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Fact or Fiction: Jason Garrett and Cowboys Suck in December

Jess Haynie

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Jason Garrett

Although they got the win last week against the Minnesota Vikings, the Dallas Cowboys didn't look like the who'd won 10-straight games going in. The offense sputtered more than any other week since the season opener.

Ezekiel Elliott, Vikings, fumble

Pioneer Press: Liam James Doyle

The performance raised concerns that the Cowboys might headed into the dreaded December decline. There is a prevailing notion among Dallas fans and the nation as a whole that the Cowboys play their worst football at the end of the year.

I thought it would be a good idea to look back on the team's late-season history during Jason Garrett's coaching tenure. How true is it that the Cowboys' level of play drops after Thanksgiving?

After the win over Minnesota, Garrett has a 14-15 record in regular season games played after Thanksgiving. That alone says that the Cowboys aren't horrible at the end of the year, but they certainly aren't above average.

Each December is its own story, though. How many of those games has a backup quarterback played? How many games were inconsequential due to having clinched or been eliminated from the playoffs?

We'll get a much more accurate impression of the Cowboys' late-season record if we look at each season separately.

2010 - 3-2 post-Thanksgiving (5-3 overall)

Jon Kitna, Roy WilliamsThis was the year that Jason Garrett took over as interim head coach after Wade Phillips' firing. He went 5-3 over that stretch despite Jon Kitna, and not Tony Romo, starting at quarterback in all those games.

The Cowboys' three late wins this year were not overly impressive. The best win was an overtime victory over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in their stadium. Another was against Washington, who was having a bad season of their own. The final win came against the Eagles, but Philly was resting their starters after having already clinched the NFC East.

2011 - 1-4 post-Thanksgiving (8-8 overall)

This was the season that helped create the entire December narrative for the Cowboys. They were 7-4 after beating the Miami Dolphins on Thanksgiving and would only win more game, missing the playoffs in deplorable fashion.

Three of the four losses came were with Tony Romo under center. In Week 16, Romo injured his hand on the first drive against Philadelphia and Stephen McGee played the rest of the way.

2012 - 3-2 post-Thanksgiving (8-8 overall)

Tony Romo

AP Photo/Tim Sharp

The Cowboys were 5-6 going into December this season, so they actually improved their record overall. However, they ultimately failed when it mattered most.

After three-straight wins the Cowboys were 8-6 and contending for the division title. They lost in overtime to the Saints and then headed to Washington for a winner-take-all game for the division title. Tony Romo three three interceptions as they fell 28-14, giving up the NFC East and missing the playoffs.

2013 - 1-3 post-Thanksgiving (8-8 overall)

Another bad December performance, but not as ugly as 2011. One of the losses comes with a major asterisk.

Once again, the Cowboys were in a Week 17 game for the division title. This time it was against the Eagles, but Tony Romo wasn't there to try and redeem himself. Kyle Orton was the starter after Romo had back surgery earlier in the week, and the Cowboys ultimately fell short of the playoffs yet again.

2014 - 4-0 post-Thanksgiving (12-4 overall)

Cowboys Draft - Beyond The Clock: Cowboys Undrafted Wonder, Tony RomoNot much to complain about here, obviously. The Cowboys kept right on winning and actually increased their performance level overall. Despite playing three games on the road, Dallas improved their average margin of victory from 8.4 points in their first eight wins to 21.5 in their last four games.


2015 - 1-4 post-Thanksgiving (4-12 overall)

In a season where everything went wrong for Dallas, would would December be any different? Ironically, despite the losses, they may have played their best football overall during these final games.

Though it didn't produce any wins, switching to Kellen Moore at quarterback had the offense looking more fluid and functional than at any other point with Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel.

~ ~ ~

So is it true that the Cowboys suck in December?

Cowboys Headlines - LISTEN: Jason Garrett Joins ESPN San Antonio's The BlitzDepending on what you want to focus on, you can make a case either way. They've had some rough times, especially from 2011-2013. But the 2014 season showed that this team can carry momentum right on through December and even elevate their level of play.

There is plenty of reason for optimism. This 2016 iteration of the Cowboys is on the longest winning streak in franchise history. They're taking more momentum into the final stretch than any Garrett-coached team has, even that 2014 bunch.

It's also important to consider who's at quarterback. Since Garrett became the head coach, Romo's post-Thanksgiving record is just 9-7 in games where he took the entirety or majority of snaps. That's a far cry from his usual record as a starting quarterback.

Dak Prescott got the win last week and was a key reason for it. Despite not putting up big numbers, he made plays with his feet and avoided throwing any interceptions. His kept the team in the game with timely plays and led them on the escape path to victory.

Last week was a legitimate cause for concern if you know the team's December history. Even though Dak kept his head up and the team won, the fumbles and penalties were reminiscent of times we'd all like to forget.

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys at Giants: Team Itinerary and Broadcast Information 1Tomorrow night's showdown against the New York Giants is the most important game left on the Cowboys' regular season schedule. They can clinch the division with a win and perhaps even a first-round bye and home field advantage depending on other games. It could, effectively, be their season finale if everything goes right.

