Starting an NFL season 2-0 has always drawn headlines, and especially when it's as rare as it is for the Dallas Cowboys. The question now is if, unlike in years passed, the Cowboys are finally going to build something special on that solid foundation.
Over the last two weeks, wins against the New York Giants and Washington Redskins have given Dallas the doubly-good record of 2-0 both overall and in the NFC East. While neither team is seen as a contender this year, division games tend to go off script and be more competitive than what's on paper.
The Cowboys have handled their business so far this year and in impressive fashion. Can they keep it up?
Before 2019, Dallas has only had a 2-0 start three other times in the last 20 seasons. All of them occurred during Tony Romo's run as starting quarterback, but only once with Jason Garrett as head coach.
The most recent was in 2015. Coming on the heels of an impressive 12-4 finish in 2014 and the agony of the Dez Bryant “no catch” call in the playoffs, big things were expected in Dallas that year.
But even though the Cowboys moved to 2-0 with a Week 2 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the loss of Tony Romo to a broken collarbone in that game torpedoed the season. Dallas had to trot out the feckless trifecta of Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassell, and Kellen Moore at QB the rest of the year and only won two more games.
The other 2-0 starts for Tony Romo's Cowboys came in consecutive years from 2007 to 2008, again at times when expectations were high for the team based on perceived talent and upward momentum. Neither ended the way we hoped.
Coming off Romo's ascension to starting QB in 2006 and a surprising run to the playoffs, the Cowboys were one of the NFL's best teams the following year. They posted a 13-3 record in the regular season and were the top seed in the NFC for the postseason.
But that beautiful run ended in bitter disappointment when Dallas, despite enjoying a bye week and home field advantage, got shocked by the visiting Giants in their first playoff game.
Much like the 2015 season, Dallas went into 2008 looking to take things to the next level after a tough postseason exit. They actually started the year 3-0 and were looking like contenders again.
But again like 2015, a Romo injury struck a major blow to the team's efforts. A finger injury suffered in a bad overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals would cause Tony to miss the next three games. Dallas went from 4-1 to 5-4 during that absence.
Unfortunately, Romo's return did not right the ship that year. The Cowboys would suffer a horrific 1-3 slide in December and ultimately finish 9-7 and just outside of the playoff bubble. The season was capped with a humiliating 44-6 loss in Philadelphia.
This brief history lesson may not mean much to some of you. After all, every season is its own story.
But while major media will bombard you with stats about how teams who start 2-0 typically have certain outcomes to their seasons, the Dallas Cowboys have often defied those odds. We've found creative ways to ruin hot starts and overcome bad ones over the last two decades.
What really strikes me about this 2019 season is the level of expectation and how it compares to 2007, 2008, and 2015. True, expectations are always high around here. But even the most objective onlookers couldn't help but have high hopes for the Cowboys in those years based on what had happened the previous season.
Between the strong play after adding Amari Cooper and advancing to the the second round of the 2018 playoffs, Dallas had good cause to expect big things this season. Their approach to offseason business, such as adding veterans Robert Quinn and Randall Cobb and locking up key players to lucrative business, suggested that the Cowboys were going all in to try and win a championship with this roster.
So far the hype has been validated. Say what you want about the opposition these first two weeks, but I go back to the well-established history of NFC East play and how the results have often defied logic. Funky things tend to happen in division games, but the Cowboys have handled their rivals so far as if they were any other NFL basement dwellers.
But while the 2-0 start and two divisions wins are a great base for the 2019 season, we have ample evidence of how askew things can go from here. Thankfully, Dak Prescott has already proven to have more durability than our last starting QB. But much like we saw in 2017, an injury at left tackle or some other key position can do its own damage.
While players like Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and others will likely have many more years to try and win in Dallas, this is still a critical year for Jason Garrett. Coaching on the final year of his contract, Garrett would likely not see a new one if the team has another collapse. How much disappointment the Jones family will stomach this year depends on the final result.
But if you've been following this team as long as I have, your feelings about this year likely transcend any single coach or player. You've been waiting almost 25 years now to see the Dallas Cowboys get back to glory, and right now feels like one of the best opportunities.
It's an exciting time, but that long wait also comes with a knowledge of past outcomes.
Hopefully, this year, the strong start is the beginning of something truly special.