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His Profile Notwithstanding, This Defensive Coordinator Hasn’t Fixed Anything

[I changed the original title, which was “Our Pregnant Defensive Coordinator Hasn’t Fixed Anything.” I’m pretty sure that Rob Ryan isn’t pregnant]

I was once a member of a certain now-defunct, Cowboys-related forum. During week 2 of the 2009 season in the inaugural game at Cowboys Stadium, the Cowboys grabbed a 31-30 lead with less than 3:40 remaining. A defensive stop would show that the team had turned a corner, would give the Cowboys a 2-0 record, and would open the new stadium in style. It didn’t happen, of course, as Eli Manning marched the Giants right down field, facing only two third downs on their final drive. Lawrence Tynes nailed a field goal as time expired to give the Giants the win.

A prominent member of that forum swore he wouldn’t watch the Cowboys again as long as Wade Phillips was head coach. Wade was supposed to “fix” the defense, and his failure was evident to this forum member after the loss to the Giants. To my knowledge, this member refused to watch the Cowboys for the rest of the 2009 season (including the playoffs), and what was odd to me at the time was that a number of other members agreed with the principle of what he was doing.

Consider for a moment the defensive starters on that 2009 team — Marcus Spears, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, Bradie James, Keith Brooking, DeMarcus Ware, Terence Newman, Gerald Sensabaugh, Mike Jenkins.

Now fast-forward to last night’s complete collapse, caused mostly by that same defense. Sure, Wade Phillips is gone, replaced by the only pregnant football coach in the United States. But look at the defensive starters— Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, Bradie James, Keith Brooking, DeMarcus Ware, Terence Newman, Gerald Sensabaugh, Mike Jenkins.

Dallas has added a young linebacker in Sean Lee, and he’s made a big difference, including a huge interception in the fourth quarter last night. Dallas also replaced Ken Hamlin, first with Alan Ball and then with Abram Elam. The Cowboys also bid farewell to Igor Olshansky, replacing him with Kenyon Coleman. Spears was replaced by Jason Hatcher as the starter.

Otherwise, this is the same group, including the same members of the secondary. Alan Ball couldn’t cover anyone as a safety in 2010, and he certainly can’t cover anyone as a key backup corner now. Mike Jenkins can make three great plays in a row, followed by a fourth play that drives us all mad.

Terence Newman had a great game against Buffalo a month ago. But he played a big part in the loss to Arizona last week, and he blew several coverages in the loss to the Giants. He could have given the Cowboys a 7-0 lead with a pick-six early in the game, but he caught the ball as well as your average offensive lineman and watched the ball fall straight to the ground. The Giants should have scored earlier than they did last night because Newman failed to cover Manningham on a play where Manningham dropped a sure touchdown reception.

The bottom line is that Dallas has tweaked with this defense a bit here and there, but this is largely the same bunch who could not stop anyone during much of the 6-10 season in 2010. In fact, most of these players have been around for a series of gut-churning losses during the past six years. If you want a bad trip down memory lane, read this article at ESPN, which chronicles 13 head-scratching losses since 2005.

Now back to guts, or a gut, consider this new defensive coordinator, who was supposed to fix the defense that “Mr. Fix-It” failed to fix. Rob Ryan’s resume before 2011:

  • Seven seasons as a defensive coordinator in Oakland and Cleveland. Not one of those teams had a winning season.
  • The 2006 Raiders finished third in total yards allowed. Of course, that Oakland team went 2-14.
  • His defenses finished 22nd or worse in six of the other seasons in which he was a defensive coordinator.
  • His defenses finished 27th or worse in total turnovers in four of his seven seasons.

How does this compare with Phillips’ tenure in Dallas? The Cowboys finished in the top 10 in yardage allowed during each of Phillips’ first three seasons. As far as team defensive stats, Rob Ryan’s defense has never finished ahead of a Wade Phillips defense in any season other than 2006, when the Raiders were (once again) 2-14.

No, I am not defending Wade as either the head coach or the defensive coordinator. And yes, I was one of those who wanted to believe that Rob Ryan could provide an answer on defense.

But the bottom line for me right now is that my attitude is not far from my former friend on the Cowboys forum. If I didn’t have tickets to the Eagles’ game on December 24, I might consider by own boycott. It’s seriously become that sickening to watch this team.

Anyway, Rob Ryan is Rex Ryan’s brother and Buddy Ryan’s son. That’s really what he has going for him. And apparently networks are just too happy to show Rob mouth the F word as he somehow continues to walk in straight lines even with that large stomach of his.

But he’s being asked to fix a defense consisting of the very same players who have lost so many of those games in the past several years. These are the same corners who find creative ways at various times to blow coverages at the absolute worst possible times.

We’re expected to believe that the results will change because of who is designing the schemes. Jerry apparently believes that the results will change depending on who designs the schemes.

But the greater concern is what has stayed the same. Same personnel. Same secondary coach, who was also once a head coach who managed only 15 wins in three seasons. Dallas brought in two free agents during the off-season, but both of them (Elam and Coleman) had been in Dallas before.

