Former NFL Head Coach Herm Edwards delivered a quote on October 30th, 2002 that will apply to the game of football forever.
"You PLAY to WIN the GAME!"
NFL seasons can yield many different personal achievements: Pro Bowl and All-Pro Selections, leading the league in yards or touchdowns, even the league's MVP award all are accolades that only one person can receive.
Wins are the statistic that TEAMS value most. Wins are what it's all about. Like Coach Edwards said, wins are why you play the game.
The NFC East is arguably the most difficult division in the National Football League, and it is certainly the most historic. The division owns the most Super Bowl titles of all eight divisions with 12 and it has had some of the most iconic games throughout history between its rivals.
Like a great cupcake and brownie, we're going to combine these two ideas today. Who wins the most in the toughest division in football? That's what matters, right? You can lay claim to your team's player leading in this or that category, but the team with the most wins is the one that plays in January. Which NFC East team is, simply put, the best at winning football games?
This isn't Mrs. Blackwell's history class so I'm not going to go back to the beginning of time here. To establish a sense of fairness I chose a year where the majority of these four teams' current nucleus was already or about to be in place... 2011.
- Jason Garrett began his tenure as the Dallas Cowboys Head Coach.
- The New York Giants won their second Super Bowl under Tom Coughlin.
- The Philadelphia Eagles were two years away from the Chip Kelly era.
- The Washington Redskins were a year away from the Robert Griffin III era.
I'm sure that all of you are going to totally agree with everything I say so there's no use in putting it off! Let's get started.
|Year||Overall Record||Division Record|
You'd think that in a world with seven Fast and the Furious movies that those would be the worst thing that we could ever lay eyes on, right? Enter... the Washington Redskins.
Trying to win football games as the Washington Redskins is like trying to grill hamburgers with spaghetti noodles. Their record isn't exactly the worst one in the NFL in that span, but it's not too far away from it.
The only year on here that the Redskins were even watchable was obviously 2012. RGIII was a rookie and for once in Washington, the sky was not falling. They put together 10 wins, including 7 in a row to end the season.
What happened? Well the Robert Griffin III experiment did. The front office got rid of Mike Shanahan after 2013's unimpressive 3-13 campaign. Jay Gruden was able to come in and summon enough talent to lead them to an improved 4-12 last season.
There's a lot of pressure on this team, and this quarterback, to not be completely terrible in 2015. They significantly trail their NFC East rivals since 2011 in overall wins, division wins, and in playoff wins... the Redskins have 0 in that stretch.
New York Giants
|Year||Overall Record||Division Record|
*Playoff team, ^Super Bowl Champions
The New York Football Giants, baby. They are the only NFC East team to bring home a Lombardi Trophy in this stretch, earning their World Championship in the 2011 season.
The 2011 Giants immortalized themselves as the NFL's best, and there's no one that can take away from that. Since then? ...pretty mortal.
Coach Tom Coughlin has two rings to his name so he's not necessarily the person to doubt within the NFC East, but the Giants have dwindled since their Super Bowl run in 2011. In terms of overall and division wins since 2011, the New York Giants are 3rd within the NFC East; however, they easily have the most playoff wins with 4 total and 1 big one in Indianapolis.
The Giants have one of the NFL's most exciting players in Odell Beckham Jr., but how did his big-play making ability translate in the win column last year? In his 12 games the Giants were 4-8.
"BUT WHEN ODELL TAKES OVER THE GAME IS WHEN THE GIANTS WIN!"
Are you sure? Beckham topped 100 yards 7 times in 2014... only 3 of those games were victories. In fact his top two yardage performances were losses, one of which was against the division rival Eagles! Wins are what count, remember?
The Super Bowl victory in 2011 is impressive, that's obvious; However, since then the New York Giants haven't done much in the NFC East. With Victor Cruz coming back from injury this year they may have a shot, but if the Giants are relying solely on Odell Beckham Jr., it might not work out.
|Year||Overall Record||Division Record|
One year ago the talk was all about how the Dallas Cowboys and their three straight 8-8 seasons were the epitome of mediocrity. Can somebody, anybody, please tell me what 32-32 spells out? I was the Spelling Bee champion in fourth grade so I think I can handle this: M-e-d-i-o-c-r-i-t-y.
