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The 2016 Dallas Cowboys Were Built On The Number 15
On Monday Bart Starr, the legendary long-time Green Bay Packers Quarterback who is in the Hall of Fame, celebrated his 83rd birthday. Happy belated to Mr. Starr.
Bart was the first (and second) ever Super Bowl MVP, earning the honor while wearing the white #15 on his green-and-gold jersey. This number has been on my mind a lot as of late, especially with this week's Cowboys/Packers Divisional Game looming.
You see, numbers are kind of my thing. If you follow me on Twitter then you're aware of my proclivity to tweet fun math equations that show a series of numbers culminating in one that implies some sort of destiny.
So what's fun about the number 15? Mr. Starr's birthday is a fun reminder that he's the greatest person to ever wear it in NFL History, but this number has a lot to do with the present... specifically the Dallas Cowboys.
You see, the Dallas Cowboys are trying to get to the NFC Championship Game. This is territory that has been foreign to America's Team since 1995. There are a lot of narratives hanging in the air and, if you look closely, you can connect most of them by the number that falls after 14 and precedes 16.
The 2016 Dallas Cowboys - and all of their aspirations - were built on 15, in more ways than one. Here's all of them.
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2016 Is Literally Built On 2015
Thanks to this handy-dandy little deal called a calendar, we all know that 2016 is the year that comes after 2015... so 2016 is literally built on 2015 as far as time is concerned.
While this sounds silly, it's true for the Dallas Cowboys as well. When you think about the experience that was the 2015 season, you think about all of the lessons that were learned and gleaned from it. In 2015 the Cowboys learned the steep price of not having a properly equipped back-up quarterback.
Dallas brought back Kellen Moore, but it was the drafting of Dak Prescott that we owe to 2015. An eye was on the future with the 135th pick of the Draft, and the future arrived in Week 3 of the Preseason when Tony Romo went down. Thank you for your lessons, 2015.
Bonus 15 Factoid: The 2015 Dallas Cowboys played the standard 16 regular season games all NFL teams do, but with the final one happening after the New Year they played exactly 15 games that season on the 2015 side of the calendar.
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Dak Prescott And Ezekiel Elliott Both Wore #15 In 2015
While an eye was on the future in the 4th Round of the Draft, all hands were on deck with the 4th Overall Pick. Dallas elected to take Ezekiel Elliott out of The Ohio State University, and he wound up leading the league in rushing. Pretty solid pick, I'd say.
It's no secret that Dak and Zeke have gravitated towards one another, jolting the future of the Dallas Cowboys and giving Cowboys Nation a great sense of optimism about it. There is a high level of 15 in both Dak and Zeke's past, though.
The horror that was 2015 brought forth two #DallasCowboys that used to wear #15. Amazing coincidence.
In the same way that 2016 was built on 15, this point is built on my previous one. The Cowboys learned how to be better in 2015, and the answer dictated that they acquire the services of both Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott.
2015 gave us two #15s, the greatest ones that we could have ever asked for.
Bonus 15 Factoid: Ezekiel Elliott had 15 rushing touchdowns in the regular season, and the fewest completions Dak Prescott had when playing for an entire game was 15.
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The Difference Of 15 Is The Power Of 4
Back in the early days of May, I wrote here at Inside The Star about The Power of 4 concerning the 2016 Dallas Cowboys Draft Class. That little 'ol class has done pretty well for themselves, don't ya think?
The current crop of Cowboys rookies has definitely solved a lot of problems. Beyond the obvious in Dak and Zeke, Anthony Brown has been fantastic, Maliek Collins has shown up a ton, Kavon Frazier has made a play or two, and we haven't even seen Jaylon Smith yet!
After going 12-4 in 2014 how does The 214 fix next year's 4-12? With 21 & 4.
There are a lot of people who are ready to crown 2016 as the greatest Dallas Cowboys Draft Class of all-time. I'd advise pumping the brakes for a bit as 1964 (Mel Renfro, Bob Hayes, and Roger Staubach) and 1975 (The Dirty Dozen) can't be caught in just one year, regardless of how great it is.
This rookie class may be about The Power of 4, but as 4 is the difference of 15 it all works for us.
Bonus 15 Factoid: If you add up those three draft classes (1964, 1975, and 2016) by their 12 individual numbers you get 51... which is 15 reversed.
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Sunday, January 15th, 2017
Let's just say it. This Sunday is going to be epic.
