Dallas a 30-24 lead with 2:16 left? Cundiff is 3-of-8 beyond 40 yards this season.
Or was he fed up with yet another key breakdown by special teams coach Joe Avezzano’s unit, which allowed a 42-yard kickoff return that helped San Francisco regain momentum after Dallas grabbed a 27-17 lead?
This much is clear: The Cowboys blew a 10-point lead in the final 6:56 and wasted an opportunity to win three consecutive games for the first time since the start of the 1999 season, a span of 58 games.
The Cowboys have had only three two-game winning streaks since 2000, when Campo became coach.
Campo’s coaching future is in jeopardy again.
The loss to the Lions last Sunday was far worse than the 2002 loss to the 49ers. The Cowboys under Garrett have found several ways to lose games the team should have won.
Jerry’s reaction? Go to fantasy land and consider whether Deion could cover Megatron.
Since the merger in 1970, no Dallas team has ever finished a season ranked below 23rd in the league in yards allowed.
The one team that finished 23rd (out of 32 teams) was the 2010 squad. That was the team that began the season with Wade Phillips as head coach and wound up with Jason Garrett as an interim.
The current team is ranked dead last in the league in yards allowed. Through eight games, the Cowboys have allowed 3380 yards, or 422.5 yards per game.
Perspective: the 2013 Cowboys have given up more yards in eight games than the Super Bowl Champion 1977 Cowboys gave up in 14 games (3213 yards, or 229.5 yards per game).
Yes, that was 1977. But in 1992, another great Super Bowl year, the Cowboys gave up 3931 yards, or 245.7 yards per game over 16 games.
No Dallas team has ever come close to giving up 422.5 yards per game over an entire season.
The 1963 team gave up 380.4 yards per game in 14 games.
The 1962 team gave up 370.2 yards per game in 14 games.
The 1960 team gave up 364.3 yards per game in 12 games.
The 2010 team gave up 351.8 yards per game in 16 games.
Combined win-loss of those seasons: 15-39-2.
There are, of course, differences between the 2013 season thus far and those bad seasons from the past.
The first difference is that the NFC East is pathetic in 2013. While Dallas ranks 32nd in yards allowed, the Giants are only 23rd, the Redskins are 25th, and the Eagles are 31st.
Of course, three of the Cowboys’ four wins have come against those division opponents. The other win came against the St. Louis Rams, who rank 22nd in yards allowed.
The second difference is that the Cowboys have managed to cause turnovers. Dallas and Seattle lead the NFC with turnover ratios of +9. The Giants (-12), Redskins (-2), and Eagles (-1) each have negative ratios.
I will admit I was excited about the move to the 4-3 defense. I also thought the Tampa 2 defense could work here.
* * *
Tony Romo is on pace to throw for more than 4400 yards and 36 touchdowns. If he reaches 36 TDs, it will match his career high set in 2007.
Yes, those were better days.
* * *
DeMarco Murray is no longer on pace to surpass the 1,000-yard mark. He has been stuck at 426 since his injury in week 6.
The Cowboys have had one back surpass 1,000 yards since Emmitt Smith last accomplished the feat in 2001. That was Julius Jones in 2006.
* * *
The team is now on pace to score 460 points this year. That would rank second in franchise history behind the 479 points scored by the 1983 Cowboys.
I planned to write a long post about my lack of faith in Jason Garrett. I’ll just leave it at that, though.
Instead, we’ll have some fun with Ranker. Here is a list of the team’s worst 10 losses since he took over in November 2010.
With 1:24 remaining in today’s game between the Cowboys and Lions, the Cowboys took the ball over at the Detroit 31 while leading 27-24. The Cowboys had just stopped the Lions on a fourth-down play. According to Advanced NFL Stats, the Cowboys’ chances of winning the game at that moment was 99%.
The Cowboys only had to run out the clock. Detroit had two timeouts. That meant that the Lions should not have had more than about 25 seconds to try to score a field goal or touchdown, no matter what Dallas did.
The Cowboys ran two plays, and the Lions called two timeouts. Dallas faced a 3rd and 14 from the Detroit 35 with 1:14. If the Cowboys ran one play, odds were very good that the Cowboys would run the clock down to less than 30 seconds.
