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2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen

RJ Ochoa

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NFC East Blog - 2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen

"This is Christmas! The season of perpetual hope!" -Kate McCallister in the 1990 classic Home Alone.

Christmas 2006 was a special day for me. My Dad took me to my first ever Dallas Cowboys game... a home contest against the Jeff Garcia-led Philadelphia Eagles.

I was young and wide-eyed at everything surrounding this incredible team. I was particularly enamored with the play of a quarterback who was taking the NFL by storm - Tony Romo.

The game actually took place on Christmas Day - so there was a magic in the air. Hours before kickoff we gathered with some other fans in the parking lot of the team hotel as the Cowboys exited it on their way to Texas Stadium. It was a fun atmosphere to chat about the 9-5 Cowboys and snag a few autographs.

Players would come out one by one and the crowd would roar each time. Certain players, Terrell Owens for example, gained louder cheers and excitement. Finally, after a majority of the team had come and gone, Tony Romo made his way to the parking lot and was met with the loudest greeting of them all.

Cowboys Blog - 2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen

Fans stormed the fence screaming for him. "Tony! Tony! Hey!" People, myself among them, were losing their minds over the new Cowboys QB.

Romo graciously made his way to the line of fans and started to sign some autographs. I reached out my football as my Dad watched and hoped with me.

After an autograph here, an autograph there, Romo kept making his way down the line... away from me. With every step he took my heart broke that much more.

As it was Christmas Day it was pretty chilly in Dallas. Tony was about 15 autographs deep and you could sense that this was it. I was beginning to feel devastated. My fears were realized when Tony waved at the crowd and headed for his car.

I was crushed. Keep in mind that we still had the actual game to go to! None of it mattered, though. This was going to eat at me all day and my Dad, my best friend, knew that better than I did.

My Dad, in an effort to console his son, looked around for a sign of hope. He scanned the perimeter when suddenly... an idea hit him.

"Son, you see that stoplight over there?" he said as he gestured about a hundred yards away.

"Tony has to go through it. If you run, and you catch him, anything can happen." my Dad said.

There was no time to waste. I tucked my football and ran. Remember that it was pretty cold, so I had a lot of layers on, and I had to beat a moving car. This was a long shot.

I don't know that I've ever run that fast in my life. Like a running back staring down would-be tacklers I kept my eyes on Tony throughout the entire sprint. You could sense that something special was about to happen.

As I approached the stoplight I looked up... and the light turned red. I turned back and saw Tony slowing down (he does obey traffic signals after all) and my heart began to race.

I was the only kid, the only person, around for hundreds of yards. There was nobody there. He could have just ignored me and no one would have ever known.

As Tony's car slowed down he began to roll down his window... and he already had a sharpie in his hand.

I was excited. I was nervous. I was cold. I was exhausted! I'd just sprinted a hundred yards for crying out loud. I blurted out, "Tony! Could.. you, uh.. sign... uh..."

Cowboys Blog - 2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen 1

"Merry Christmas, man." Tony said as he signed my ball.

I trotted back to my Dad and we hugged. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

I still get pretty emotional thinking about that day.

I love Tony Romo. I always have. It pains me greatly that I have to consider a plan for the playoffs that doesn't include him lining up under center for the Dallas Cowboys.

But like my Dad once brilliantly said, "Anything can happen."

This is that anything.


I've written extensively here at Inside The Star about potential "plans" for the Dallas Cowboys to make the playoffs this season.

The first plan (we'll call it Plan I) was put into action right before the loss against the Seattle Seahawks on the first day in November. I drew up a second draft (aka Plan II) after the Cowboys fell at home to the Philadelphia Eagles - a game which the first plan totally hinged on. I thought one revision would be all it took.

I was back at it just one week after the second plan when the Dallas Cowboys inexplicably lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that's how Plan III was born. It seemed like a hat trick of plans would be all we needed when the Cowboys carried out the first step of it by beating the Miami Dolphins... but every plan in existence was blown to smithereens when Tony Romo was laying on the turf at AT&T Stadium on Thanksgiving.

You now know that I've been a heavy supporter of Tony Romo since 2006. Seeing him, and knowing what had just happened, almost a week ago now... was perhaps the lowest that I've ever felt as a Dallas Cowboys fan.

One thing that I've learned from Tony over this decade-long ride is that you can't give up. You just can't.

