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.
This post comes a day late after the Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins 31-16 on Sunday night. The win gave the Cowboys a 3-3 record and a tie for the lead in the NFC East.
Tony Romo did not win (or lose) this game. Nor did DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, or even Sean Lee.
Instead, players coming up with big plays included the likes of Kyle Wilber and Cole Beasley. And the player with the biggest plays was returner Dwayne Harris.
Harris returned a punt 86 yards in the second quarter to give Dallas a 14-3 lead. He also returned a kickoff 90 yards in the third quarter to set up a touchdown pass from Romo to Terrance Williams.
Harris’ 222 combined return yards are the fourth most in team history behind Mel Renfro (273 vs. Green Bay in 1964); Felix Jones (247 vs. Philadelphia in 2008); and Reggie Swinton (224 vs. Denver in 2002).
The Redskins held Bryant to 5 receptions for 36 yards, and Austin did not catch a pass. However, Williams scored a big touchdown, and Beasley had 4 receptions for 44 yards. Three of those receptions came on a fourth-quarter drive that ended with a Dallas field goal.
The Cowboys were without Ware for much of the game due to a quad injury, but Wilber and George Selive were able to come up with a huge sack that caused a fumble in the fourth quarter. Wilbur recovered the fumble inside the Washington 5.
Following the recovery, Joseph Randle, who will likely start with Murray out due to injury, scored from 1 yard out to close out the scoring.
The defense gave up 433 yards but managed to record two key turnovers.
It is the third time this season that the Cowboys have held their opponents to less than 20 points. However, in three other games, opponents have scored 30 or more.
Four of the next five games for the Cowboys are on the road, so this win was absolutely necessary.
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 Mike Shanahan, who became available as a head coach after the 2008 season.
In real life…
The Dallas Cowboys were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders in 2008. The team had gone 13-3 in 2007 before losing to the eventual champion Giants in the playoffs. The team a deep pool of talent in 2008, and many predicted the Cowboys would take the next step in their evolution.
Some fans and some in the media called on Jerry Jones to fire Wade Phillips after the playoff loss in 2007 because he had allowed players to vacation during the off week.
When the ’08 Cowboys lost 44-6 to the Eagles in the final week of the season and missed the playoffs, few could believe that Phillips would return. And when Mike Shanahan was fired as the Broncos head coach, many thought Jerry Jones should fire Wade and bring in Shanahan.
Instead, Shanahan took a year off before becoming head coach of the Redskins.
What if the Cowboys had fired Phillips after the 2008 season and hired Shanahan?
The argument in favor of hiring Shanahan was that the team needed a high-profile coach to coach the high-profile Pro Bowl players. Shanahan had won two Super Bowl titles in Denver, so it stands to reason that he would repeat his success in Dallas. Right?
1. The Cowboys under Shanahan would have no better success in finding and developing talent.
Between 1996 and 2005, Shanahan had great success, including two Super Bowl titles and seven playoff appearances.
Between 2006 and 2008, the team had no playoff appearances. The team had some talent with quarterback Jay Cutler, receiver Brandon Marshall, and the likes of Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil, but to the extent Shanahan was involved with personnel decisions, the team was not improving its talent significantly in the last few years.
The Cowboys still had talent in 2009, but several key players were starting to age. The team needed to rebuild its line, find new skills players, and so forth.
It’s hard to believe that Jerry would give up the right to make personnel decisions, so Shanahan likely would just had a voice. And unless his voice made the Cowboys change their draft strategy in 2009, the results probably would have been the same.
2. Shanahan’s magic would not rekindle in Dallas.
The Broncos fired Shanahan after the team started the 2008 season at 8-5 but lost the final three to finish at 8-8. The Broncos missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
So the Cowboys were going to solve their annual December woes by hiring the coach of a team that had blown its playoff chances by losing three straight?
A big part of the reasoning behind hiring someone like Shanahan is that a coach who has been to the top before will know how to get there again. And, to be sure, managers in baseball, coaches in basketball, and even coaches in college football have been able to repeat success elsewhere.
For whatever reason, that has rarely happened in the NFL. No head coach has won a Super Bowl with multiple teams.
Sure, Shanahan’s Redskins beat the Cowboys to make the playoffs in 2012. His record in the other seasons in Washington, though, is 12-24, and he has made a number of questionable decisions during his tenure.
3. The Rams would have hired Jason Garrett has head coach and fired him three years later.
Jason Garrett nearly left the Cowboys after the 2008 season to become the head coach of the St. Louis Rams. Instead, he stayed in Dallas and eventually became head coach.
The Rams were a mess in 2009, finishing at 1-15.
Garrett is smart, but Garrett would not fix that mess. He would have been back on the street after the 2011 season.
4. The Cowboys would have another head coach by now—Jason Garrett.
It is entirely possible that that Jerry would have grown tired of 8-8 seasons under Shanahan had fired him after the third season in 2011.
In hunting for a new coach, Jerry turns to…
Jason Garrett, who was recently fired as head coach of the Rams in our alternative universe.