You can make a legitimate case - I'm not going to, but you can - that this Sunday's contest against the Green Bay Packers is the most important football game played by the Dallas Cowboys in 21 years.
It was January of 2015 when the Cowboys saw their 2014 season end at the iconic Lambeau Field on a blown call... this makes Sunday bigger than a normal playoff game. There's an air of "not this time" hovering around this particular Divisional Playoff Game.
Beyond all of that narrative there's the fact that this game occurs on January 15th. Both the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers hold this day highly in regard, as they have both won Super Bowls on it.
The Packers won Super Bowl I on this day - Bart Starr was obviously there - and the Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XII. While 12 obviously isn't 15, there is something neat to the notion that the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII with a stud rookie running back... just like they have now.
Bonus 15 Factoid: Sunday will mark 735 days since Dez Bryant's heroic catch in Green Bay during the 2014 Divisional Round of the Playoffs. 7 + 3 + 5 = 15.
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This Season Ends In Super Bowl LI, Which Is 15 Flipped, Where We Will Finish This Fight
As a student of NFL History I'm partial to referring to Super Bowls by their Roman Numerals, which is why I supremely hated Super Bowl 50.
Thankfully the NFL is back on track and we are approaching Super Bowl LI, aka 51 for the non-fans of Roman Numerals. It's obvious that 51 is the reverse image of 15, which suggests that things are destiny for our Cowboys.
The truth of the matter is that all of these are just a long line of fun coincidences. The real meat and potatoes of what the Dallas Cowboys are built on isn't the number 15... they're built on the guidance, vision, and discipline of Head Coach Jason Garrett.
Coach Garrett has preached a mantra to his team as they gear up for what is God-willing the ride of their lives - #FinishThisFight.
Is it a coincidence that "FinishThisFight" is 15 characters? Who knows. What I do know is that if anyone can do it, it's this team. Let's finish this fight. Huzzah.
Bonus 15 Factoid: Super Bowl LI will mark the 15th Super Bowl to occur in the month of February.
Was Sunday A “Wake Up Call,” Or Were Cowboys Exposed?
Entering last Sunday's game in Indianapolis, the Dallas Cowboys were riding high. Having won five straight games, including key victories over the top seeded Saints and division rival Eagles, everything seemed to be breaking right for the Cowboys heading into the home stretch.
Their defense was playing like one of the best in football, and after firing Paul Alexander and trading for Amari Cooper their offense was clicking just as they'd hoped. They needed (and still need) just one win to officially close out the division and clinch a home playoff game in January.
Instead, the Cowboys got absolutely demolished by the Indianapolis Colts. Of course, there's no shame in losing a road game to an 8-6 team in the NFL, but the way in which they lost certainly deserves some shame. Not even the 23-0 score can encapsulate the complete butt-kicking Dallas received at the hands of the Colts, and it was the type of loss that can sometimes make you question the blueprint.
The Cowboys, however, are not looking at it that way. Multiple leaders in the locker room have spoke this week about how they "needed" to lose like that. Running back Ezekiel Elliott called the loss embarrassing, but also said it is better for Dallas in the "grand scheme of the season."
Clearly, the leaders and coaches are calling the putrid performance a wake up call, something that will galvanize them and reset their win streak heading into the postseason. But is this really the case, or was the shutout defeat more of a sign of things to come?
Obviously it's too early to say for sure, but I do think it can be a little bit of both.
No, the Cowboys are not the class of the NFC, despite beating what can be called the best team in the same conference a couple weeks ago. There probably will prove to be some drop-off from the top 3 seeds in the conference and the Cowboys, if for no other reason than Dallas will have to go on the road to play those teams in the playoffs. It's really hard to win on the road in the NFL, especially with the increased wackiness of 2018.
The Cowboys offense is far from perfect or prolific, though if clicking they now have the skill talent to drop 30+ points any given Sunday. Their defense is talented, has a high ceiling, but is still very young and inexperienced. Though they've played elite level games before, they've also had some stinkers against the Colts and Titans during the same season.
All of this can be true. The Cowboys can be a team deserving of the playoffs, a team we should not be panicking over, but still a very flawed football team. They can be a team that if "hot" could make a run through the postseason, but also will have to answer some tough questions about coaches and players during the next two offseasons.
After all, who isn't greatly flawed in today's NFL? Hell, we just saw the beloved Rams lose two straight games.
Is it Too Late For Dallas to Fire OC Scott Linehan?