Of course, that didn’t happen. The Cowboys ran a play to Phillip Tanner, who gained 9 yards. However, Tyron Smith was called for holding. Although the Lions declined the penalty, the clock stopped with 1:07 left. Dallas then kicked a field goal with 1:02 remaining to increase the lead to 30-24.
Yes, the Cowboys just had to run the clock out with the opposing team having just two timeouts, yet the Cowboys only managed to burn 22 seconds.
That put the burden of winning the game on the shoulders of the Dallas defense. The Cowboys had forced four Detroit turnovers and had just made a huge stop on the Lions’ previous possession. Detroit had to go 80 yards in 62 seconds and with no timeouts.
Pass to Calvin Johnson for 17 yards.
Pass to Kris Durham for 40 yards.
Pass to Calvin Johnson for 22 yards.
Short touchdown run by Matthew Stafford.
And yes, the Cowboys managed to blow a game they had a 99 percent chance of winning just one minute earlier.
This wasn’t like the loss to the Lions in 2011, when the Cowboys blew a 24-point lead thanks to two interceptions of Tony Romo that the Lions returned for touchdowns.
However, the results feel about the same. The loss puts the Cowboys at 4-4 in a season that feels very much like yet another 8-8 year.
* * *
The loss ruined great days by Dez Bryant and Sean Lee. Bryant had two sensational touchdown receptions, including a 50-yard catch and run that gave the Cowboys a 27-17 lead in the fourth quarter.
Lee recorded two interceptions. He returned the second pick 74 yards inside the Detroit 5. Dallas ended up scoring when Romo hit Bryant in the side of the end zone and Bryant made a highlight-reel grab off his shoulder pads.
* * *
At least three of the radio callers in the team’s official station were calling for Jason Garrett’s head. For a fan base that had no patience with Wade Phillips and his 34-22 record in Dallas, it is shocking that calls for Garrett’s firing have not become louder than they have.
The team under Garrett has had its share of clock-management problems, to say the least.
Remember when the genius coach iced his own kicker two years ago?
Remember when the same coach could not manage to run more than one play in 26 seconds against the Ravens last year, even though the Cowboys still had a timeout remaining?
At that point, Garrett said: “We have to do a better job in that situation, and it starts with me.”
I turned off his press conference out of disgust, but I think he said basically the same thing today. His polished post-game statements are sounding as hollow as Wade’s post-game comments made Phillips sound clueless.
The loss brings Garrett’s coaching record to 25-23, including 20-20 since Jerry Jones named Garrett as the permanent head coach after the 2010 season.
And speaking of Jerry, how did he get his name in the news this week? He said he wasn’t worried about Calvin Johnson. Of course, Megatron caught 14 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown.
The 1994 season was the NFL’s 75th anniversary, and teams that season wore throwback uniforms to commemorate.
Several teams made some changes to the actual jerseys from the past. For example, the Buffalo Bills retained their red helmets even though they changed the rest of their uniforms. The idea was (I think) that changes to helmets and such might confuse players or fans or, um, the NFL’s uniform police (?).
Dallas wore a throwback jersey when the Cowboys hosted the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football on Monday, September 19, 1994. The Cowboys’ throwback uniforms were mostly faithful to those worn between 1960 and 1963. Differences are the focus of these two trivia questions:
1. What was the major difference between the uniforms actually worn from 1960 to 1963 and those worn on September 19, 1994?
2. What else was different between the uniform worn at home on September 19, 1994 and those worn at home from 1960 to 1963?
Here’s a photo puzzle showing the throwback uniforms in question. Nice right? Remember that our friend’s uniform store’s designs football uniforms.
provided by flash-gear.com
In the weekly What-If Wednesday posts, we review some event (draft, game, or whatever) and consider what might have happened if history had been different. This week’s post focuses on the Cowboys’ 1991 playoff loss to the Detroit Lions.
In real life…
In 1991, the Cowboys ended a six-year playoff drought by winning their final five regular-season games. The team then won its first playoff game since 1982 by defeating the Chicago Bears 17-13 at Soldier Field.