The most we should probably expect from a coordinator is better, um, coordination. Instead, we sometimes see confusion among members of that defense. We saw last night a last-second substitution that resulted in Mario Manningham ending up wide, wide open for what turned out to be a 47-yard touchdown. One play before that, the Cowboys neglected to cover Hakeem Nicks, who was the same player who had torched the Cowboys for nearly 100 yards in the first quarter.

The problems with this 2011 team are not limited to Ryan’s defense, and the problems are also not new to this team in 2011. The problems come down to this—no one area of this team is good enough to cover for deficiencies in other areas. Forget that talk about talent, and forget for a moment about who is designing schemes and calling plays. These players—especially the ones who have been on the field for these era-defining losses—are not good enough to win games consistently.

Some teams, such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh, can win with their defenses, even if their offenses are inconsistent.

Others, such as New Orleans and New England (in the last few years, at least), win with overwhelming offenses, even as their defenses tend to give up huge yardages to opposing offenses.

Then there are the current Packers, who seem to win games on both sides of the ball.

For Dallas, when the offense catches fire, the defense tends to suffer a let-down. But in games when the defense holds tight, the offense can’t get anything going. The offense might make a critical score late in a game, but the offense can’t trust the defense to make a key stop. But in another game, the defense gives the offense a chance to win, and the offense can’t come through.

No, this hasn’t been true in every game, or else this team wouldn’t have a 7-6 mark. However, this imbalance occurs often enough that that team repeatedly struggles to stay above the .500 mark. For 2011, I’ve returned to my original prediction of 8-8.

And when Rob Ryan joins his brother in the head coaching ranks, I’m simply not going to lose a second of sleep over it. The real question is whether Dallas will bother to fix what is really broken. When the general manager doesn’t answer to anyone but himself, though, there’s little reason for immediate optimism.

Will the 2008 Draft Go Down as a Bust as Well?

The last month has not been kind to the 2008 draft class for the Dallas Cowboys.

The team cut Tashard Choice, who was the fourth-round pick that year. Many would like to see Dallas rid itself of Martellus Bennett, who has managed only nine receptions this year and who has not been a big factor in the running game as a blocker.

Felix Jones may have lost his starting job for good to DeMarco Murray. Mike Jenkins has been out as well, and though he’s been missed more than Jones, it is more because the team’s reserve corners have sometimes struggled than because of Jenkins’ play earlier this year.

Orlando Scandrick had an interception vs. Washington on Sunday, but he was also called for holding on a key third-down play late in the game.

The remaining player was linebacker Erik Walden, who has become a starter with the Packers this year.

So this class may not be as bad as the 2009 draft, but it may turn out to be a bust. What do you think?

Was the 2008 draft a bust?

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For Romo, What Will Be the Last Straw?

Another Monday blog post about Tony Romo, along with more reminders of bad times in this franchise’s history.

Don Meredith helped to lead the Cowboys to prominence, including back-to-back appearances in the NFL Championship Game. In 1968, he helped to lead the Cowboys to a 12-2 mark.

But against Cleveland in the playoffs, the Cowboys’ hunt for an NFL title ended. The game was tied 10-10 at the half, but Meredith couldn’t avoid mistakes. He misfired on a sideline pass to Bob Hayes, and Cleveland linebacker Dale Lindsey picked off the pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.

On the next possession, Meredith tried to hit Lance Rentzel, but the ball bounced off the receiver’s hands and into the hands of Ben Davis. Leroy Kelly scored on a 35-yard run, and Dallas trailed 24-10. Meredith’s stats: 3 of 9, 42 yards, 0 TD, 3 Int.

Meredith’s career effectively ended right there. He did not play for the rest of the game against the Browns, and though he played in the first half of the infamous Playoff Bowl one week later, he retired after the season.

Danny White famously led the Cowboys to three consecutive NFC Championship Games (but infamously lost all three of them). He was the starter in 1985 when the Cowboys made the playoffs for the last time under Tom Landry.

But he broke his wrist in 1986, and his comeback in 1987 was not impressive. Dallas had a 5-5 record when the team hosted Minnesota on Thanksgiving Day with an outside chance of making the playoffs. In a wild game, Dallas twice overcame deficits of 14 points to send the game into overtime. The Cowboys had a shot to get into field-goal range in the extra period, but White’s final pass of the game was a wounded duck that found its way to Minnesota LB Scott Studwell. The Vikings scored on the next drive after the interception.

White never won another game as a starter, losing his last start against Washington later in the season. He served as a backup in 1988 but never played again after suffering a knee injury against Chicago.

Drew Bledsoe only played two seasons in Dallas, but he had previously led the Patriots to the Super Bowl and was supposed to be a solid quarterback when he came to Dallas. But in less than two full seasons, Bledsoe was no better than mediocre and had a 12-10 record as the Dallas starter. He had some feel-good moments, including a solid performance in a 34-6 win over in-state rival Houston during week 6 of the 2006 season.

