The Dallas Cowboys are headed to San Francisco for Week 7 after resting up during their bye week. Today, I thought we'd take a quick look at how the Cowboys have fared in the game following their bye week during Jason Garrett's tenure as head coach.
Yesterday, CheatsheetWarRoom.com sent me some data about the last five years of Cowboys' performances immediately after their bye week. I looked up 2011 also to get the full range of games since Jason Garrett took over in Dallas.
- 2016 – Cowboys 29, Eagles 23 (OT)
- 2015 – Giants 27. Cowboys 20
- 2014 – Cowboys 31, Giants 28
- 2013 – Cowboys 24, Giants 21
- 2012 – Ravens 31, Cowboys 29
- 2011 – Patriots 20, Cowboys 16
It's probably not a big surprise to see that Garrett is 3-3 after bye weeks. This is the same coach who went 8-8 for three straight seasons, and who went 4-12 after going 12-4. A cosmic balancing act has seemingly followed Jason throughout his time with the Cowboys.
What's really important to look at here is the quality of these opponents. Did the bye week really factor in to the outcome? Should Garrett's record following bye weeks encourage or discourage us for this Sunday's game? Does it really matter?
The 2011 Patriots and 2012 Ravens were no slouches. New England went 13-3 that season and reached the Super Bowl, losing to the Giants. 2012 was Baltimore's championship season with Joe Flacco.
Despite their 8-8 record those seasons and both games being on the road, Dallas was competitive in these contests. The 2011 loss came on a last-minute touchdown drive by Tom Brady. The 2012 loss to the Ravens was by just a two-point margin.
Did the extra rest and preparation time from the bye week make Dallas more competitive in these games?
It's arguable, given how the rest of those seasons went. Dallas was still trying to rebuild following the change from Wade Phillips to Jason Garrett and significant roster turnover. As I've said many times, the fact that Garrett even had this team at 8-8 during those years is an accomplishment. They were not on the level of conference and Super Bowl championship teams at that time.
So yes, given how close those contests were, I'll say that the bye week had a positive effect even in losses. It's a reasonable assumption that the Cowboys would've fared worse against those high-caliber opponents without the time off the week before.
2013-2015 gave us three-straight meetings with the New York Giants coming off our bye week. 2013 was another 8-8 season for the Cowboys but the Giants were only 7-9 themselves. With Tony Romo healthy and under center, Dallas took that game despite it being in New Jersey. They'd won a narrow 36-31 meeting against the Giants in the season opener that year, so getting another win on the road was impressive.
In 2014, Dallas had their breakout season under Garrett and went 12-4 on the way to the playoffs. The Giants were only 6-10. Given that, Dallas only winning 31-28 in that year's game is a little disappointing. You'd have expected a more decisive victory, but division games do often take a life of their own. In this case, the bye week didn't seem to matter much.
2015 was, of course, the abysmal season of Romo's collarbone injury and Dallas going 4-12 with Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore at quarterback. That year's post-bye game came during Cassel's run at QB and was actually one of the better showings Dallas had that year; a 27-20 loss on the road. If not for three interceptions by Matty Yikes, the Cowboys might've stolen that game.
These three years give us a mixed bag of evidence. The bye week seemingly helped in 2013 and 2015 but appeared inconsequential in 2014. The fact that all of these games came against a division rival taints things as well; the usual metrics and principles tend to go out the window in rivalry games.
Last year's bye week follow-up was at home against the Eagles, and it was an overtime thriller with the Cowboys winning 29-23 on a Dak Prescott touchdown throw to Jason Witten.
In this case, it's arguable that the bye week actually hurt the young Cowboys. They'd taken a five-game winning streak into the bye and then came out flat in a division game at home. Dak Prescott threw only his second interception in seven games and Dallas was down 23-13 in the third quarter. They finally rallied to force overtime and get the victory, but it definitely took them some time to wake up following the bye week.
Obviously, the circumstances of that game and this year's meeting with the 49ers are very different. Dallas limped into their 2017 bye week after consecutive narrow defeats to the Rams and Packers. They are a 2-3 team desperate to get their season back on track. There's no room for complacency to set in, which could improve their post-bye performance from what we saw last year.
One thing that's clear from this six-year history is that Dallas' success after bye weeks had been consistent with the quality of their opponents. They weren't as good as 2011 Patriots or 2012 Ravens and lost those games. They got beat in 2015 with Matt Cassel at quarterback, as they did in almost every other game without Tony Romo. In the other three years, they were victorious when even or superior to their NFC East rivals.
That's good news for this 2017 game as the 49ers are, seemingly, a much worse team than the Cowboys. They've just changed starting quarterbacks after going 0-6 and seem to already be thinking about the future. They haven't been total pushovers in their losses but there is no excuse, even on the road, for the Cowboys to lose this game.
Based on everything we've considered, I think the bye week will help Dallas in this game. The extra preparation may not help much given the QB change in Frisco, but the rest and opportunity to reset mentally was much needed following two difficult losses. The Cowboys will also get back Sean Lee, whose absence may have been the deciding factor in those defeats.
Will Jason Garrett be over or under .500 in games following bye weeks? We'll find out on Sunday!