Seriously though the Eagles have hardly been mediocre over the last four years. They are coming off of back-to-back 10 win seasons, the first two in the Chip Kelly era, and look to be a contender in 2015.
You know, however it plays out, the Chip Kelly experiment in Philadelphia is going to make for a fascinating sports documentary someday. Philly has the second most wins in the NFC East since 2011 and is tied for the most division wins, the stronger half of their tenure being under his watch.
The other side of that coin is that even as I type this I worry that somehow, someway, Chip Kelly is going to find a way to trade me away... and I'm not even on his team! He personifies mad scientist more than anyone else in recent history and is all-in with his current squad.
Breaking the rules a bit here, Chip Kelly is 20-12 overall and 8-4 against the division. The Eagles have, like the Redskins, 0 playoff victories in the overall time since 2011...despite an appearance in 2013.
The 32 overall and 14 division wins are impressive. The Eagles have managed to be a contender in the division for the last four years, but with so much turnover on their roster can they improve on that to become the best team in the division?
|Year||Overall Record||Division Record|
Overall wins since 2011... 1st in the division. Division wins since 2011... tied for 1st in the division. You PLAY to WIN the GAME.
The Dallas Cowboys Run The NFC East.
You're smart, I know that. I'm not fooling you with some fancy card trick or rabbit out of my hat. The most wins in the NFC East over the course of this analysis belong to America's Team... who are coincidentally the reigning NFC East Champions.
The Cowboys have built a team that can challenge for a Super Bowl title all while still remaining in contention for the NFC East crown year after year. That is incredible.
In 2011, 2012, and 2013 all 16 games of the Dallas Cowboys' regular season mattered. That can not be said for any other team in the NFC East in any season. Each other team had a drop off season, or multiple seasons, where their fans did their Christmas shopping knowing full-well that the playoffs were mathematically impossible. Not the Cowboys.
Since the dawn of the Jason Garrett era the Dallas Cowboys have bested their division brethren. It should be noted here that the Super Bowl victory that the Giants had in 2011 is the ultimate trump card, but even then what the Cowboys have accomplished is untouched by the others.
Beyond the overall and division records the Cowboys, not factoring in the 2011 Giants run, have the lone playoff victory. The Giants haven't been to the playoffs since 2011, the Redskins lost to the Seahawks in 2012, and the Eagles lost to the Saints in 2013... while the Cowboys bested the Lions in last year's wildcard round.
The best regular season of all four teams, across all four seasons, also belongs to the Dallas Cowboys. Their 12-4 performance in 2014 is two games better than the next best, 10-6, that the Redskins had in 2012 and the Eagles did in 2013 and 2014. Not to mention that the 2014 Cowboys are tied for the best single season division record with the 2011 Eagles and 2012 Redskins at 5-1.
A lot has been said in terms of whether the Cowboys can repeat on their 2014 success. What you should take away from this is that in 2014 the Cowboys repeated on their 2011, 2012, and 2013 success. They have for four straight years continued on the path that they have methodically built.
The 2015 Dallas Cowboys season is 38 days away. Look forward to then as the Cowboys will pick up where they've left off for the last four years and continue to run the NFC East.
Cowboys Trade For DT Jihad Ward Already Paying Off?
The Dallas Cowboys uncharacteristically made several offseason trades this year and it has yet to be seen how or if these players can be impactful in 2018. One such trade was met with quite a bit of skepticism and actually angered a lot of Cowboys fans. Sending wide receiver Ryan Switzer to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for Jihad Ward was somewhat puzzling, but it looks as if the trade might already be paying off.
Unfortunately, one of the Dallas Cowboys best defensive players will once again have to sit out of the first four games of the 2018 season while serving his suspension for violating the substance abuse policy. David Irving was expected to pick up where he left off last season as one of the best defensive tackles in the league, but will have to wait until Week 5 to find out what he can do.