But in week 7 in 2006, the Cowboys fell behind to the New York Giants. The Cowboys scored to New York lead to 12-7, and when Dallas recovered a fumble in Giant territory, the Cowboys had a chance to take a lead going into halftime. Near the goal line, Bledsoe tried to force the ball to Terry Glenn, but Sam Madison stepped in front of it to make the interception, ending the Dallas drive.

Bledsoe never threw another pass as a pro. His mistakes had cost the team games before, and the pass to Glenn was the last straw. Dallas coach Bill Parcells pulled Bledsoe and put in backup Tony Romo.

We were supposed to think that the legend was born at that point, but legendary isn’t the term that will describe Romo’s career.

Romo was 19-7 during his first year and a half as the starter. Since that time, he is only 22-17. He’s had some big wins in September and other big wins in November. And he was good during a late run in 2009, leading the team to its only playoff win in 15 years.

Otherwise, his blunders are becoming worse than the worst anyone ever saw by the likes of Meredith, White, or Bledsoe (or, for that matter, Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, or Clint Stoerner). Romo has had to take the blame for more and more losses in the past three seasons, and it’s getting hard to believe Team Jerry won’t decide that enough is enough.

The loss to the Lions wasn’t just about Romo trying to make a play in a tight game. He was reckless at a time where any quarterback at any level would have known he just needed to play it safe. He’s 31 years old and has started 65 professional football games. He has very clearly not learned anything from his past mistakes, and we should have absolutely no confidence that he’ll learn anything from the most recent catastrophe.

Of course, Jerry says no change will take place, and Jason Garrett and the rest of the team have pledged their support. Perhaps the rest of us can pledge to accept mediocrity.

Cowboys Make a List of Disappointing Oversights

The Cowboys have had their share of draft gaffes and other poor personnel moves during the past 17 or so years (i.e., the post-Jimmy Johnson years).  Thus, when an author from Football Outsiders ran a list of the 10 Most Disappointing Oversights of the past 25 years, one might expect the Cowboys to show up. And an oversight by the Cowboys indeed shows up on the list.

The selection might stump even the most knowledgeable fans.

Most would probably say that the Cowboys giving up on receiver Jimmy Smith would be near the top of this list. Smith was a second-round selection in 1992 but suffered through a series of injuries that ended his Dallas career. He was credited with seven appearances during his Dallas career (all in 1992 on special teams), and he did not catch a single pass. The Cowboys let him go in the 1995 expansion draft, and Jacksonville picked him up.

Between 1995 and 2005, Smith caught 862 passes for 12,287 yards and 67 touchdowns. The career totals of Alvin Harper and Kevin Williams combined were less than Smith’s in each of those categories. Even more stunning is that Smith’s totals also surpass those of Michael Irvin.

The other choices are less obvious. The Cowboys picked a number of players who ended up becoming starters with other teams. These players include the likes of Ron Stone (G, 1994-1995), Omar Stoutmire (S, 1997-1998), Oliver Ross (T, 1998), and Stephen Peterman (G, drafted in 2004). As for players signed as free agents and then released, Danny Amendola (training camp in 2008) is the first to come to my mind. Please comment if I am missing anyone.

However, none of those players ever became Pro Bowl players, let alone stars. The player who made the Football Outsiders list has made a total of five Pro Bowls.

8. Brian Waters, G, Dallas Cowboys

Undrafted out of North Texas, Waters went to training camp with the Cowboys as a rookie in 1999 but was waived in September and spent his first professional season at home. The Chiefs signed him in January 2000, and he entered the starting lineup on a permanent basis in Week 11 of the 2001 season. In the past 10 seasons, the five-time Pro Bowler has started 149 (of a possible 151) games he’s been active, blocking for 1,000-yard rushers seven times (Priest Holmes, three times; Larry Johnson, twice; and Jamaal Charles, twice) and earning five trips to the Pro Bowl and two first-team All-Pro selections. Waters was also the first offensive lineman to earn AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors (Week 7, 2004) and was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2009.

As you can imagine, Brett Favre was at the top of the list. Others include Steve Young, Jerome Bettis, coach Mike Shananhan, Priest Holmes, Jeff Saturday, Kurt Warner, Mike Vrabel, and Tramon Williams.


Cowboys Fans Only Ranked Twelfth Worst by GQ

Once upon a time, the Cowboys had appeared in more Super Bowls than any other pro football team, and no franchise could match the sustained success that Dallas had. And during many of those years, Cowboys fans were probably the most reviled of any fans anywhere. That suited us just fine.

But the Cowboys have had trouble escaping mediocrity. And while plenty of folks like to try to remove the America’s Team title from the Cowboys, Dallas fans are apparently not as hated as we once were.

According to GQ, Dallas fans rank as the twelfth worst fans in all of sports. We don’t even rank as the worst in pro football, as fans of the Raiders and Eagles rank far ahead of the Dallas fans. This is somewhere between a travesty and an abomination. The Eagles shouldn’t rank ahead of us in anything.