How many times has he evaded a tackle, made a throw, or pulled out a victory when all logic pointed to the contrary? We owe it to him to keep believing.

This is the greatest game in the world. We spend the majority of the offseason counting down the days until Dallas Cowboys Football officially begins. It's here and we're smack dab in the middle of it. Forgive me if I don't want to fast forward through it. We're going to make the most of 2015.

The Dallas Cowboys believe that the playoffs are still a possibility. They said so yesterday when they decided not to put Tony Romo on season-ending injured reserve. They believe, so we're going to believe.

Welcome to Plan IV - where anything can happen.

Here are the standings in the NFC East through Week 12:

Overall Record Division Record
Washington Redskins 5-6 2-1
New York Giants 5-6 2-3
Philadelphia Eagles 4-7 2-2
Dallas Cowboys 3-8 2-2

I spent a lot of Plans I, II, and III looking at things by group. We're going to do things a little differently and look at each team and their remaining schedule individually.

Washington Redskins (5-6)

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears Buffalo Bills @ Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

If you've read my previous plans then you know that I'm a big fan of color coding things. We'll get to that, but let me explain this five game stretch first.

The hopes and dreams of these Cowboys totally and completely hinge on them beating the Redskins in both of their matchups - we're going to give Washington losses for those.

The other three games? Chicago has been resurgent lately, they did just beat Green Bay at Lambeau on Thanksgiving when Favre got his number retired, and Buffalo is in contention for a wildcard spot in the AFC. Philadelphia is uglier than last year's eggnog, Washington will win that easily.

Looking at their schedule with wins in green and losses in red we have:

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears Buffalo Bills @ Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

This would put Washington at 7-9 on the season. It's not asking for a lot. In fact we control a good chunk of it, which is always a good thing. So what do we need, in layman's terms, from the Washington Redskins for Plan IV to work?

We need to beat the Redskins twice and have them lose at least one game from their other three.

New York Giants (5-6)

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings Philadelphia Eagles

Alright so we took care of the Redskins and now need to figure out how the Giants are going to give us everything on our Christmas list.

The Panthers and Vikings are two guaranteed losses for the Giants. The Jets are going to give them a run for their money this Sunday and I'm sure Odell Beckham Jr. will be on Revis Island... which means many interceptions from Eli Manning. It's hard to tell what you're going to get from the Dolphins and while I don't think the Eagles could beat them in New York, the Giants are pretty bad themselves.

Looking at their schedule with wins in green and losses in red we have:

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings Philadelphia Eagles

The Panthers game is a slam dunk in terms of what we need. The Vikings aren't as much of a lock, but they're a free throw at the very worst. Just consider those two games for the Giants as the two games that we have against the Redskins. We can't control these, but we can easily assume losses for our division foe. This puts the Giants at 7-9 along with the Redskins.

We need the Giants to lose at least three of their five remaining games.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-7)

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
@ New England Patriots Buffalo Bills Arizona Cardinals Washington Redskins @ New York Giants

Of the three division rivals this domino is the one most likely to fall. Instead of a slam dunk this one is like the ball just permanently being surrounded by the net. The net of Chip Kelly's misguided football mind.

The Eagles in New England after the Patriots just experienced a gut-wrenching loss on primetime? Too da loo, Chippy. The Bills are in contention, the Cardinals are on fire... and it's hard to see them beating either other division rival right now.

Looking at their schedule with wins in green and losses in red we have:

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
@ New England Patriots Buffalo Bills Arizona Cardinals Washington Redskins @ New York Giants

I am not making this up. Tell me one team on that list who you think the Eagles can beat. You can't.

You could maybe argue that they'd beat the Bills if Rex Ryan had a bad enough day, but they are not beating the Patriots or Cardinals. That alone would put them at nine losses which would tie them with Washington and New York.

They'd still have to beat Buffalo, Washington, and New York... which is not happening. It would actually be awesome if Philly lost these next three games in a row. That would put them at 10 losses on the season already.

Imagine they then beat Washington or New York or both? Remember that we counted the remaining game against the Eagles as a win for both the Redskins and Giants? Another loss from either of those teams would also put them at 10 on the season.

We need the Eagles to lose at least two more games (which will likely be the Patriots and Cardinals). If they also lose to Buffalo then we would like them to beat Washington or New York or BOTH to give us even more breathing room.

Dallas Cowboys (3-8)

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
@ Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills Washington Redskins

The best for last. (I hope the same is true for plans as well).