Grab your pitchforks and your torches, it's time to run the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan out of town. His playcalling has been absolutely atrocious season and it's time for him to hit the road, even if there are only two regular-season games left on the schedule.
It's completely unorthodox for an NFL team to fire an offensive coordinator this late in the season, but just last week we saw the Minnesota Vikings do just that when they parted ways with John DeFilippo. It was definitely a bold move to make considering the Vikings are still in playoff contention, but it was something they believed was in the best interest of their team.
I believe if the Dallas Cowboys want to do what's best for their team right now and not later, then they should go ahead and cut ties with Scott Linehan. His predictability and un-creativeness as a play caller is holding back a talented offense, which is hurting the overall team as a result. He's been given every opportunity to turn things around, but enough is enough.
I'd personally be on board with Jason Garrett taking over the playcalling duties. He has the experience and held the position with the Cowboys from 2007 until Linehan was hired. I'd even consider giving Kellen Moore a shot as the OC. He knows the system and has worked closely with Quarterback Dak Prescott. Regardless, the Cowboys need to find some way to increase their offensive productivity.
Right now the Cowboys offense is the 26th scoring offense in the NFL and are averaging just 19.7 points per game. To make matters worse they are the 31st ranked Red Zone offense in the league. I don't know about you, but I think that is completely unacceptable with the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball.
Firing Linehan has been a long time coming. The Cowboys flirted with the idea earlier this season during the bye week and should've pulled the trigger then, but for some reason or another decided to let him stick around. They are definitely still paying for that mistake now.
The Cowboys mistake not to replace Linehan could mean yet another early exit in the playoffs, something we have unfortunately become accustomed to. Scoring just 19 points a game isn't going to get them very far, which is truly unfortunate considering the talent they've acquired this season.
Unfortunately, as much as we would love to see Scott Linehan tarred and feathered and run out of town, I just don't see the Cowboys doing that before their season is officially over. But, in no way should he be allowed to retain his position beyond this season. He clearly isn't the answer any longer.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should fire Scott Linehan?
Despite Embarrassing Showing, Health Remains Biggest Cowboys Concern
What is it about the AFC South with these Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas' five game winning streak came to a close on Sunday, as they got straight-up embarrassed by the now 8-6 Indianapolis Colts on the road. The loss was the first since the Cowboys were embarrassed by a different AFC South competitor, the Tennessee Titans, on Monday night football earlier this season.
Though the final was 23-0, and not a single phase (or really even a single player) showed much fight or promise, the biggest concern I have for the Cowboys moving forward didn't change because of the putrid performance. It didn't change because the defense was gashed play after play or the offense failed to finish a single drive. And it didn't even change because both the Redskins and Eagles secured season-saving victories on the same day Dallas was dismantled.
The biggest concern is still their health, particularly across the offensive line.
That was not a playoff caliber interior offensive line the Cowboys put out their on Sunday. Not even close.
With their backup center in Joe Looney, backup guard in Connor Williams, and the very last interior offensive linemen on their roster in Adam Redmond playing for basically the entire game, this offense never had a chance. Dak Prescott wasn't any more inaccurate or indecisive than normal, but all those who like to scream "step up in the pocket" whenever he is sacked did not seem to have an argument this week.
There often was no pocket to step into, as those interior three, specifically Looney and Redmond, failed to provide much protection or confidence for Prescott at all. Joe Looney has actually been rather solid this season, but Sunday felt like one of his worst games of the entire year.
The Cowboys absolutely need Zack Martin to get healthy if they are to make any noise whatsoever in the postseason. At the very least, the need Xavier Su'a-Filo to come back and replace Redmond, and regain the form he displayed during his debut against the Eagles back in November.
Prescott already has issues with his pocket presence and footwork when pressured, so throwing three backup-level linemen right in front of him is not a recipe for success for the Cowboys.
I'm not jumping out of the window over this loss, and I don't think any of you should be either. Dallas had won three straight incredibly emotional and important home games to extend, save, and solidify their season respectively before this loss. They had also just about clinched the NFC East a week ago with their win over Philadelphia, and they played like a team that was due a flat performance
A letdown loss on the road, against a good team I might add, is not the end of the world. The bigger issue here is their health, because if Martin can return to anchor this offensive line, the offense should look a whole lot better than they did against Indianapolis.
It's time to move on from Sunday, go beat Tampa Bay, officially clinch the division, and get ready for Wild Card Weekend.
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