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Know Your Dallas Cowboys is nearly ten years old. In light of the forthcoming anniversary, and given that the blog has been on life support this offseason, I figured now would be a decent time to start a new series.
Let’s look back at what was happening a decade ago before I decided the blogosphere needed yet another Dallas Cowboys blog.
On July 23, 2006, the Cowboys were preparing to open their training camp in Oxnard, California. The team planned to move its training camp to San Antonio in 2007, and it was not clear whether the Cowboys would return to California again.
The team was trying to improve on their 9-7 finish from 2005 and hoped that Bill Parcells recreate some of his past success.
What actually happened…The Cowboys alternated between Oxnard and San Antonio for several years. They have held training camp in Oxnard each year since 2012.
(Backup) Quarterback Controversy
Drew Bledsoe entered his second season as the starting quarterback. He threw for more than 3,600 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2005, but not all fans were happy with him. Nevertheless, few thought the team would roll the dice with one of the inexperienced backups.
Regarding the QB race, former Dallas Morning News reporter Todd Archer wrote the following:
The skinny: Bledsoe is the starter, but Parcells has said Romo will get plenty of work in preseason. Bledsoe, 34, is in fine shape, but Parcells doesn’t want to overwork him. Henson was decent in NFL Europe, his first extended game action since 2000, but he’ll need to impress early to push Romo. Jeff Mroz, a free-agent pickup, could be a long-term project.
What actually happened?… Do I really need to tell you that Tony Romo became the starter in 2006?
What about Jeff Mroz?…He never made the team. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007, but also failed to make that team. According to his LinkedIn page, he is the co-founder of a nutrition company.
A Record, Long-Term Deal for Jason Witten
Many fans focused on the offseason signing of Terrell Owens (and we will address him later).
Less memorable is the fact that the Cowboys signed Jason Witten to a long-term deal. The team announced the contract extension on July 23, 2006.
What actually happened?…The Cowboys have never been in danger of losing Witten, and he has remained productive throughout his long career. He made the Pro Bowl in 2006 before having an all-pro season in 2007. His base salary in 2006, after the signing, was $500,000. By comparison, his base salary in 2016 is $6.5 million.
The San Francisco 49ers are preparing for their third consecutive appearance in the NFC Championship Game.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys have done a whole bunch of nothing since losing to the Eagles to end the season. Pretty good chance we will continue to see a whole bunch of nothing.
My prediction on Facebook:
Anyway, for lack of anything else to discuss at the moment, here is a video from 1996 on ESPN’s Primetime showing the Cowboys’ 20-17 win over the 49ers. The win improved the Cowboys’ record to 6-4 in a season where Dallas pulled out another NFC East title.
Ah, memories. Distant, distant memories.
It has become easy to forget that the Dallas Cowboys were supposed to have turned a corner in 2009 when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in back-to-back games. The first win clinched the NFC East title for Dallas. The second gave the Cowboys their only playoff win since 1996.
Here are the video highlights. Some faces are the same, but you will see quite a bit of Marion Barber and Patrick Crayton, along with big plays by Felix Jones, Doug Free (on Jones’ touchdown run), and Jay Ratliff.
The Dallas Cowboys still control their own destiny and will make the playoffs by winning their final two games.
Few teams in league history have be less deserving if the Cowboys do this. We can go through all the four-letter words and longer words and phrases while describing this team, but we’ve said all these words and phrases before.
The short story: the Cowboys sprinted to a 26-3 first-half lead. The Cowboys were running the ball well. The Packers showed no ability to stop the run. So the Cowboys decided to throw.
And throw. And throw. And throw.
The 26-3 lead disappeared. Tony Romo threw two critical interceptions late in the game, and the Packers surged ahead and won the game.
This is the same basic team as the one that took a 27-3 lead over the Detroit Lions on October 2, 2011, only to allow the Lions back into the game by throwing and throwing and throwing.
That’s throwing picks, as in two interceptions of Tony Romo that were returned for touchdowns to allowed the Lions back into the game.
There have been other absolutely pathetic losses during the Garrett tenure, with the loss to the Lions in 2011 being the worst.
