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Wade Phillips’ Coaching Career is Similar to…?

Pro-Football-Reference has a page that allows users to sort through coaching records, including playoff wins, champions, and so forth. According to this list, a total of 80 coaches have coached at least four playoff games during their career. Among those 80 coaches, Dallas coach Wade Phillips’ career record of 1-5 is tied for 78th in terms of winning percentage.

Wade Phillips and Jack Pardee both have 1-5 career playoff records.

The other coach with a 1-5 playoff record? Um, that would be former Chicago, Washington, and Houston coach Jack Pardee. That doesn’t bode well for Wade.

Pardee was Walter Payton’s first coach in Chicago. He led the Bears to the playoffs in 1977, but Chicago was blown out by the Cowboys. Pardee then had a rift with management in Chicago (here is an article on Google), and in 1978, Pardee wound up in Washington. He was the coach who led the Redskins to a 10-6 record in 1979 but lost to the Cowboys in the final week of the regular season when Roger Staubach pulled out his final miracle. In three years in Washington, Pardee never led the Redskins to the playoffs.

(Two years after Pardee left Washington, the Redskins won their first Super Bowl title. You might recall that the Broncos won a Super Bowl title two years after Phillips was replaced by Mike Shanahan in Denver.)

During the 1980s, Pardee wound up coaching in the USFL and then at the University of Houston. Ten years after leaving Washington, he was hired by the Houston Oilers and installed the run-and-shoot offense featuring Warren Moon. Pardee recorded his only playoff win in 1991 when the Oilers beat the Jets in the wildcard round of the AFC playoffs. However, the Oilers blew a 21-6 lead and lost the Broncos in the divisional round. One year later, the Oilers had a 35-3 lead at Buffalo but fell apart and lost 41-38.

(Completely trivial, of course, but Phillips first two permanent head coaching jobs were with the Broncos and Bills).

Pardee led the Oilers to another division title in 1993, but Houston lost to Joe Montana and the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs. In 1994, Houston started at 1-9, and Pardee resigned.

Here is the comparison of the careers:

Jack Pardee

Permanent NFL head coaching jobs: 3
Overall record: 87-77 (.530)
Total seasons: 11
Seasons above .500: 6
Playoff record: 1-5
Notable losses:

  • With the Bears, a blowout loss to the Cowboys in the 1977 playoffs.
  • With the Redskins, a 35-34 loss to the Cowboys that cost Washington a division title and a playoff berth.
  • With the Oilers, gave up a 21-6 lead to the Broncos in a 26-24 loss.
  • With the Oilers, gave up a 35-3 lead to the Bills in a 41-38 loss.
  • With the Oilers, lost to an aging Joe Montana, who left join the Chiefs after many years in San Francisco and led Kansas City to a championship game appearance.

Wade Phillips

Permanent NFL head coaching jobs: 3
Overall record: 81-54 (.600)
Total seasons: 10
Seasons above .500: 6
Playoff record: 1-5
Notable losses:

  • With the Broncos, couldn’t stop Napoleon McCallum or Jeff Hostetler in a 42-24 loss.
  • With the Bills, appeared to have beaten the Tennessee Titans, but the Titans used a controversial lateral on the kickoff return to score and win the game.
  • With the Cowboys, lost a first-half lead to the Giants, and the Cowboys could not manage a comeback in a 21-17 loss.
  • With the Cowboys, suffered a 44-6 blowout loss to the Eagles that cost the Cowboys a playoff berth.
  • With the Cowboys, lost to an aging Brett Favre, who left join the Vikings after many years in Green Bay (with a stop-off in New York, of course) and led Minnesota to a championship game appearance.

* * *

The only coach on the list who never won a playoff game after having at least four appearances is Jim Mora, Sr.

In 15 seasons, Mora went 125-106 (.541) and led his two teams to the playoffs six times. He went 0-6.

His two teams? That would be Super Bowl XLIV participants New Orleans and Indianapolis.

