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!
Could Cowboys Have Another “Ezekiel Elliott vs. Jalen Ramsey” Debate?
The debate over "Ezekiel Elliott vs. Jalen Ramsey" for from the 2016 NFL Draft has never really stopped in Dallas. From before that draft until now, Cowboys fans still argue over which player the team should have taken. For the team, could they face that question again in the next few years?
A little over three years ago, the Cowboys drafted Elliott with the fourth-overall pick. In so doing, they also snubbed Ramsey; the cornerback expected to become a Cowboy and wound up going with the fifth pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Where you stand on this issue likely has a lot to do with how you value running backs. Some argued in 2016, and still do, that no RB is worth that high of a pick or paying top dollar for in future years. You've seen plenty of those opinions this offseason as talk of a long-term contract extension for Elliott has heated up.
Those same folks would have loved for Dallas to take Jalen Ramsey, who instantly became one of the NFL's top corners. And in 2021, with both players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, they would probably rather see the Cowboys let Elliott walk away and use that money to add an elite player at a position like cornerback.
We mention Ramsey here because of his very public feud with Jacksonville over his contract. The team reportedly informed him they would wait until next year to do a long-term extension, and Ramsey made it known through social media that he was going to drive the price up. Given his known issues with Jaguars' VP Tom Coughlin, it could lead to a parting of ways.
If Jalen Ramsey hit the open market, and still want to be a Cowboy, could the CB end up in Dallas after all?
Let's hypothesize that both Ezekiel Elliott and Jalen Ramsey have to play 2020 on their fifth-year options. Now the Cowboys are having to decide if they want give Zeke a long-term deal, the franchise tag, or just let him go.
How does the prospect of potentially signing Ramsey, or some other elite talent at another position, sway Dallas' thinking? Could they decide that the best bang for their buck is to spend roughly $15 million per year at RB or at CB, OT, or somewhere else?
The Cowboys already have a Pro Bowl corner in Byron Jones but there's still a lot of uncertainty at the other starting position. Neither Chidobe Awuzie or Jourdan Lewis have been consistent enough and both will have expiring contracts in 2021.
Ezekiel Elliott will turn 26 that year. He will have five seasons of workhorse mileage. And this is the same Cowboys team that decided to let DeMarco Murray walk away a few years ago.
Of course, Elliott trumps Murray in almost every way. He's been elite every season so far, not just one, and has been far more durable. Assuming personal conduct issues don't remain a problem, Zeke will be much harder to let go of than DeMarco was.
However, the salary cap forces teams to think about the entire roster when making personnel decisions. Even if you can justify paying Elliott huge money, that means less for someone else. And even if it makes sense for a year or two, what about when Zeke is creeping closer to 30 years old?
Again, I mentioned Ramsey here because of the intrigue with his contract situation in Jacksonville and connection to Dallas from the 2016 draft. It would be quite ironic if the Cowboys, five years later, were again having to decide between the same two players.
But Jalen exemplifies a greater issue that Dallas faces in the coming years. Does it make sense to tie up so much money at running back and weaken yourself at other positions?
While RBs as special as Ezekiel Elliott don't grow on trees, it's still one of the easiest positions to fill. Assuming the Cowboys still have one of the NFL's top offensive lines in a few years, they will be tempted to try and get solid rushing production with a much cheaper ball carrier.
When Dallas let DeMarco Murray go and then drafted Ezekiel Elliott a year later, some thought it could be the start of a new trend in roster management. Draft a RB high, get 4-5 years out of him, and then let somebody else pay him the big money. Rinse and repeat.
But then Zeke came along and has been the stuff of legends. If he has a long-term career in Dallas, he will be right there with Emmitt and Dorsett in the top-three of all time Cowboys running backs.
Elliott isn't just highly productive but brings personality and excitement. Guys like that are hard to let go of; they are as valuable for marketing as they are on the field.
That said, a lot can change in the next year or two. More issues with the league office, or a major injury, could have a dramatic effect on how we see Elliott's long-term value. It may make the decision much easier.
But assuming Zeke remains as valuable as ever, the Dallas Cowboys could be facing another major quandary between the running back and other elite players like Jalen Ramsey. What most helps the team win, and what has the most value over multiple seasons?
Hopefully, Ezekiel Elliott keeps playing well enough to keep the debate going.
Cowboys OT Mitch Hyatt is an Undrafted Rookie to Watch
Going undrafted is hardly a death blow to a player's hopes of making it into the NFL. We've seen many examples of players who have lengthy careers despite humble beginnings, and plenty of them happened right here in Dallas. Could offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt be the next undrafted success story for the Cowboys?