It was not Troy Aikman who led the Cowboys during this winning streak. After Aikman suffered a knee injury in a win over Washington on November 24, Steve Beuerlein took over. He was not sensational; in fact, he failed to throw for 200 yards in three of his five starts, and he never threw more than one touchdown in any game. However, he used his weapons, including Michael Irvin, effectively.
Dallas travelled to Detroit to face the Lions at the Silverdome. Although Aikman was able to play, Jimmy Johnson went with Beuerlein. The magic was no longer there, though. Dallas fell behind early, and with the team trailing 17-6 at halftime, Johnson went with Aikman. The change did not make a difference, as the Cowboys fell 38-6.
The Lions faced the Redskins at RFK Stadium in the NFC Championship Game but lost in a rout, 41-10.
Here are some highlights from the Cowboys-Lions game:
What if the Cowboys had beaten the Lions?
Admittedly, this is not a great what-if piece (and see below regarding an alternative what-if regarding Barry Sanders). Few expected the Cowboys to be a playoff contender in 1991, so getting one win made this a feel-good season.
1. The Beuerlein-Aikman Debate Would Have Continued.
By 1991, Aikman had accomplished almost nothing. He had not played a full season and had won only 14 games as a starter. Although he had led the Cowboys on a four-game winning streak earlier in the 1991 season, he did not yet look like a franchise quarterback.
Beuerlein was simply effective. He did not put the team on his shoulders during the streak, yet the team seemed to have a confidence it had lacked at times, even in 1991. The fact that Beuerlein had led the team to its first playoff win in 9 years played in his favor.
Had Beuerlein led the Cowboys to a win over the Lions, the team would have had a difficult time avoiding a quarterback controversy heading into the 1992 season, no matter what happened in the NFC Championship Game.
2. The Cowboys Would Not Beat the Redskins.
The 1991 season turned out to be Joe Gibbs’ last during his first stint in Washington. The team had finished 14-2 after starting the season at 11-0.
The first team to beat Washington in 1991 was Dallas in the game where Aikman suffered his knee injury. Dallas jumped out to a 14-7 halftime lead, and thanks to Beuerlein’s touchdown pass to Irvin early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were able to hang on for a 24-21 win.
The odds that the Cowboys would repeat are minimal, no matter who started at quarterback. I ran simulations on What If Sports using both Aikman and Beuerlein as starters. After 20 attempts, the Cowboys still had not won a simulated game.
3. The Dynasty Would Have Happened Anyway.
The Cowboys’ 1991 season was not great because the team expected to reach the Super Bowl. It was great because the team finally mattered again. A win over the Lions would have extended the good feelings, but few would think it would have had any effect on the Cowboys’ dynasty that began in 1992.
A BONUS WHAT-IF
Yes, we have a bonus what-if this week.
Let’s ask: What if the Cowboys have drafted Barry Sanders instead of Troy Aikman in the 1989 Draft?
This move would have made no sense in 1989, though. The Cowboys already had a franchise running back in Herschel Walker, but Walker was not able to help the Cowboys to win more than 3 games in 1988. The Lions lost their first 5 games in 1989 with Sanders playing running back, and when the Lions won their first game in week 6 that year, Sanders did not play. (To be sure, Sanders ended the season while playing great, rushing for 382 yards and 6 touchdowns during 3 wins in the final 3 games.)
Dallas did not need an individual talent like Sanders. The Cowboys needed a franchise quarterback and many other pieces to the puzzle. The team was fortunate to find a franchise back one year later when the Cowboys took Emmitt Smith.
And here’s why I did not focus on drafting Sanders in 1989—would anyone want to think about the Cowboys’ of the early 1990s with Steve Walsh and Barry Sanders instead of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith? I thought not.
Hard to believe that Tony Romo has started 100 games. It was seven years ago on a late October evening that the Cowboys fell behind 14-0 to the Carolina Panthers, only to see Romo bring the team from behind in a 35-14 win.
No quarterback in NFL history has completed as many passes or thrown for as many yards as Romo. The Fort Worth Star Telegram has more.