2009 Playoff Opponents Spark Memories of the 1970s and 1990s

The Cowboys have long playoff histories against several different franchises. Saturday’s game against the Eagles was reminiscent of the Cowboys’ home playoff wins over Philadelphia in 1992 and 1995 (and fortunately nothing like the 1980 NFC Championship Game).

The Cowboys had a quite a playoff rivalry with the Vikings during the 1970s.

Another notable playoff rivalry in the past was with the Minnesota Vikings.

Much of the focus this week will be on the Hail Mary game in 1975, but also remember the Cowboys’ first Super Bowl championship season of 1971, during which the Cowboys beat Minnesota in Bloomington in a 20-12 game. The Cowboys and Vikings faced off every other season between 1971 and 1977, with Dallas winning in 1971, 1975, and 1977. The Vikings advanced to Super Bowl VIII in 1973 by beating the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game.

Two decades later, the Cowboys and Vikings met again in the playoffs, though neither team went anywhere after that. In 1996, the Cowboys beat Minnesota 40-15 but then lost the following week at Carolina. Three years later, the Cowboys were unable to take advantage of opportunities and lost 27-10 to the Vikings. Minnesota lost the Rams the following week.

Now that the Packers are out of the playoffs, a Dallas-Green Bay matchup won’t happen. However, the Cowboys will face Brett Favre this Sunday. During the 1990s, Favre came to Dallas each year in the playoffs from 1993 to 1995. On each occasion, Dallas came away with a win.

Dallas has never played the Saints in the playoffs, but the Cowboys could face the Cardinals if everything goes well. Wins over the Vikings and Cardinals will avenge the last two playoff losses of the 1990s, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Cowboys Finish in Top 10 in Several Team Categories

Two weeks into the regular season, the Cowboys’ defense ranked 30th in the NFL in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed. As the season progressed, the team gradually climbed in the rankings. After allowing only 228 yards against the Eagles on Sunday, the Cowboys finished the regular season ranked 9th in the NFL in total defense and 2nd in points allowed. Here’s a look:

Defensive Rankings

Total Defense: 5054 yards (9th)
Total Passing Yards Allowed: 3606 (20th)
Total Rushing Yards Allowed: 1448 (4th)
Total Points Allowed: 250 (2nd)

The Cowboys have been strong all season in the rankings offense and finished the regular season ranked second in total offense. This is the team’s highest ranking in that category since 1979.

Offensive Rankings

Total Offense: 6390 (2nd)
Rushing Yards: 2103 (7th)
Passing Yards: 4287 (6th)
Points: 361 (14th)

As for individuals, Tony Romo finished 8th in the league with a passer rating of 97.6, marking his best rating for a season as a pro by surpassing his 97.4 rating of 2007. Romo’s 4,483 yards was also better than his previous team record of 4,211 yards.

Marion Barber finished the season with 932 rushing yards and 7 TDs. Barber ranked 17th in the league in rushing yards.

Felix Jones finished the season with 685 yards on 116 carries, for an average of 5.9 yards per carry. No player in team history has ever had such a high average with that many carries. Amos Marsh had a 5.6-yard average on 144 carries in 1962.

Miles Austin’s 1,320 yards is the 6th most for a season in team history. Only Michael Irvin (four times) and Terrell Owens (once) have had seasons with more yardage. Austin’s 11 TDs are the 7th most for a season in team history.

Mat McBriar finished the season with a 45.1-yard average, which was the fifth-best in team history. He had a higher average in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Sam Baker’s 45.4-yard average in 1962 ranks just ahead of McBriar’s 2009 performance.

Jason Witten finished the season with 1,030 yards, marking the second time he has surpassed 1,000 yards in a season. No other tight end in team history surpassed that mark.

The Hall-of-Fame Case for Chuck Howley, Revisited

Chuck Howley was named as a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. However, his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame has remained elusive.