Here’s the list:

15. L.A. Lakers
14. Univ. of Oregon basketball
13. Univ. of Wisconsin football
12. Dallas Cowboys
11. Montreal Canadiens
10. L.S.U. football
9. N.Y. Yankees
8. Duke basketball
7. Penn St. football
6. Boston Red Sox
5. Univ. of Maryland basketball
4. Oakland Raiders
3. West Virginia Univ. Mountaineers
1 (tie) Philadelphia Eagles
1 (tie) Philadelphia Phillies

The best name that GQ could do was to refer to Cowboy fans as Deluded Trash-Talkers. As for the reason why Dallas fans are the twelfth worst:

The swaggering diaspora of Dallas fans insufferably mouth off about the invincibility of “America’s Team,” as if they’re rooting for our entire country and not a franchise that has won two playoff games in the past fifteen years. To set the record straight: The nickname came from a 1978 Cowboys highlight reel, not some edict from Uncle Sam. And they’ve sworn their allegiance to a front-running team that isn’t even good enough to run up front anymore.

I’m not entirely sure, but apparently author Adam Winer is employed by GQ, and this represents his second contribution. Great start, dude.

Rating Jon Kitna’s Performance as a Backup in 2010

Jon Kitna took over for Tony Romo during the first half of the Cowboys’ week 7 loss to the Giants. Kitna then started nine games, going 4-5 in the process.

The question for the day: Where does Kitna’ performance rank among other backup quarterbacks in team history?

Only two other true backups in team history have had to start as many games as Kitna did in 2010, so it is difficult to rank all of them. One of those QBs was Craig Morton, who lost the starting job in 1971 but then started all 14 games in 1972 because of an injury to Roger Staubach. The other QB was Steve Pelluer in 1986, who struggled to replace an injured Danny White. Pelluer started a total of nine games in 1986 but only went 1-6 after White was injured for good against the Giants that season.

As for other quarterbacks, a few have started at least three games as replacements for injured starters. Others have started a few games during seasons in which the team lacked a clear-cut starter. Such was the case during the early 2000s, when Dallas went through the likes of Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner, and so forth.

The list below includes those quarterbacks who started at least three games as injury replacements for firmly established starters. Kitna’s overall performance falls somewhere in the middle of this list.

Year Age Tm G GS QBrec ? Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Lng Rate
Steve Beuerlein 1991 26 DAL 8 4 4-0-0 68 137 49.6 909 5 2 66 77.2
Craig Morton 1972 29 DAL 14 14 10-4-0 185 339 54.6 2396 15 21 46 65.9
Craig Morton 1967 24 DAL 9 3 2-1-0 69 137 50.4 978 10 10 64 67.7
Jason Garrett 1998 32 DAL 8 5 3-2-0 91 158 57.6 1206 5 3 80 84.5
Jon Kitna 2010 38 DAL 10 9 4-5-0 209 318 65.7 2365 16 12 71 88.9
Steve Pelluer 1986 24 DAL 16 9 3-6-0 215 378 56.9 2727 8 17 84 67.9
Randall Cunningham 2000 37 DAL 6 3 1-2-0 74 125 59.2 849 6 4 76 82.4
Brad Johnson 2008 40 DAL 16 3 1-2-0 41 78 52.6 427 2 5 36 50.5
Steve Walsh 1989 23 DAL 8 5 1-4-0 110 219 50.2 1371 5 9 46 60.5
John Roach 1964 31 DAL 9 4 0-4-0 32 68 47.1 349 1 6 37 30.8
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2011.

Here’s a brief review of these players:

Steve Beuerlein, 1991

Beuerlein took over the starting position when Troy Aikman was hurt against the Redskins in week 11. The Cowboys improved from 6-5 to 11-5 thanks to Beuerlein’s play during that time.

Craig Morton, 1972

One year after the Cowboys won Super Bowl VI, Roger Staubach suffered a shoulder injured that kept him from playing most of the season. Morton returned to the starting role and led Dallas to another playoff appearance.

Craig Morton, 1967

The Cowboys were trying in 1967 to accomplished what they couldn’t in 1966: An NFL Championship. The 1967 season was tough, though, as Dallas struggled to a 9-5 record. Starting QB Don Meredith suffered some injures, but the Cowboys were able to turn to Morton, who went 2-1 as a replacement.

Jason Garrett, 1998

Many remember Garrett’s Thanksgiving performance in 1993, but he also started five games in 1998 when Aikman broke his collarbone. Garrett’s play was inconsistent, but he managed to post a 3-2 record that season.

Jon Kitna, 2010

Kitna didn’t bring everything that Romo could, but Kitna appeared to be a more vocal leader after Romo’s injury. Kitna’s 4-5 record could have been better had Dallas pulled out wins against the Saints, Eagles, and Cardinals (though he was injured during the Arizona game).

Steve Pelluer, 1986

Pelleur didn’t look terrible in 1986 when Danny White was temporarily injured. However, when White was lost for the season with a broken wrist, Pelluer looked awful. Thanks to the team’s 1-6 record in the final seven games, Dallas finished with a losing record for the first time since 1964.

Randall Cunningham, 2000

Aikman suffered through injures and boos during his final season in 2000. Cunningham showed flashes of his great play from 1998 as a replacement with the Cowboys, but Cunningham could only manage a 1-2 record as a starter.