Here’s the list of the most yards in a QB’s first 100 games:
Tony Romo, 27,485
Kurt Warner, 27,441
Dan Marino, 27,274
Peyton Manning, 26,008
Trent Green, 25,108
* * *
Romo threw 2 interceptions against the Eagles on Sunday. It marks just the fifth time that Romo has thrown 2 or more picks in a Dallas win.
The Cowboys’ record in games where Romo has thrown 2 or more picks is 5-15.
* * *
The Cowboys picked off Philadelphia QBs 3 times on Sunday. It marked the 16th time that the Cowboys have recorded at least 3 picks against the Eagles.
The Cowboys’ record in those 16 games is now 13-3.
* * *
The Cowboys committed 12 penalties for 75 yards against the Eagles on Sunday.
The last time the Cowboys committed at least 12 penalties in a game came on November 11, 2012. Against the Eagles. At Lincoln Financial Field.
Thankfully, the Cowboys also won that game, beating the Eagles 38-23.
* * *
The Cowboys are tied for 18th in the league in terms of penalties per game. They have committed 7.0 penalties per game thus far, down from 7.4 in 2012.
However, the team has committed an average of 9.3 penalties during the past 3 games.
The Eagles entered Sunday’s game with the third-rated offense in the NFL, averaging more than 451 yards per game. Meanwhile, both the Cowboys and Eagles ranked among the bottom five defenses.
It was no wonder the over/under for the game was 54.5. Some might have thought one of the teams could score 55 points by itself.
Instead, it took nearly 27 minutes before either team scored a point.
Combined, the teams had averaged 58.2 points per game through six weeks. On Sunday, the teams combined for a total of 20 in a 17-3 Dallas win.
The Dallas defense was going to have to find a way to stop Philadelphia QB Nick Foles, who had been on fire.
By the time the defense knocked Foles from the game at the end of the third quarter, Dallas had a 10-0 lead. A 9-yard touchdown from Tony Romo to Terrance Williams in the fourth quarter iced the game for the Cowboys, who took a one-game lead in the NFC East and now has a 3-0 record in the division.
The Cowboys’ defensive line should have been pitiful without DeMarcus Ware, who missed a game for the first time in his career. The only Dallas defensive lineman with a recognizable name was Jason Hatcher.
Nevertheless, guys like George Selvie (1.5 sacks) and Jarius Wynn (0.5 sacks) made the stat line. Foles only managed 80 passing yards in 3 quarters before suffering a head injury.
Rookie Matt Barkley saw his first NFL action in a regular-season game, but he threw 3 interceptions.
LeSean McCoy had averaged more than 100 yards per game in six previous games. Against Dallas, he only managed 55 rushing yards, including just 12 yards in 8 carries in the first half.
The defense that gave up 51 points to the Broncos just two weeks ago has held two division opponents to a combined total of 19 points in 2 weeks.
We can hope the can’t-stop-anyone defense will rest in peace.
* * *
The radio team of Brad Sham and Babe Laufenberg complained several times that the Cowboys were not willing to run the football.
Playing with rookie Joseph Randle instead of DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys ran the ball 12 times for 38 yards in the first half. Randle had 10 carries for 34 yards, which was not great but was better than McCoy’s 12 yards at halftime.
Randle finished the game with 65 yards on 19 carries. He had more rushing attempts than Murray has had since week 3, when Murray ran 26 times for 175 yards.
* * *
It would seem like the 2013 season includes a quiet farewell to Miles Austin.
He has not caught a pass since the team’s week 3 against the Rams, when he injured his hamstring yet again.
He has played in two consecutive games but has not caught a pass.
Meanwhile, Williams and Cole Beasley have looked very good. They combined for 12 receptions for 124 yards against the Eagles.
Releasing Austin after this season will not be a painless process, though. The Cowboys are reportedly going to be $31 million over the salary cap after this season, and Austin’s large salary does not help matters. He restructured his contract after the 2012 season to help with the salary cap, but releasing him would give the Cowboys more than $10 million in dead money from his salary alone.