With nine full days of rest since Minnesota, the Cowboys will have no excuses for laying an egg. They can play very well and lose; the Giants are a quality team and have the passing weapons to exploit Dallas' defensive problems.

However, if the Cowboys have another weak of anemic offense and costly mistakes, it's going to bring the December narrative right back to the headlines. It will become a leading question in every press conference and interview as they finish out the season. Jason gGa

Of course, Dallas has already clinched a playoff spot. There's only so much that the negativity can do to hurt them.

Still, you want your team feeling good about itself headed into the postseason. Winning against the Giants and keeping their foot on the neck of their remaining opponents is the kind of a confidence builder that all teams want, and that this youth-led team greatly needs.


Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Dallas Cowboys

Don’t Forget Special Teams Value in Cowboys Roster Decisions

Jess Haynie

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C.J. Goodwin

Building a 53-man roster in the NFL is a complex formula, requiring balance between numerous positions on each side of the ball. But what often gets overlooked in our analysis as outsiders is special teams, and that's a huge factor for many of the Dallas Cowboys players hoping to make it past final cuts.

Some players have survived in the league by being just good enough at their listed positions but excelling in special teams roles. You may think of former Dallas safety Bill Bates, who was personally responsible for a special teams player being made part of the annual Pro Bowl roster. A more recent example would be Keith Davis, who was an adequate safety but a special teams ace for several seasons.

To be sure, someone is going to be on this 2019 Cowboys more for their special teams value than their actual offensive or defensive ability. Who might he, or they, be?

One candidate is veteran Cornerback C.J. Goodwin. He is considered an exceptional talent in coverage on punts, which is probably the only reason he's still in the NFL today. At age 29, Goodwin has never really emerged as a consistent contributor on defense.

Young players like Donovan Olumba or rookie Michael Jackson, if not already superior cornerbacks to Goodwin, have far more upside to keep on the roster. But

considering how little they may get on the field anyway as the fifth or sixth corners, you can see why special teams value becomes so important. It may be the only time you actually see them in the game.

If the Cowboys don't want to lose a young prospect but can't let go of Goodwin's special teams ability, it may prompt them to go long at the CB position. But that means taking a roster spot from some other position, and thus the balancing act continues.


Don't Forget About RB Jordan Chunn in the Cowboys Backfield

Dallas Cowboys RB Jordan Chunn

Another player to watch in this discussion is second-year an Running Back Jordan Chunn. He doesn't have Alfred Morris' experience or maybe Mike Weber or Darius Jackson's rushing talent, but he has been showing up on the special teams units.

Yesterday, Cowboys insider Bryan Broaddus called Chunn "a better Rod Smith" in analyzing his chances of making the roster. If you don't recall, Jaylon's older brother was a solid RB but a standout special teams player in his few years with Dallas.

As we just mentioned with the 5th/6th CB slots, the third running back is not a guy you expect to see much on offense. That will be especially true this year as Dallas will be struggling just to give rookie Tony Pollard the touches he deserves as the number-two RB.

Given that, special teams play becomes vital for the value of whoever is behind Zeke and Pollard on the depth chart. If Jordan Chunn is superior to his competition in that regard, it could negate whatever he lacks as an actual running back.

This same conversation can be had throughout the roster. It's why Noah Brown might make the team over more traditionally gifted receivers, or why a certain linebacker or safety might be more valued than others.

We make the common mistake of referring to "both sides of the ball" when we talk about football teams. There are three sides; special teams can't be underestimated. It will certainly play a part in how the Dallas Cowboys finalize their 53-man roster this season and in years to come.


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Cowboys Preseason: Wide Receivers Power Rankings

Mauricio Rodriguez

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#DALvsWAS: Michael Gallup Will Play, Value Extends Beyond Passing Game 1

When cut-down day arrives for the Dallas Cowboys, the team's decision making ability will really be put to the test once they get to the wide receiver position. The Cowboys have plenty of young talent there and choosing the players that will make the 53-man roster won't be easy. Unfortunately, you can't keep them all.

With the Cowboys offense set to take the next step in 2019 under Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore, the team has to get WR right. Since the offseason, we've seen many things from the team's wide receivers that make us wonder who's better than who and who should wear the Star once September comes around.

Today, I share with you my power rankings for the Dallas Cowboys' wide receivers.

Amari Cooper has Final Say on Trade Compensation in Cowboys Win 3

Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper

1.-3. The Absolute Locks

It's really not necessary to discuss the Cowboys' top three wide receivers. We know there is absolutely no way they fail to make the roster. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb are expected to be the team's starters. Cooper proved he can be a big-time threat as the Cowboys WR1 after many questioned his future following his struggles as an Oakland Raider.

Gallup has had an impressive offseason and preseason, building on his very solid playoff work from last January. This guy is poised for a breakout season and has even shown flashes of having WR1 talent. For now, though, he should be a great number two for Dak Prescott.