Brad Johnson, 2008

Johnson had won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in 2002, but by 2008, he had a dead arm. He posted a 1-2 mark as a starter, but one loss was to the woeful Rams and one of the wins was thanks mostly to a defensive effort against Tampa Bay.

Steve Walsh, 1989

Walsh didn’t set the world on fire in 1989, but he led the team to its only win of 1989 by defeating the Redskins.

John Roach, 1964

Roach had played with the Cardinals and Packers before joining the Cowboys in ’64. He made fans miss Eddie LeBaron by going 0-4 as an injury replacement for Don Meredith that season. Point of interest: he was the only player besides Roger Staubach to wear #12 for the Cowboys.

Poll: Rate the Performances

So Much for Two of the Cowboys’ Postseason Records

When the Cowboys beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX after the 1995 season, the Cowboys had an NFL-record 31 playoff wins and and NFL-record eight Super Bowl appearances.

At that point, Pittsburgh had a total of 19 playoff wins in its history along with five Super Bowl appearances.

Since that time, the Steelers have a postseason record of 14-6 with two Super Bowl wins. And Pittsburgh will play in its eighth Super Bowl in two weeks with the possibility of winning an NFL-record seventh title.

As you know, the Cowboys have playoff mark of 2-7 since 1996, and Dallas fans have only been able to remember what used to be when it comes to Super Bowls.

As of now, the Steelers and Cowboys are tied with 33 playoff wins and eight Super Bowl appearances. If Pittsburgh wins, the Steelers get to celebrate their 34th playoff win underneath Jerry’s giant television.

Here are each team’s playoff wins:

Dallas Cowboys

Rk Tm Year Date Opp W# G# Day Result OT
1 DAL 2009 2010-01-09 PHI 18 17 Sat W 34-14
2 DAL 1996 1996-12-28 MIN 0 17 Sat W 40-15
3 DAL 1995 1996-01-28 N PIT 0 19 Sun W 27-17
4 DAL 1995 1996-01-14 GNB 0 18 Sun W 38-27
5 DAL 1995 1996-01-07 PHI 0 17 Sun W 30-11
6 DAL 1994 1995-01-08 GNB 0 17 Sun W 35-9
7 DAL 1993 1994-01-30 N BUF 0 19 Sun W 30-13
8 DAL 1993 1994-01-23 SFO 0 18 Sun W 38-21
9 DAL 1993 1994-01-16 GNB 0 17 Sun W 27-17
10 DAL 1992 1993-01-31 N BUF 0 19 Sun W 52-17
11 DAL 1992 1993-01-17 @ SFO 0 18 Sun W 30-20
12 DAL 1992 1993-01-10 PHI 0 17 Sun W 34-10
13 DAL 1991 1991-12-29 @ CHI 0 17 Sun W 17-13
14 DAL 1982 1983-01-16 GNB 11 11 Sun W 37-26
15 DAL 1982 1983-01-09 TAM 10 10 Sun W 30-17
16 DAL 1981 1982-01-02 TAM 17 17 Sat W 38-0
17 DAL 1980 1981-01-04 @ ATL 18 18 Sun W 30-27
18 DAL 1980 1980-12-28 RAM 17 17 Sun W 34-13
19 DAL 1978 1979-01-07 @ RAM 18 18 Sun W 28-0
20 DAL 1978 1978-12-30 ATL 17 17 Sat W 27-20
21 DAL 1977 1978-01-15 N DEN 17 17 Sun W 27-10
22 DAL 1977 1978-01-01 MIN 16 16 Sun W 23-6
23 DAL 1977 1977-12-26 CHI 15 15 Mon W 37-7
24 DAL 1975 1976-01-04 @ RAM 16 16 Sun W 37-7
25 DAL 1975 1975-12-28 @ MIN 15 15 Sun W 17-14
26 DAL 1973 1973-12-23 RAM 15 15 Sun W 27-16
27 DAL 1972 1972-12-23 @ SFO 15 15 Sat W 30-28
28 DAL 1971 1972-01-16 N MIA 17 17 Sun W 24-3
29 DAL 1971 1972-01-02 SFO 16 16 Sun W 14-3
30 DAL 1971 1971-12-25 @ MIN 15 15 Sat W 20-12
31 DAL 1970 1971-01-03 @ SFO 16 16 Sun W 17-10
32 DAL 1970 1970-12-26 DET 15 15 Sat W 5-0
33 DAL 1967 1967-12-24 CLE 15 15 Sun W 52-14
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/23/2011.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Rk Tm Year Date Opp W# G# Day Result OT
1 PIT 2010 2011-01-23 NYJ 20 18 Sun W 24-19
2 PIT 2010 2011-01-15 BAL 19 17 Sat W 31-24
3 PIT 2008 2009-02-01 N ARI 21 19 Sun W 27-23
4 PIT 2008 2009-01-18 BAL 20 18 Sun W 23-14
5 PIT 2008 2009-01-11 SDG 19 17 Sun W 35-24
6 PIT 2005 2006-02-05 N SEA 0 20 Sun W 21-10
7 PIT 2005 2006-01-22 @ DEN 0 19 Sun W 34-17
8 PIT 2005 2006-01-15 @ IND 0 18 Sun W 21-18
9 PIT 2005 2006-01-08 @ CIN 0 17 Sun W 31-17
10 PIT 2004 2005-01-15 NYJ 0 17 Sat W 20-17 OT
11 PIT 2002 2003-01-05 CLE 0 17 Sun W 36-33
12 PIT 2001 2002-01-20 BAL 0 17 Sun W 27-10
13 PIT 1997 1998-01-03 NWE 0 17 Sat W 7-6
14 PIT 1996 1996-12-29 IND 0 17 Sun W 42-14
15 PIT 1995 1996-01-14 IND 0 18 Sun W 20-16
16 PIT 1995 1996-01-06 BUF 0 17 Sat W 40-21
17 PIT 1994 1995-01-07 CLE 0 17 Sat W 29-9
18 PIT 1989 1989-12-31 @ HOU 17 17 Sun W 26-23 OT
19 PIT 1984 1984-12-30 @ DEN 17 17 Sun W 24-17
20 PIT 1979 1980-01-20 N RAM 19 19 Sun W 31-19
21 PIT 1979 1980-01-06 HOU 18 18 Sun W 27-13
22 PIT 1979 1979-12-30 MIA 17 17 Sun W 34-14
23 PIT 1978 1979-01-21 N DAL 19 19 Sun W 35-31
24 PIT 1978 1979-01-07 HOU 18 18 Sun W 34-5
25 PIT 1978 1978-12-30 DEN 17 17 Sat W 33-10
26 PIT 1976 1976-12-19 @ BAL 15 15 Sun W 40-14
27 PIT 1975 1976-01-18 N DAL 17 17 Sun W 21-17
28 PIT 1975 1976-01-04 OAK 16 16 Sun W 16-10
29 PIT 1975 1975-12-27 BAL 15 15 Sat W 28-10
30 PIT 1974 1975-01-12 N MIN 17 17 Sun W 16-6
31 PIT 1974 1974-12-29 @ OAK 16 16 Sun W 24-13
32 PIT 1974 1974-12-22 BUF 15 15 Sun W 32-14
33 PIT 1972 1972-12-23 OAK 15 15 Sat W 13-7
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/23/2011.