The Waco Tribune-Herald had a great story recently about Chuck Howley, the former Cowboys linebacker who was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. Howley was a six-time Pro Bowler and was named all-pro six times. His name only occasionally comes up during conversations about the Hall of Fame, though his teammates have advocated on his behalf, as the article notes.

Howley is best known as being the only player in NFL history to be named MVP of a Super Bowl as a member of the losing team. He picked off two passes and recovered a fumble in the Cowboys’ 16-13 loss to Baltimore in Super Bowl V. One year later, Howley had a key interception that set up a Dallas touchdown.

“It was hard to enjoy being MVP of that game,” Howley said. “How do you celebrate that? I remember some of the other guys saying, ‘Chuck, that’s fantastic.’ But it was very difficult to be enthusiastic. I just felt like we left some unfinished business out there.”

The Cowboys finished the job the following year when they blew away the Miami Dolphins, 24-3, for their first Super Bowl championship. Though Staubach was named MVP, Howley delivered another tremendous performance, returning an interception 41 yards and recovering a fumble.

Now that Bob Hayes and Rayfield Wright have made the Hall, it isn’t likely other Cowboys from the 1960s and 70s will receive serious consideration any time soon. Howley is one of those players who is being overlooked.

Howley’s career highlights:

  • Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor member (inducted in 1977)
  • Most Valuable Player Super Bowl V
  • 6-time All-Pro
  • 6-Time Pro Bowl
  • All-Eastern Conference Team 1963
  • 1 Super Bowl Title
  • 2 NFC Titles
  • 5 Eastern Conference Titles
  • Tied 2nd Franchise History Career Fumbles Recovered (16)
  • 3-Time All-Southern Conference West Virginia University
  • Southern Conference Athlete of the Year
  • 5-sport Letterman- Football, Track, Diving, Gymnastics, Wrestling
  • The Cowboys’ official site has more.

    The other Dallas players not currently in the Hall have similar credentials. Safety Cliff Harris, receiver Drew Pearson, and defensive end Harvey Martin were each named as members of the all-decade team of the 1970s, and Harris is a member of the Ring of Honor. However, none of the three are members of the Hall of Fame. Howley played during a great era for linebackers and was not named to the all-decade team of the 1960s.

    This question might be debated endlessly (and indeed, it has been debated), but which of these players is most deserving of a Hall of Fame bid. Here’s a quick recap:

    Chuck Howley, LB: 6 Pro Bowls, 6-time All-Pro, Ring of Honor
    Cliff Harris, S: 6 Pro Bowls, 4-time All Pro, All-Decade Team (First Team) for the 1970s, Ring of Honor
    Drew Pearson, WR: 3 Pro Bowls, 4-time All Pro, All-Decade Team (First Team) for the 1970s
    Harvey Martin, DE: 4 Pro Bowls, 4-time All Pro, All-Decade Team (Second Team) for the 1970s

    Which of these Cowboys most deserves to be in the Hall of Fame?

    View Results

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    Dallas Cowboys on Christmas: A Short History

    It wouldn’t quite be Christmas on this blog if I didn’t post one of the videso from Dallas Cowboys’ Christmas ’86, which I first posted a few years ago (and which YouTube had deleted from my own account at least three times).

    As for the holiday itself, while the Cowboys have played nearly every Thanksgiving Day since 1966, they have only played four times on Christmas Day. The results are mixed: wins during two Super Bowl seasons, a loss during a very bad season, and a loss just before the playoffs.

    December 25, 1971: Dallas 20, Minnesota 12

    The first time the Cowboys played on Christmas Day was in the first round of the 1971 playoffs. The Cowboys jumped out to a 20-3 lead before holding off a Minnesota comeback. The Cowboys were Super Bowl champions three weeks later.

    December 25, 1995: Dallas 37, Arizona 13

    The Cowboys’ 37-13 win over the Cardinals will be remembered for two reasons. First, it marked the game when second WR Kevin Williams came to life, catching 9 passes for 203 yards and 2 TDs. Second, the win gave the Cowboys a boost of confidence that propelled the team to a win in Super Bowl XXX.