As far as Randall Cobb is concerned, he should be more than a decent slot receiver for Dallas replacing Cole Beasley.

Don't worry about the three starting wide receivers. They should be a very good unit.

4. Cedrick Wilson

I might be high on Cedrick Wilson, but I really believe he can be special for the Cowboys. I put him at number four because I believe he's the most balanced player among the other wide receivers. Before going down injured versus the San Francisco 49ers in preseason, he was having himself quite a performance, shadowing undrafted rookie Jon'Vea Johnson, who was supposed to steal the show at WR.

I liked him as a prospect coming out of Boise State last year and I still do. I believe he'll make the roster. He's also shown he could have a role as a returner on special teams.


Who Will be Cowboys' Main Punt Returner in 2019, Tavon Austin?

5. Tavon Austin

Austin didn't have a chance to prove his worth in 2018 after being out most of the season due to injury. With him returning and being in the thick of the WR battles, he'll likely have a spot on the roster. He has potential to play in the slot and steal a few snaps from Cobb while also being a threat for opposing defenses in the deep game thanks to his speed. Not to mention, he's expected to be a contributor on special teams.

6. Noah Brown

Often, I'm surprised by how many in Cowboys Nation feel about Noah Brown. However you may feel about the team's 23-year old receiver, don't expect him to be cut from the team.

We know the coaching staff values his blocking skills very much. Plus, he has upside as a receiver and could develop into a more serious weapon on offense. With the Cowboys set to carry only three tight ends, Brown is an important player for this football team.

7. Devin Smith

I expect the Cowboys to carry six receivers on their roster, so this would be where I expect the front office to start making cuts. Devin Smith has shined lately, specially against the Los Angeles Rams last Saturday when he hauled in a TD pass from Cooper Rush.

He has a chance to make the roster if he keeps turning heads, but right now, I have him in the outside looking in.

Cowboys WR Jon'Vea Johnson's Stock Drops After Preseason Opener

Dallas Cowboys WR Jon'Vea Johnson (Ashley Landis / The Dallas Morning News)

8. Jon'Vea Johnson

The undrafted rookie from Toledo was having a very strong offseason but his stock has been falling since preseason began. Unfortunately, Johnson's route running and ability to create separation aren't enough if his drop issues continue.

Hopefully, the Cowboys can keep him for the practice squad and continue to develop him because he really seems to be a special player. Right now, though, there are other guys the team should get on the team.

9. Jalen Guyton

Another undrafted rookie that made plenty of noise in the offseason. Sadly, we didn't see much from Guyton in preseason. This is another guy who could make the practice squad, but his chances of making the 53-man roster seem almost nonexistent right now.

10. Reggie Davis

Davis' chances of making the team took a huge hit when he muffed fumbled a punt versus the Rams last week. When you're fighting for those final spots, you can't make those mistakes on special teams.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Preseason: Wide Receivers Power Rankings" 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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Cowboys S Donovan Wilson’s Stock Continues to Rise

Matthew Lenix

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Cowboys S Donovan Wilson's Stock Continues to Rise

It's been no secret that the safety position for the Dallas Cowboys has been one of frustration in recent years. They've locked down the free safety spot with rising star Xavier Woods, however, the strong safety role hasn't found it's true ruler as of yet. Jeff Heath has started 31 of 32 games the last two seasons at strong safety but continues to be a liability in coverage and making tackles in the open field. Veteran George Iloka was brought in during free agency but still hasn't surpassed Heath as the number one. But the best attempt to shore up this particular position was made when the Cowboys took rookie Donovan Wilson in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

In the Cowboys first preseason game against the 49ers, Wilson got his first interception on the pro level. If you watch the video below, he does a fantastic job of reading the eyes of the quarterback and doesn't allow himself to be fooled when he tries to look him off. He sits on the route perfectly and creates the turnover. This is the kind of discipline you want to see from a rookie defensive back.

Tom Downey on Twitter

Rookie Donovan Wilson with the INT for the #Cowboys! Makes it a lot easier when the QB (C.J. Beathard) throws it right to you https://t.co/EIcACB6TSR

According to Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, Heath missed last weeks game against the Rams due to a neck stinger. This made his participation in practice limited for a few days and allowed Wilson to get some work with the first-team defense this week. He also split reps with Xavier Woods as the down safety in the box. A box safety's responsibility is to give support in the run game as well as jamming receivers/tight ends off the line, blitzing the quarterback and providing coverage in the flat.


Another added dimension for Wilson is that he had two years of nickel corner experience at Texas A&M. Anthony Brown is the starter at the position currently but having another guy with this skill set provides the Cowboys with the all-important position flex.

Wilson had 8 interceptions in college so he has some ball skills. His 21.5 tackles for loss at proves how effective he was in run support in the box safety role. With the help of Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, who developed top talents like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, Wilson could see himself with a huge role on this defense fairly quickly. So much so that I wouldn't be surprised if by seasons end he's the permanent starter at strong safety.


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