Worst of the Worst: Most Disappointing Seasons in Franchise History

The Cowboys’ terrible performance in 2010 was stunning, and most would consider it to be the most disappointing in the franchise’s history. The focus of this post is whether the 2010 season has any competitors when it comes to most disappointing.

The Cowboys have had a losing record in 16 of 51 seasons. The team was obviously in building or rebuilding mode in several of these seasons, so expectations were low entering into the season. There have been other seasons in which Dallas was expected to make the playoffs, yet just missed after barely getting over the .500 mark.

The list below includes 21 seasons in which the Cowboys either had a losing record or were expected to make the playoffs but failed to qualify. Any season in which the team may have struggled but still made the playoffs (e.g., 1999, 2006) were excluded.

Lg Tm W L T Pts PtsO PtDif Coaches
1960 NFL Dallas Cowboys 0 11 1 177 369 -192 Landry
1961 NFL Dallas Cowboys 4 9 1 236 380 -144 Landry
1962 NFL Dallas Cowboys 5 8 1 398 402 -4 Landry
1963 NFL Dallas Cowboys 4 10 0 305 378 -73 Landry
1964 NFL Dallas Cowboys 5 8 1 250 289 -39 Landry
1965 NFL Dallas Cowboys 7 7 0 325 280 45 Landry
1974 NFL Dallas Cowboys 8 6 0 297 235 62 Landry
1984 NFL Dallas Cowboys 9 7 0 308 308 0 Landry
1986 NFL Dallas Cowboys 7 9 0 346 337 9 Landry
1987 NFL Dallas Cowboys 7 8 0 340 348 -8 Landry
1988 NFL Dallas Cowboys 3 13 0 265 381 -116 Landry
1989 NFL Dallas Cowboys 1 15 0 204 393 -189 Johnson
1990 NFL Dallas Cowboys 7 9 0 244 308 -64 Johnson
1997 NFL Dallas Cowboys 6 10 0 304 314 -10 Switzer
2000 NFL Dallas Cowboys 5 11 0 294 361 -67 Campo
2001 NFL Dallas Cowboys 5 11 0 246 338 -92 Campo
2002 NFL Dallas Cowboys 5 11 0 217 329 -112 Campo
2004 NFL Dallas Cowboys 6 10 0 293 405 -112 Parcells
2005 NFL Dallas Cowboys 9 7 0 325 308 17 Parcells
2008 NFL Dallas Cowboys 9 7 0 362 365 -3 Phillips
2010 NFL Dallas Cowboys 6 10 0 394 436 -42 Garrett,Phillips
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/5/2011.

Some of these seasons simply don’t rank with the 2010 in terms of overall disappointment because nobody expected much at all from the team. The teams below didn’t make the “cut.”