The Cowboys’ defense in 2013 is much worse than then defense of 2011. The Cowboys needed to hold on to the ball at all costs, because this defense cannot stop anyone. Whether the Green Bay quarterback was Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, a 79-year-old Bart Starr, a deceased Curly Lambeau, or any two- or four-legged animal, the Cowboys defense cannot stop anyone.
So when Flynn started hitting anyone he wanted, it came as no surprise. When the Cowboys could not stop Eddie Lacy, it came as no surprise. Any positives from the first-half were a distant memory by the beginning of the fourth quarter.
There are so many reasons for this debacle—injuries on defense, general incompetence on defense, play-calling on offense, Romo’s decision-making, Gene Jones’ selection of “Blue Field Explosions” inside AT&T Stadium (some sort of giant wall drawing; I just looked it up)—that nothing can really explain this debacle.
I won’t try.
* * *
The Cowboys could have wrapped up the NFC East by beating the Packers and Redskins and hoping for an Eagles’ loss to Bears. The Bears-Eagles game will matter only if the Cowboys lose to the Redskins. If the Cowboys win, the season finale against the Eagles is for all the marbles.
I’ll watch, even if I am quite sure I don’t want to watch any of this.
The Dallas Cowboys somehow still control their playoff destiny. If they win their remaining three games, they will win the NFC East.
If the Cowboys look anything like they did against the Chicago Bears, the team will not win another game.
The team brought the worst defense in franchise history—and one of the worst in NFL history—to Soldier Field to let the Bears do whatever they wanted.
Josh McCown threw for 348 yards and 4 touchdowns with a passer rating of 141.9. The Cowboys could not stop Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffrey. Matt Forte ran at will in the second half.
What was a 14-14 game with less than two minutes left in the first half quickly turned into a 24-14 Chicago lead at halftime. Although the Chicago touchdown was the result of a great individual play by Jeffrey in the corner of the end zone, the Cowboys had allowed the Bears to get into position to throw the touchdown late in the first half.
The Dallas defense had no clue how to stop the Bears in the second half, and eventually the Cowboys stopped trying.
The Cowboys gave up 498 total yards of offense and did not force a single punt. In fact, the only time the Bears left the field without scoring was because Chicago chose to kneel down to end the game.
Friends, this graphic shows just how bad this defense is:
Four teams had gained more than 500 yards against Dallas, and Chicago nearly became the fifth. The Bears became the third team to score at least 40 against Dallas this year.
Tony Romo threw for three touchdowns, including two in the first half. However, he was largely ineffective. The leading pass receiver for most of the game was tight end Gavin Escobar and his one reception for 25 yards (until he made another one late in the game).
DeMarco Murray ran well, but many of his yards also came during the first half and were rendered meaningless by the third quarter.
Dallas is now 7-6, while Philadelphia is 8-5. Unless the Eagles lose to either the Bears or Vikings, the Cowboys will have to beat the Packers and Redskins, setting up a season finale for all the marbles.
Sounds good, except the Cowboys will enter that game with this disgraceful unit called a defense. Not much room for optimism tonight.
* * *
The last time the Cowboys allowed three opponents to score 40 or more points in a single season was 1960. That was, of course, an 0-11-1 season and the first in franchise history.
* * *
Kyle Orton attempted his first pass of the season. The last time he played was in 2012 against Chicago in another loss.
* * *
Joseph Randle and Cole Beasley both scored against the Bears. It was the second touchdown for both players, as Beasley had scored against the Broncos while Randle had scored against the Redskins.
With the Eagles’ 24-16 win over the Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys at 5-5 now sit a half-game out of first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys are also a full game behind the 49ers, Bears, and Cardinals for the last wildcard spot. Even if Carolina loses to New England tonight, the Panthers would still have a 6-4 record.
Dallas now has to travel to the Meadowlands for a rematch with the resurgent Giants, who have won four straight. In fact, none of the remaining games are going to be easy for the Cowboys, and it is possible that Dallas will have to beat the Redskins on the road and Eagles at home in the final two weeks of the season to reach the playoffs.