I don't know if the Dallas Cowboys suspected something like this would happen with Irving once again, but suddenly the trade for Jihad Ward is looking like a brilliant under the radar offseason move.
I know a lot of Cowboys fans were excited to see what Ryan Switzer could do for the offense this season, but the coaching staff never really had a plan in place for him or knew exactly how to use him. There is no question as to how the coaching staff will use Ward. He could end up being one of the better defensive lineman this season.
Jihad Ward has already caught the attention of the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff in organized team activities (OTA's) and mandatory minicamp. Coincidentally, he's been playing in place of David Irving at the under tackle position or the three-technique. It's a role he may not relinquish heading into the 2018 season, and quite possibly even when Irving returns from his suspension.
I know it's a little bit early to anoint Jihad Ward, but the fact that as a new addition he's already starting ahead of the likes of Tyrone Crawford and other 3-tech candidates is pretty telling, at least for me.
Once training camp opens up there will be several things I will be paying close attention to, and how Jihad Ward performs will be one of them. He was after all highly thought of by defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli a few years ago in the 2016 NFL Draft. Maybe that infatuation will pay off.
I know it still stings a little that Ryan Switzer is no longer with the Cowboys, but Jihad Ward could prove to be the more impactful player this season and beyond.
Do you think the Jihad Ward trade is already paying off for the Cowboys?
How Will Safeties Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier Fit Kris Richard’s Secondary?
Unfortunately, David Irving's most recent four game suspension is the main story for a Dallas Cowboys team finished with OTAs and mini camp, left only to wait for training camp now. I've chosen to focus on the players that were on the field for the offseason program, that will continue to contend for starting jobs in Oxnard. Standing out from a lackluster group of safeties, for a Kris Richard led secondary that is off to a fast start, are safeties Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier.
Joined by Jeff Heath, Tyree Robinson, Jameill Showers, and Marqueston Huff, the Cowboys are lacking a dominant force at safety to pair with their young and talented group of cornerbacks. With the likes of Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones (the former safety), and Anthony Brown already improving under Richard, the Cowboys hope is that the same will apply to this group of safeties.
It's still entirely too early to know how the Cowboys want to deploy their safeties this season, but the only players that have shown their strengths and weaknesses over any period of time are Heath, Frazier, and Woods. This is sure to cause an uphill battle for the fringe players looking to push this trio of versatile safeties.
Jeff Heath has appeared in 77 games over five seasons with the Cowboys. Frazier and Woods combined? Just 24 games, with 16 of them making up Woods' rookie season a year ago. This makes finding a potential role for both players vital to the Cowboys.
Safety Kavon Frazier
Working mostly as a special teams player through two seasons in Dallas, Kavon Frazier has patiently awaited his opportunity to spark the Cowboys defense as a sixth round pick of 2016. Doing so in a memorable week 13 win over the Washington Redskins, Frazier earned an increased role as an enforcer on defense.
This is a player whose straight line burst and power is ideal for a ST starter, and when Frazier connects coming downhill on defense, the results can be catastrophic for an opposing offense. Surely these are traits that will remind Kris Richard even slightly of his Super Bowl winning "Legion of Boom" defenses.
The distinction between Frazier being a part-time player or one maximizing his potential to start deep in the Cowboys secondary is an important one. Limited in coverage, Frazier may be at his best when conceding snaps to another safety on the Cowboys roster with more of an all-around game -- which the Cowboys can only hope Xavier Woods continues to be.
Safety Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods may not have the pure stopping power that Kavon Frazier possesses, but as a fellow sixth-round pick there is more than enough to like about what Woods brought to the Cowboys in 2017 out of Louisiana Tech. With 14 interceptions and six forced fumbles out of college, Woods slid in the draft enough for the Cowboys to trade up for his services.