1960: Dallas was an expansion team and didn’t even have the benefit of a draft. The 0-11-1 mark wasn’t quite what anyone expected, but it was hardly stunning.

1961: Same as 1960.

1962: Same as 1960 and 1961, except that the Cowboys had quite an explosive offense in ’62.

1964: After a disappointing 1963 campaign, the Cowboys continued to have trouble winning games. This could not have been a surprise.

1965: Thanks to a three-game winning streak, Dallas managed a .500 mark. It was not what the team expected, but Dallas played in the Playoff Bowl in 1965 thanks to its second-place finish in the Eastern Division.

1987: Most hoped that the Cowboys would return to the playoffs in 1987 after the losing record in 1986, but the 7-8 finish was hardly a big surprise.

1988: The Cowboys were a mix of over-the-hill veterans and a group of untalented youngsters. No surprise that a 3-13 season would result.

1989: Dallas had even less talent that the ’88 squad had.

1990: Nobody thought the Cowboys would be within a win of making the playoffs, so the 7-9 mark and the season as a whole were more positive than negative.

2001: The Quincy Carter experiment was not going to go well, and the results in the first season of this experiment were not surprising.

2002: This team was better than the ’00 and ’01 squads, but Dave Campo hadn’t proven himself a winner, and the 5-11 mark didn’t turn out to be a big surprise.

This leaves ten teams, which I’ve ranked as follows:

10. 2005 Season (9-7, 3rd place in the NFC East)

The hype: There was no way that a Bill Parcells team would miss the playoffs for two consecutive seasons. Dallas had a good draft and a better quarterback in Drew Bledsoe. This team was ready to take a few steps forward.

The result: After a 7-3 start, the team only managed two more wins. The Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs before they took the field in week 17, and the team promptly lost to the lowly Rams.

Why it was not more disappointing: Dallas fans had endured three 5-11 seasons from ’00 to ’02, along with a 6-10 mark in ’04. A 9-7 record was actually an improvement.

9. 1984 Season (9-7, 2nd place in the NFC East)

The hype: QB Gary Hogeboom was the answer. He would deliver what Danny White couldn’t.

The result: The Cowboys started 4-3 and limped their way to a 9-7 even after White returned to the starting lineup.

Why it was not more disappointing: The team missed the playoffs, but after three consecutive losses in NFC title games from ’80 to ’82, along with a bad end to the 1983 season, it wasn’t entirely shocking that the team took a step back.

8. 1963 Season (4-10,  5th place in the NFC East)

The hype: The Cowboys made the cover of Sports Illustrated as the favorites to win the Eastern Division.

The result: The team regressed from its 5-8-1 mark the year before by going 4-10. Dallas only managed one win in its first seven games.

Why it was not more disappointing: The franchise had not yet done anything, so another losing season could hardly have been a shock.

7. 2000 Season (5-11, 4th place in the NFC East)

The hype: The Cowboys had lost Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders, but they had gained Joey Galloway and still had Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith.

The result: Aikman was booed for much of the season, and the team never recovered from an opening-game loss to the Eagles.

Why it was not more disappointing: The Cowboys had an awful draft in 2000, and the team had not replaced its departed stars during the previous several seasons.

6. 2004 Season (6-10, 2nd place in the NFC East)

The hype: The Cowboys were going to go further in the playoffs now that Bill Parcells had turned everything around.

The result: The team cut Quincy Carter in the preseason and relied on Vinny Testaverde to lead the way. After six losses in seven games during the middle of the season, Dallas stood at 3-7.

Why it was not more disappointing: Nobody thought the team would have to rely on Testaverde, and the team’s schedule was more difficult than it was in 2003.

5. 1974 Season (8-6, 3rd place in the NFC East)

The hype: The team had reached the NFC title game in ’72 and ’73, and most of the main stars were returning.

The result: The Cowboys never overcame a 1-4 start, and even winning seven games in eight weeks wasn’t enough to lead to a playoff berth.

Why it was not more disappointing: Most remember the ’74 season for Clint Longley’s heroics on Thanksgiving, and the real disappointment was the poor start. Dallas rebounded in the second half of the season and ended up making the Super Bowl the next year.

4. 1986 Season (7-9, 3rd place in the NFC East)

The hype: Dallas brought in some talent with Herschel Walker and rookie Mike Sherrard. The team’s 6-2 start was enough for a tie for the division lead after eight games.

The result:Danny White broke his wrist. Steve Pelleur wasn’t the answer. The 6-2 start turned into a 7-9 nightmare, marking the team’s first losing record in 22 years.

Why it was not more disappointing: The talent base had eroded by 1986, and the team lacked a proven backup after the Cowboys traded Gary Hogeboom.

3. 1997 Season (6-10, 4th place in the NFC East)

The hype: The Cowboys were ready to reclaim their spot among the NFL’s best now that the distractions of 1996 were gone.

The result: The team never came together and struggled to stay above the .500 mark. Dallas stood at 6-5 after week 12, but a loss to the Packers started a five-game skid. This year marked the end of the Dallas dynasty of the 1990s.