    December 25, 2000: Tennessee 31, Dallas 0

    Few Cowboy fans probably remember this one, and for good reason. Starting quarterback Anthony Wright completed 5 of 20 passes for 35 yards and 2 interception (and yes, he played the entire game).

    December 25, 2006: Philadelphia 23, Dallas 7

    Christmas and profanity should have nothing to do with one another, but that was not the case in many households when the Cowboys tanked a game against the Eagles leading up to the 2006 playoffs. Nobody on the Dallas offense had a good game, and the loss called into doubt whether the Cowboys were ready for the playoffs.

    Cowboys’ Win Over Saints Isn’t Completely Without Precedent

    Saturday night was not the first time that the Cowboys have played the role of spoiler by being the first team to defeat a previously unbeaten team. Though such wins have never come this late in the season, the win over New Orleans was not entirely without precedent.

    Here’s the good news for New Orleans: in each instance in the past, each team that the Cowboys beat wound up winning the Super Bowl.

    December 5, 1982: Dallas 24, Washington 10

    This game was not entirely analogous, given that the game took place shortly after the strike of 1982 ended. The Redskins were 4-0 when they faced the 3-1 Cowboys, but a 24-10 loss gave Washington its first defeat. This was also Washington’s last loss, as the Redskins won eight straight to win the title.

    November 17, 1985: Chicago 44, Dallas 0

    This one doesn’t quite belong with the others, given that the Cowboys lost so badly to the 11-0 Bears. However, like the other Dallas opponents on this list, the Bears won the title by winning Super Bowl XX.

    November 24, 1991: Dallas 24, Washington 21

    Few gave the 6-5 Cowboys a chance to beat the 11-0 Redskins, but the Cowboys rode a strong first half and a big play by Michael Irvin in the fourth quarter to beat Washington. The Redskins finished 14-2 before winning Super Bowl XXVI.

    November 19, 2006: Dallas 21, Indianapolis 14

    The 5-4 Cowboys looked like no match for the 9-0 Indianapolis Colts, but the Cowboys stole the game with two Marion Barber touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Colts only managed a 12-4 record but beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

    December 19, 2009: Dallas 24, New Orleans 17

    The Cowboys ended the Saints’ bid for a 16-0 season, but New Orleans still looks like the best team in the NFC.

    Did You Know? Some Career Statistics Updates

    To avoid focusing on the very real possibility that the Cowboys may be out of the playoff hunt even before they play Philadelphia on January 3 (sigh), today’s post will focus on some trivial items related to career statistics.

    Did You Know…

    That Tony Romo’s career interception percentage is the same right now as Troy Aikman’s? Both are 3.0%. Aikman threw 141 interceptions on 4715 attempts. Romo has thrown 53 picks on 1751 attempts. (I guess if we didn’t round up or down, Aikman’s is still slightly better).

    Did You Know…

    That Tony Romo’s career TD percentage of 5.9% is better than the percentages of Aikman, Roger Staubach, Don Meredith, and Danny White, but not Eddie LeBaron or Craig Morton?

    Did You Know…

    That though Jason Witten is now second on the team’s list for career receptions, he is only third on the list as far as number of touchdowns by a tight end? His 26 career TDs rank below Billy Joe DuPree (41) and Doug Cosbie (30). Jay Novacek only had 22.

    Did You Know…

    That Patrick Crayton now ranks #19 on the team’s all-time receptions list? His 190 receptions are one more than Preston Pearson, who now ranks 20th.

    Did You Know…

    That with two punt returns, Crayton will surpass Bob Hayes in total punt returns for a career? Crayton has returned a total of 103 punts, one fewer than Hayes and six fewer than Mel Renfro. Among players with at least 50 punt returns, Crayton’s 9.8 average ranks fifth behind Deion Sanders (13.3), Hayes (11.1), Reggie Swinton (10.9), and Kelvin Martin (10.1). Renfro only averaged 7.7 yards per return.