The team wasn't cheated out of their investment in Woods last season, giving him the "Byron Jones treatment" as Woods lined up all over the field. It was Richard that came to Dallas and almost immediately moved Byron Jones down to cornerback, seeing a better use of his natural size and skills there.
Doing the same for Woods -- while keeping the natural FS free to react -- should be next up on Richard's offseason to-do list. This is a player with sideline to sideline range, enough athleticism to cover down in the slot, and the functional strength to compete in the box.
Amidst this uncertainty for both Frazier and Woods, early reports out of the Cowboys practices thus far have Jeff Heath specifically matching up against the tight end. This is an ideal role for Heath, and one that could compliment Woods very well.
Regardless of where Heath is on the field, Woods should be able to coexist with him as a similarly instinctive safety.
There is also the possibility that both Heath and Woods struggle to handle these "starting" responsibilities, leaving the Cowboys with very little trusted depth at safety. If there is an area Woods needs the most improvement in, it is the angles he takes against the run to consistently make stops, a weakness also potentially mitigated by the Cowboys improved linebacker play (investing the 19th overall pick at the position).
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Between Frazier and Woods, it feels safe to say the Cowboys must find a starter for a secondary that could still achieve great things in 2018. The Cowboys are entering this season with a loaded group of cornerbacks, all capable of making a safety's job relatively easy, especially while learning under Richard.
Such can be the hope for a raw player like Frazier and, in a sense, Xavier Woods. The second-year player in Woods is a great unknown for the Cowboys right now, as he'll remain that way for some time before next month's training camp.
With this, we'll have much more time to sit around and continue pondering what certain position groups will look like once meaningful Cowboys football graciously returns. I've written before that I'm paying close attention to this team's group of wide receivers, and you can add in the secondary players they'll be competing against too.
No, Cowboys Shouldn’t Cut David Irving
For the past five years, Dallas Cowboys fans have gone through painful offseason stories regarding upcoming suspensions for defensive players. It doesn't matter how much talent the front office is able to find through the Draft, there's always one player that ruins what feels like a successful offseason. This time, for the second consecutive year, David Irving is the player to let Cowboys Nation down.
On Friday it was announced that Irving will serve a four-game suspension after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Understandably, a lot of Cowboys' fans want to see Irving released by the franchise that has preached the "Right Kind of Guy" philosophy while failing to establish such a thing. It's disappointing to see such a talented player limiting himself by not "wanting it" bad enough and by making mistakes like this repeatedly.
However, even if it's a very frustrating situation, the Cowboys shouldn't cut David Irving.
First of all, Irving's hit against the cap space is pretty minimum and nothing to be concerned at all. After being handed a second-round tender earlier in the year, #95 was set to earn $2.91M during the season. With a four-game suspension ahead of him, that number will be even lower.
We're talking about a guy who in eight games managed to get to the quarterback seven times in 2017 and consistently pressured opposing signal callers. Not to mention he's going to be just 25 years old when the season begins.
For the Cowboys, David Irving has the talent needed to average one sack per game. All of this for less than three million.
Irving has proven by now that he's not worth a long-term extension. That much is clear. In order to get one of those, a player must prove his availability.
Talking specifically about 2018, though, I'm sure the Cowboys will be better off if they count on Irving for the final 12 games of the season. The team counts with pretty decent depth at the position with Maliek Collins, Datone Jones and Jihad Ward, but Irving has the potential to end the season with double-digit sacks.
The team gains nothing by releasing Irving. The team will not even be "sending a message" if they were to release #95. Maybe if the team had consistently sent this kind of "messages" over the years it would make sense.
However, we know this team sticks with their players and supports them in moments like this. They have done just that with Randy Gregory and it seems like it will pay off soon.
Whether we're mad at Irving's actions or not, the truth is letting him go wouldn't be wise at all. The Cowboys are not paying him big-time money, he's young and he'll be productive on the field when the defense needs him to.
We're talking about a football team that wants to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy. They can't be letting starting-caliber players go just like that. They need all the help they can get and even though his situation is far from ideal, David Irving will play a big role on defense.
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