Hyatt just finished his college career at Clemson as a four-year starter, two-time national champion, and two-time All-American. While not an elite draft prospect, many had Mitch rated as at least a 5th-7th round pick. His going undrafted was a surprise.
While he measures with good size at 6'5" and a little over 300 lbs., Hyatt lacks upper body strength. But he's overcome that deficiency through the years with work ethic, motor, and smarts.
For the Cowboys, it's a lot easier to help a guy gain strength than it is to try and improve motivation or intelligence.
Dallas was not the only team interested in Mitch Hyatt once he hit free agency. But from the rookie's own lips, he didn't have a hard decision to make.
“'I received a fair amount of calls. It was a pretty chaotic five to 10 minutes for me,'” Hyatt said. “'I had a whole bunch of people in my ear. But I knew what kind of team the Cowboys were, I knew what they were about.'”
Whether it was the reputation of the Cowboys organization, its vaunted offensive line, or the chance to work with Coach Marc Colombo, Hyatt was clearly drawn to Dallas. Another reason for that may have been the perceived opportunity to make the roster.
The Cowboys seem to already be preparing for life without La'el Collins in 2020, when Collins is set to hit free agency. They gave Cam Fleming a two-year deal which keeps him through next year, plus drafted Connor McGovern in the third round of the 2019 draft. It suggests Dallas isn't planning to pay La'l the significant money he should demand.
If Fleming gets promoted to the starting job at right tackle, that would leave a vacancy for swing tackle in 2020. Mitch Hyatt could be one of Dallas' options for that role.
Even if the Cowboys don't keep Hyatt on the 53-man roster in 2019, they will likely try to put him on the practice squad. Ideally, a year of physical development there will make him a much stronger candidate for the 2020 season.
Of course, the reason we know those undrafted success stories so well is because they aren't typical. The odds are against Mitch Hyatt having any NFL career, but his collegiate success and intangibles speak to a guy who's worth taking a chance on.
If it works out, credit the Cowboys for continuing the tradition of Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Jeff Heath, and other undrafted players who became significant contributors.
Could CB Michael Jackson Prove To Be Cowboys Best Value Pick?
Looking back to the third day of the 2019 NFL Draft for the Dallas Cowboys, running backs Tony Pollard and Mike Weber are the most discussed players among fans and analysts. The front office made some pretty promising selections in the late rounds that could have important roles on the team in the near future. While many thought the Cowboys would be quick to add a rookie safety, it wasn't until the fifth round that the team drafted a defensive back, and it wasn't even a safety. Kris Richard got his guy Michael Jackson, from the Miami Hurricanes.
A few weeks apart from training camp, the 6-1 cornerback has been overlooked by many fans. Although the team got plenty of quality players in the late rounds, Jackson might end up being the best value pick when we look back to this rookie class a year from now.
In college, Jackson started 23 games between 2017 and 2018 as he racked up four interceptions and 10 pass deflections. He seems just like the kind of guy we know DB Coach Kris Richard loves. A tall, long, press cornerback with pretty solid range. Jackson is far from a player ready to start in the NFL, but Richard will have a lot of raw potential to work with.
When the former Seahawks defensive coordinator joined the Cowboys, he let it be known that he saw a lot of potential on Byron Jones. The 2015 first round pick's career was turned around after last season, when the team finally stopped moving Jones around the defensive backfield. As a full-time corner, Jones went on to become a second-team All-Pro last year.
While it would be unfair to compare Jones and Jackson, both of them arrived to the NFL with very different expectations, I can't help but wonder how far can Richard take the Miami product. Although it wasn't discussed as much, cornerback was an important need for the team because of a lack of depth and the uncertainty surrounding Jones' future on the team.
After an impressive 2018 season, extending Jones will be a huge challenge for the Cowboys front office. After all, there's a lot of homegrown talent due for big paydays. Who knows if when the day comes, the team will have what it takes to keep Jones in Dallas. Not to mention, Anthony Brown is entering his contract year. A solid nickel corner for the Cowboys could be gone, leaving Kris Richard's unit with very little depth.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, Michael Jackson has the size and potential to play in any spot in the secondary, giving Richard the chance to develop him at the position he wishes. After all, Richard will be in no hurry to get Jackson on the field. It's tough to imagine Jackson getting an important role for the upcoming season, but he could certainly get a few snaps throughout the year. Having said that, it's in the long run that the All-ACC second-team CB can truly prove his worth.
In an ideal world, the Cowboys would keep their current CB but the cold, hard truth is NFL teams can't keep all of their players all the time. Jackson might have to eventually step up to an important spot on the defense. If Kris Richard develops him properly, Dallas won't be that concerned about a couple of their CBs potentially leaving. We'll see if Michael Jackson is ready when his name is called.
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