    Did You Know…

    That Nick Folk has fallen all the way to fourth on the team’s all-time list for field goal percentage? He has made 79.7% of his field goals, which is worse than the career percentages of Chris Boniol (87.1%), Eddie Murray (83.3%), and Richie Cunningham (79.8%).

    – – –

    If Folk is cut this week, he and Cunningham may want to sit down and share stories about their Cowboys’ careers over a drink. Recommended drinks may include Everclear or Bicardi 151. Consider these stats:

    Cunningham

    1997: 34/37 (91.9%)

    1998: 29/35 (82.9%)

    1999: 12/22 (54.5%) (cut after 12 games)

    Dallas career: 75/94 (79.8%)

    Folk

    2007: 26/31 (83.9%)

    2008: 20/22 (90.9%)

    2009: 17/26 (65.4%) (after 13 games)

    Dallas career: 63/79 (79.7%)

    Cunningham missed field goals in four of five games in 1999, which was a frustrating season in which the Cowboys led in nearly every game but only finished 8-8. He was released after week 12 but was picked up by Carolina for the last two weeks of the season. After the Cowboys released him in 1999, he appeared only seven more NFL games over the next three years.

    Folk has now missed field goals in six of his last seven games, including the last five in a row.

    Some Perspective on DeMarcus Ware’s 20 Sacks in 2008

    waregroupcheck.jpgWriter Mike Kemmeter at the newly-revived Football.com wrote a piece putting DeMarcus Ware’s 20-sack season into perspective. In 2008, Ware became just the seventh player to record 20 or more sacks in a season since the NFL started keeping the stat officially in 1982.

    The other six include:

    Michael Strahan, 22.5, 2001
    Mark Gastineau, 22, 1984
    Reggie White, 21, 1987
    Chris Doleman, 21, 1989
    Lawrence Taylor, 20.5, 1986
    Derrick Thomas, 20, 1990

    I made some comments via email about Ware’s season, and a few of these comments appeared in his article.

    The newest member of the club recorded a
    single sack in 11 of his 16 games and had three sacks three separate
    times. The linebacker collected his 20th sack in Week 16, and failed to
    get to Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb in a season-ending loss
    to the Eagles.




    “The Cowboys have not had a consistent pass rusher since Charles Haley
    in the mid-1990s, so it has been great to have someone on which the
    offense must focus,” Cordon said. “Ware has a similar burst of speed
    compared with Haley, but Ware is stronger than Haley was.




    “What is even more impressive is that Ware is a true outside
    linebacker. He is excellent against the run and very good in coverage.”




    Ware also had six forced fumbles and one recovery.




    “Since Ware had all of the responsibilities of an outside linebacker
    but was still able to produce 20 sacks, I would tend to say that is
    more impressive than the defensive ends on the list.” Cordon said. “On
    the other hand, Reggie White recorded his 21 sacks in only 12 games, so
    I would say that is the most impressive of those with 20 or more sacks.”

    Of course, Harvey Martin has been the real standard-bearer since unofficially recording 23 sacks in 1977. Other older Cowboy marks are also not officially recognized, including George Andrie’s 18.5 sacks in just 14 games in 1966.

    Poll

    Here is a poll asking which player is the greatest pass rusher in team history.

     [If you can’t see this poll, please visit Zoho Polls to vote]

    My vote: Martin

    2009-02-21_192908.gif
    This is a tough one. Martin benefited from playing on one of the great defensive lines in NFL history, so teams were not able to focus their attention on him. Ware, on the other hand, has had very little help. Still, Martin was great for a longer period of time, and so it is tough to say that Ware has already passed him. For now, my vote goes to Martin.

    Haley never really produced numbers with the Cowboys (12.5 sacks was his high in 1994), but he produced a great deal of pressure. And there is certainly nothing wrong with picking any of the others, given that this franchise has had so much luck with pass rushers.