Why it was not more disappointing: The team had been imploding for some time after winning Super Bowl XXX, so the result was disappointing but not entirely surprising.

2. 2008 Season (9-7, 3rd place in the NFC East)

The hype: The team would rebound from its devastating loss to the Giants in the 2007 playoffs to reach the Super Bowl.

The result: Dallas had a 3-0 record after three weeks and an 8-4 record after 12 games, but the team lacked the firepower it had in 2007. The Cowboys lost three of four to end the season, including a defeat to the Ravens in the last game at Texas Stadium and 44-6 humiliation to the Eagles in the season finale with a playoff berth on the line.

Why it was not more disappointing: The Cowboys had gone 9-7 in ’05 and ’06, and the team never looked like the 13-3 squad in ’08.

1. 2010 Season (6-10, 3rd place in the NFC East)

The hype: The Cowboys had finally turned the corner by winning a playoff game in 2009. The team was ready to compete for the NFC title.

The result: The Cowboys lost to Washington in week 1 and never recovered. After week 9, Dallas was 1-7 and heading nowhere. A 5-3 finish was respectable, but the squad’s defense was still among the league’s worst.

Why it is the more disappointing: The Cowboys had some (perhaps unrealistic) Super Bowl hopes in ’74, ’86, ’97, and ’08, but none of those teams completely collapsed the way the ’10 team did.


Was 2009 the Worst Draft in Team History?

The Cowboys for many years were the most innovative team in terms of their approach to the collegiate draft, and for that reason the team has not had many horrible drafts. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been a few bad ones. What’s more troubling have been some of the poor drafts that have taken place during the past 10 years.

Of particular concern right now is the 2009 draft, which thus far has produced a kicker with a big leg and accuracy problems; a third tight end who is on injured reserve this year; a third-string quarterback who ran the option until his senior year in college and who has not played a down in the NFL; and a backup linebacker. With the Cowboys’ release of Jason Williams this week, 7 of the team’s 12 picks have been cut, though Robert Brewster and Manuel Johnson are still on the practice squad.

So the question of the day is whether the 2009 draft was the team’s worst. It may be a tough call, but rather surprisingly, there have been few worst drafts. Here’s a look. Please make your selection in the form at the bottom of the post.


First-round pick Tody Smith only played two years in Dallas before moving on to Houston. Eighth-round pick Ron Jessie never played for the Cowboys but became a Pro Bowl player in Los Angeles. Defensive lineman Bill Gregory remained with the team until 1977 before becoming a starter in Seattle. Otherwise, most players taken in this draft were completely forgettable.


First-round pick Larry Bethea never played like a high draft choice and only lasted six years in Dallas. Of the team’s 12 picks overall, only five played in the league. The best player of the bunch was tight end Todd Christensen, but he never played a down in Dallas. The only noteworthy Cowboy among the bunch was 11th-round pick Dennis Thurman.


The Cowboys had 16 picks in the 1982 draft but could only produce the likes of Rod Hill, Jeff Rohrer, and Phil Pozderac. Rohrer and Pozderac became starters, but it was only because the team’s talent level had decreased so much by the middle part of the decade.


This was the infamous backup draft, where the Cowboys picked players based on their projected roles as backups. The draft produced running back Sherman Williams, tight end Kendell Watkins, cornerback Charlie Williams, tight end Eric Bjornson, and cornerback Alundis Brice. They were, as you can imagine, backups.


Jerry was hell-bent on finding a defensive back to replace Deion Sanders in 2000. He found Dwayne Goodrich, Kareem Larrimore, and Mario Edwards. Only the latter of the three was worth anything. Running back Michael Wiley was not entirely awful coming out of the backfield, but he certainly wasn’t good either.


Jerry didn’t have a first-round pick for the second year in a row thanks to his trade for receiver Joey Galloway. He traded picks for picks for picks for picks before finally getting quarterback Quincy Carter and safety Tony Dixon in the second round.


This was the year of Barbie. That is, Bobby Carpenter. Everything about Bobby screamed BUST from early in his rookie season. The Cowboys found some better players in tight end Anthony Fasano, Jason Hatcher, Pat Watkins, and Pat McQuistan, but Fasano and McQuistan have had much better pro careers in Miami than in Dallas. The Cowboys cut Watkins during training camp in 2010 and miss him on special teams. Of the players taken in 2006, only Hatcher remains.


Jerry apparently didn’t learn anything from the Joey Galloway trade because he gave away the team’s first-round pick in 2009 to acquire receiver Roy Williams. Dallas then traded out of the second round to try to get more later-round picks. The big question on everyone’s mind as the team finally made selections: who is that?

My choice: I’m going to go with the 2000 draft for now. The Cowboys were headed downward fast and needed new talent. Instead, Dallas had only five picks and tried to corner the market on mediocre to bad cornerbacks. Other teams found a number of solid players in the first five rounds. Edwards and Wiley weren’t the worst picks ever, but when they are the only two contributors in an entire draft, it’s a pretty bad draft.