* * *
The last time the Cowboys held a team to 3 or fewer points was during the final week of the 2009 season, when the Cowboys shut out the Eagles 24-0 to win the NFC East.
In the weekly What-If Wednesday posts, we review some event (draft, game, or whatever) and consider what might have happened if history had been different. This week’s post focuses on the 1980 NFC Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.
In real life…
The label of quarterback Danny White as a failure began with the Dallas Cowboys’ loss in the 1980 NFC Championship Game.
White was, however, anything but a failure. He led the 1980 Cowboys to a better record than the 1979 Cowboys had posted with Roger Staubach at the helm. And one week before the 1980 NFC title game, White threw two late touchdown passes to bring the Cowboys from behind to beat the Atlanta Falcons in one of the great games in NFL history.
White’s magic ran out at Veterans Stadium on January 11, 1981. In 12-degree weather, White completed only 12 of 31 passes for 127 yards with an interception.
The Eagles took a 7-0 lead with Wilbert Montgomery’s most famous play:
Although the Cowboys tied the game before halftime, Dallas could not overcome a 10-point third quarter by Philadelphia. Dallas lost 20-7.
The Eagles turned around and lost to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV. Neither the Eagles nor the Cowboys made another Super Bowl during the 1980s.
What if the Cowboys had defeated the Eagles?
1. The Blue-Jersey Curse Would End
Ask a Cowboys fan over the age of 40 about origins of the blue-jersey curse. Many would point to the 1980 title game.
(Of course, older fans would point to SB V, when Dallas lost to the Baltimore Colts while wearing blue.)
A big win at Philadelphia would have ended the curse, and it is possible that the Cowboys might have worn blue more often. Instead, most of us don’t want to see those blue jerseys.
2. White Might Have Avoided Comparisons with Roger Staubach and, later, Tony Romo
Many fans like to compare current QB Tony Romo to Danny White because both lost big games.
The comparison is not fair because of the big games involved.
Fans during White’s era also liked to compare him to Roger Staubach, and the comparisons were almost always negative towards White.
White led the Cowboys to three consecutive NFC title games and five playoff appearances in six years. A win at Philadelphia might have done wonders to avoid these comparisons.
3. A Sixth Trip
The Cowboys would have made Super Bowl XV with a win over Philadelphia. It would have been the Cowboys’ sixth Super Bowl appearance since 1970 and their second Super Bowl trip to the Superdome in four seasons. Moreover, the Cowboys would have played a Super Bowl in New Orleans for a third time.
The other two trips to New Orleans? Wins in SB VI and SB XII.
I ran 10 simulations of a Super Bowl XV between the Cowboys and Raiders on SimMatchup Football. It does not look good. Oakland won 8 of the 10 simulations by an average score of 22-17.
I cannot express my disappointment clearly enough.
5. And So No, White Would Not Avoid Comparisons with Roger Staubach or Tony Romo
Do Cowboys fans remember Craig Morton fondly? He was, of course, the first Dallas QB to lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl.
The answer is no. And if Danny White led the Cowboys to Super Bowl XV and lost 22-17 to the Raiders, nobody would remember White or the 1980 season fondly.
It looks as if DeMarcus Ware will miss as many as four games with a quad injury. Assuming he misses Sunday’s game at Philadelphia, it will be the first time he has missed a game during his career.
That means the last time that the Cowboys played a game without Ware was the season finale in 2004 against the Giants.
Dallas had a 16-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Julius Jones ran all over the Giants for 149 yards, while Jason Witten caught 8 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown from Vinny Testaverde.
However, the Cowboys could not hold the lead, giving up three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 28-24 loss. Dallas finished the season with a 6-10 record.
Somehow think that Ware has not yet had a relatively long career? Here were the defensive starters during that season finale:
LE Greg Ellis
LDT Leonardo Carson
RDT La’Roi Glover
RE Marcellus Wiley
LLB Al Singleton
MLB Dat Nguyen
RLB Dexter Coakley
LCB Terence Newman
RCB Lance Frazier
SS Lynn Scott
FS Roy Williams
Newman was in his second season. He and Kenyon Coleman are the only defensive players from 2004 who are still active in 2013.