I know that it's hard to envision literally any of these as a win because these Dallas Cowboys have not won one single game without Tony Romo... and he will not be present for any of them. We're off to a good start, aren't we?

Remember that this is where anything can happen. You can't see this team, with all of its stars on both sides of the ball, beating the Redskins twice? We're halfway there off of that alone.

Say we drop the deuce on Washington (like what I did there?). What else do we need? It's simple - two out of three.

Looking at their schedule with wins in green and losses in red we have:

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
@ Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills Washington Redskins

I cannot stress enough how vital the two games against the Redskins are. Without those this plan does not work (that explanation is coming right after this, I promise).

The Cowboys have a score to settle in Green Bay. If they can pull off the win in Washington it's hard to see them not getting up for that contest. Toss in the fact that the Packers have lost four out of their last five? They're beatable!

The Jets are for real this year. There's no way that we can hang with them offensively if Revis eliminates Dez. Rex Ryan can be beat, his Bills are so hot and cold.

Ultimately it doesn't matter which games are wins between the Redskins ones. We must have at least two. That would get us to 7-9.

We NEED to beat the Redskins both times. We also need to win two out of three of the games in between (and potentially only one out of those three if Philadelphia is able to give us more breathing room)

NFC East

So if all of this comes to fruition we'd have:

Overall Record Division Record
Washington Redskins 7-9 3-3
New York Giants 7-9 3-3
Philadelphia Eagles 4-12 2-4
Dallas Cowboys 7-9 4-2

That 4-2 there at the end? It's really important.

The immediate tiebreaker within the division is, you guessed it, division record. This is why those Redskins games are so vital to this whole plan:

  • The Redskins only have one division loss currently, but with two opportunities to play them we control the ability to turn that into three which we'd be better than.
  • The Giants are already at three division losses. As we are 2-2 we would be better with the two Redskins wins.
  • The Eagles will lose to the Patriots and Cardinals, that part is as guaranteed as it can be at this point. That's why if they lose to Buffalo we'd be rooting for them in the final two weeks. Losses to New England, Buffalo, and Arizona would put the Eagles at 4-10 on the season entering their games against Washington and New York. As we're planning on the Cowboys finishing at 7-9, even if Philly won those last two and ended with a 4-2 division record they would still be one overall game behind us and therefore not a threat. They could finish at 6-10 with those division wins and give us an extra game for potential error (right now the margin is one).

Plan IV

  • We need to beat the Redskins twice and have them lose at least one game from their other three.
  • We need the Giants to lose at least three of their five remaining games.
  • We need the Eagles to lose at least two more games (which will likely be the Patriots and Cardinals). If they also lose to Buffalo then we would like them to beat Washington or New York or BOTH to give us even more breathing room.
  • We NEED to beat the Redskins both times. We also need to win two out of three of the games in between (and potentially only one out of those three if Philadelphia is able to give us more breathing room). 

There you have it - a fourth draft of the 2015 Dallas Cowboys' chances at making the playoffs.

If you want to pack up shop and focus on 2016 I'm not going to talk you out of it. I'm a realist and I get that things look as bleak as ever. I'm just choosing the other option.

This isn't a matter of believing until we're mathematically eliminated or being an eternal optimist.

This is Christmas. The season of perpetual hope.

This is where anything can happen.

This is that anything.


RJ Ochoa on Fancred

~ Follow RJ Ochoa on Fancred ~

What do you think of Plan IV? What are your thoughts on how probable this is? I'd like to know! Comment below, Email me at Roel.Ochoa.Jr@Gmail.com or Tweet to me @rjochoa!

Tell us what you think about "2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!



I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Smiley N. Pool / The Dallas Morning News

Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?

Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.

Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli Should Be On The Hot Seat

Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli

El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.

Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.

Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.

Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.

En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.

Scott Linehan Acknowledges Need for New "Wrinkles" in Cowboys Offense

Dallas Cowboys OC Scott Linehan (Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports)

Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan

Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.

Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.

A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.

Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.

Jerry Jones Delivers Vote of Confidence in "Real Deal" Jason Garrett

Head Coach Jason Garrett

El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.

Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.

Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.

Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.

Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Star Blog

2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch

Kevin Brady

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Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL's Top 10 Rookies

As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.

It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.

Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.

No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.

Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.

There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.

Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.

Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.



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Star Blog

What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?

Kevin Brady

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.

Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.

They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?

Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.

Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.

Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.

Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.

Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.

This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.

The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.



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