    Classic Dallas Cowboys Trivia Answers

    Here are the answers to the trivia questions posted on Saturday:

    1. What position did Tex Schramm hold immediately before being named as general manager of the Cowboys (then the Rangers)?

    He was assistant director of sports, where he oversaw the 1960 Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, California. These games were held less than a month after the NFL granted a franchise to Dallas.

    2. With which team was Schramm previously associated prior to holding the position from question #1?

    Schramm held several positions with the Los Angeles Rams, including publicity director, assistant director, and general manager.

    3. Who recommended Schramm to Clint Murchison, Jr.?

    George Halas of the Chicago Bears.

    4. What job did Gil Brandt hold when he was hired by the Dallas franchise?

    He was a baby photographer prior to joining the Cowboys.

    5. What was Brandt’s first title with the team?

    Player scouting director.

    6. Along with Murchison, who was the other franchisee (co-owner) when Dallas was awarded an NFL franchise?

    Bedford Wynne

    7. Which two teams originally drafted Don Meredith?

    The Chicago Bears of the NFL and the Dallas Texans of the AFL.

    8. How did the Dallas franchise obtain the rights to Meredith?

    Dallas traded future draft picks to the Chicago Bears for the rights to Meredith, who was taken in the third round by the Bears. The team then signed Meredith to a personal services contract, which was contingent on Dallas receiving a franchise.

    9. On January 3, 1960, Meredith starred in what game?

    Meredith starred in the East-West Shrine Game on that date. His nine-yard touchdown pass to Don Bass of the College of the Pacific won the game for the West.

    10. True or False: Meredith originally agreed to a three-year, $100,000 per-year contract with an AFL team before backing out of the deal.

    False. Meredith was reportedly offered this amount, but he immediately made it clear he would play in the NFL.

    11. Shortly after Lamar Hunt and other owners announced the formation of the American Football League, Chicago’s George Halas in August 1959 announced that two cities would likely receive NFL franchises. Dallas was one city. What was the other?

    The other city was Houston, which had not yet been offered an AFL franchise.

    12. What did Hunt call the move announced by Halas?

    Hunt referred to the move as “sabotage.”

    13. Which franchise was Murchison interested in purchasing in 1952 but could not because he was out of the country?

    Murchison wanted to buy the Dallas Texans before the franchise was sold to Carroll Rosenbloom, who moved the team to Baltimore to become the Colts. According to Dallas Cowboys Trivia Challenge by Gary Stratton and Robert Krug, Murchison was in South America at the time and was unable to buy the team. Peter Golenbock in Landry’s Boys, however, reported that Murchison asked NFL commissioner Bert Bell for a 24-hour grace period to study the team’s books. Bell refused the request and awarded Rosenbloom the franchise. Golenbock’s account is probably accurate.

    14. Which current NFL franchise did Murchison try to purchase during the 1950s?

    There are actually two- the Chicago Cardinals and the Washington Redskins.

    15. At the NFL owners’ meeting in Miami in January 1960, four cities were in the running to receive an expansion team. In addition to Dallas, what were the other three cities?

    The other three cities included Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and St. Louis. The Cardinals later that year moved from Chicago to St. Louis, and Minneapolis-St. Paul received an expansion team in 1961. Miami received an expansion team in the AFL in 1966.

    16. Tom Landry succeeded which quarterback at the University of Texas in the late 1940s?

    Bobby Layne.

    17. Landry reportedly had at least three head coaching offers prior to accepting the job with the Cowboys. Which teams were interested in hiring him?

    Three other teams included the Los Angeles Rams, who had just fired coach Sid Gillman; the Houston Oilers of the AFL, who eventually hired Lou Rymkus; and the Dallas Texans, who hired Hank Stram, a backfield coach with the University of Miami.

    18. True or False: Landry served as a coach during a pro football game at the Cotton Bowl prior to his arrival as head coach of the Cowboys in 1960.

    True. The New York Giants travelled to Dallas in August 1959 to play an exhibition game against the World Champion Baltimore Colts in the Cotton Bowl. Landry was still the defensive coach of the Giants at that time.