On the positive side, that is exactly what the Cowboys did in 2009, the last year the Cowboys made the playoffs.
On the negative side, should the team fail, the Cowboys will have the third-longest playoff drought in franchise history.
The longest period where the Cowboys missed the playoffs was the first six years of the team’s existence from 1960 to 1965.
The next longest period was the five years from 1986 through 1990, which included the final Landry years and the first two years under Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones.
The current Cowboys have missed the playoffs three straight years. That was the same number of years the franchise missed the playoffs under Dave Campo.
Yes, the current Dallas Cowboys could have a longer streak of missing the playoffs than the teams led by the rotating of quarterbacks that included an aging Troy Aikman, an aging Randall Cunningham, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner, Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, and Chad Hutchinson.
Jerry gave more money to Tony Romo last off-season than any other player in team history, yet one more season without the playoffs means that the Quincy Carter (et al.) era may start looking better than what we are seeing now.
Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to two Super Bowls. He capped off his great career by leading the Cowboys to a win over Washington after trailing 34-21 in the fourth quarter in a regular-season finale with the NFC East on the line.
Tony Romo has led the Cowboys to one playoff win. He is well-remembered for dropping a snap on an easy field goal that might have given the Cowboys a win over the Seahawks in the playoffs. He also led the Cowboys to a 44-6 loss to the Eagles to end the 2008 season; a 34-3 loss to the Vikings in the 2009 playoffs; and 31-14 loss to the Giants when the NFC East title was on the line in the season finale in 2011.
We may not remember Romo for those failures, though, thanks to his final interception of the 2012 season.
Dallas trailed 21-10 with less than 7 minutes remaining. Dallas finally forced a Washington punt, and Dwayne Harris returned the ball to the Washington 31. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the 16.
Three plays later, Romo hit Kevin Ogletree for a touchdown. A two-point conversion cut the Washington lead to 21-18.
The defense forced another stop. Dallas got the ball back with 3:33 remaining. Romo moved the ball to the Dallas 29 on a pass to Jason Witten.
And then he threw another pass. He lofted a ball in the left flat towards DeMarco Murray, and the ball seemingly hung in the air like a short punt. Murray didn’t catch it. Redskins’ linebacker Rob Jackson did.
We fondly remember Staubach hitting the likes of Tony Hill, Butch Johnson, Ron Springs, and Preston Pearson in that 1979 finale against the Redskins. We may spend years remember Romo lofting a ball to the flat and into the waiting arms of a Washington linebacker.
Another 8-8 season. No playoffs.
Dallas barely stopped Alfred Morris all night, and Morris ran six times on the ensuing drive. Dallas might have forced a field goal attempt, but Jason Hatcher hit Robert Griffin III‘s helmet on a third-down play and drew a penalty.
Romo finished the night with three interceptions, having thrown two in the first quarter. He redeemed himself with a touchdown pass to Jason Witten to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead in the first half, but the Cowboys gave up a touchdown run by Morris later in the quarter.
When Griffin scored in the third quarter, Washington took a 14-7 lead. That meant the Cowboys trailed in every single game this season. Moreover, the Cowboys held halftime leads in only 3 games. No wonder the team finished 8-8.
The makeshift defense gave up 200 rushing yards to Morris, who eventually scored three times. Murray finished with 76 yards.
Dez Bryant and Miles Austin both left the game early with injuries, forcing the Cowboys to play Ogletree, Harris, and Cole Beasley. Those were the receivers in the game when the Cowboys started their drive that ended with Romo’s last interception.
So, we have about 116 days until the NFL Draft. The Cowboys will pick 18th. I’m not the least bit excited about anything.
On Sunday night, the Cowboys and Redskins will face off in a season finale for the sixth time in history. Here is a review of the previous five games.
1979—Dallas 35, Washington 34
Many fans remember the first time the teams met to end a regular season. Dallas and Washington were both 10-5 when they faced off at Texas Stadium on December 16, 1979. The winner would win the NFC East, while a Dallas loss would have sent the Cowboys to the wildcard game one week later to play the Eagles.
Washington took a 34-21 lead in the fourth quarter and had the ball with about four minutes left.
Nothing looked good for the Cowboys until a series of plays that allowed Roger Staubach to pull off one last miracle.
- On a 3rd and 5 play with just under 4 minutes left, Clarence Harmon fumbled the ball, and Randy White recovered.
- Staubach went to work right after the fumble, hitting Butch Johnson, Tony Hill, and Ron Springs on consecutive passes. The 26-yard pass to Springs for a touchdown cut the Washington lead to 34-28.
- Washington faced a critical 3rd-and-2 with 2 minutes left. John Riggins tried to run outside, but Larry Cole burst through the hole and caught Riggins for a loss.
- The Cowboys got the ball back with 1:46 at their own 25. Hill came up with another huge reception, picking up 20 yards on the first play of the drive.
- On the next play, Staubach evaded the rush and hit Preston Pearson over the middle for another 23-yard gain.
- Pearson’s second reception of the drive moved the ball to the Washington 8, which set up Staubach’s game-winning pass to Hill.
Here’s a video worth watching:
1996—Washington 37, Dallas 10
The Cowboys had nothing to gain when they faced the Redskins in the season finale in 1996. This was the last game ever played at RFK Stadium, and the Cowboys barely showed up in a 37-10 loss.
1998—Dallas 23, Washington 7
Two years later, the Cowboys hosted Washington with a chance to sweep the entire division. Dallas beat the Redskins but then turned around and lost to division rival Arizona one week later.
2002—Washington 20, Dallas 14
There was nothing on the line when the teams faced off in 2002. The game proved to be Emmitt Smith’s last with Dallas. He entered the game needing 38 yards to reach 1,000 for the 12th consecutive year. He managed just 13 yards on 18 carries.
2007—Washington 27, Dallas 6
Many thought the Cowboys needed momentum heading into the 2007 playoffs. Instead, the Redskins thumped Dallas, and two weeks later, Dallas lost to the Giants in the playoffs.
Robert Griffin III started the game against the Saints throwing a series of WR screens. Those screens became downfield throws soon enough, and he finished the game completing 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards with 2 TDs and no picks. That’s a passer rating of 139.9. Drew Brees only managed a passer rating of 70.9 in a 40-32 loss to Washington.
The other rookie is running back Alfred Morris, who was previously best known as a deep fantasy sleeper. He ran hard en route to a 96-yard, 2 TD game.
In Cleveland, the Eagles did not look good all game. Michael Vick threw four picks, and the Browns held a 16-10 lead in the fourth quarter. However, Vick managed to hit Clay Harbor with the game-winning touchdown with 1:18 remaining, giving the Eagles a 17-16 win.
That means that defending Super Bowl Champions are now the only 0-1 team in the NFC East. On top of that, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Chicago each had strong games, showing that the NFC as a whole looks awfully tough.
Two quick thoughts: (1) New Orleans was a good place for the Cowboys to visit following the 1971 and 1977 seasons, so there’s at least some history; and (2) who the hell is Jamison Hensley?
(Answer: ESPN’s AFC North blogger. I’m confident now.)
Anyway, several commentators have the Cowboys going 8-8 again, or perhaps going 9-7, or perhaps going 7-9. In a Morning News poll, 24.63% think Dallas will go 10-6, while 20.42% think that Dallas will go 9-7. The Morning News staff has the Cowboys starting at 3-1 only to finish at 9-7. Importantly, the staff thinks the Cowboys will be swept by both the Eagles and Giants. The only bold prediction by DMN with a positive spin is that the Cowboys will beat New Orleans in week 16.
Back to ESPN, most have picked either the Eagles or Giants to win the NFC East. However, at least Herm Edwards thinks that Dallas will grab one of the two wildcard spots.
Mel Kiper picked the Cowboys as a possible dark horse, though he wouldn’t use the label dark horse.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Bengals won 11 games. I could also see them winning five. They’re the team I can’t peg either way, which has been their history. The Cowboys aren’t much of a dark horse in that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them in the playoffs, but Dallas is an 11-win team if it can stay healthy in key spots.