    19. Landry was well-known as a businessman in Dallas before he was hired as the head coach of the Dallas franchise. What was his area of business during the offseason?

    Landry sold insurance in Dallas during the off-seasons.

    20. In December 1959, Dallas tried to obtain the rights to a halfback who chose instead to sign with the AFL’s Dallas Texans. Who was this player?

    Abner Haynes.

    How Badly Did the Cowboys Miss Mat McBriar? Quite a Bit.

    Mat McBriar, Dallas Cowboys

    The Cowboys’ loss to the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals on October 12 was costly for a number of reasons. First, Tony Romo broke his pinky at the end of the game, causing him to miss a month of the season and causing throwing problems that appeared to affect him all season. Second, the team lost rookie Felix Jones, who had been a big spark to the offense when the Cowboys started the season at 4-1. Third, had the Cowboys won the game, they would have qualified for the playoffs, assuming the same results in the subsequent games.

    The other big loss was punter Mat McBriar, who broke his foot when the Cardinals blocked a punt in overtime. Arizona recovered the fumble in the end zone, giving the Cardinals the win.

    Before the injury, McBriar averaged 49.0 yards per punt, which would have ranked second in the league had he played the entire season. McBriar’s net average of 38.8 was ranked lower in the league, but it was better than any of his previous seasons.

    McBriar’s replacement, Sam Paulescu, only managed a 41.8 average, which ranked in the bottom six among full-time punters. Paulescu’s 35.2 net average was also ranked very low, though his average was better towards the end of the season than it was when he replaced McBriar in October.

    The averages only tell part of the story. On McBriar’s 25 punt attempts (including the block against Arizona), the Cowboys had an average starting field position at their own 32. Their opponents’ average field position after a Dallas punt was their own 26. After McBriar’s injury, the Cowboys’ average starting position on punts moved up to their own 34, and the average starting field position of their opponents moved up to the 31. In other words, when Paulescu was punting, opponents had better field position by seven yards compared with opponents when McBriar was the punter. Given that Paulescu punted a total of 53 times, that is not an insignificant number of yards given up.

    Another practical effect of the punting change: no opponent started a possession in Dallas territory following a McBriar punt in games 1 through 6. The closest was Washington in week 4, when the Redskins started one possession at their own 49. By comparison, Cowboys’ opponents began eight possessions in Dallas territory following punts by Paulescu in the final ten games of the season.

    A big part of the problem was the simple matter that McBriar has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, and Paulescu could not come close to matching McBriar. Consider the distances of the punts by both punters:

    McBriar, Punt Distance

    60+ yds.= 3

    50-59 yds.=10

    40-49 yds.= 8

    30-39 yds.=1

    20-29 yds.=2

    Blocked=1

    Paulescu, Punt Distance

    60+ yds.=2

    50-59 yds.=5

    40-49 yds.=24

    30-39 yds.=19

    20-29 yds.=3

    Thus, 84% of McBriar’s punts travelled at least 40 yards, while only 58% of Paulescu’s punts travelled that distance. Granted, some of Paulescu’s shorter punts were downed inside the 20, but that certainly was not the case with all of them.

    Net punting yards were also much better with McBriar than with Paulescu:

    McBriar, Net Punting Yards

    50+ yds.=1

    40-49 yds= 13

    30-39 yds.=8

    20-29 yds.=2

    Paulescu, Net Punting Yards

    60+ yds.=1

    50-59 yds.=2

    40-49 yds.=16

    30-39 yds.=19

    20-29 yds.=10

    10-19 yds.=4

    1-10 yds.=1

    Paulescu, to be sure, improved as the season wore on, and he downed several punts inside the 20. On the other hand, he had especially poor games against the Rams and Ravens. Against Baltimore, four of his six punts traveled less than 40 yards, and the Ravens started three of their possessions at, respectively, their own 49, the Dallas 46, and the Dallas 37. Baltimore scored on two of those drives.