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The Science of Winning: Jason Garrett Leads Cowboys to 9-1

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

When you hear that a head coach only has two winnings seasons in six years, you probably assume that guy is on the hot seat. You may be surprised he even still has that job.

In the case of the Cowboys' Jason Garrett, though, he now has one of the most secure jobs in the NFL.

Cowboys Headlines - A Game Of Survivor: Jason Garrett Stands Tall Among NFC East Coaches 1With Dallas picking up their ninth win of 2016 over the Baltimore Ravens, Garrett is guaranteed only his second winning record since 2011. It's a testament to allowing a coach to see his vision through, which Jerry Jones has done, and not panicking over disappointment.

What Garrett is accomplishing this year goes beyond motivating and strategizing. Time and again, and perhaps never more than last Sunday against the Ravens, Garrett's football philosophy is palpable in the way that his players are performing in the face of adversity.

Rookie quarterbacks aren't supposed to be as unflappable as Dak Prescott. Rookies aren't supposed to have the mental fortitude of Ezekiel Elliott. Sixth-round picks aren't supposed to play as confidently as Anthony Brown.

These young players continue to thrive with huge responsibility on their shoulders. For Prescott and Brown, far more responsibility than they ever anticipated when they first joined the Cowboys last April. Their consistent performance is thanks in large part to the consistent message of their head coach.

Jason Garrett doesn't get caught up in narratives or big pictures. When asked after the Ravens game what it meant to give the storied Cowboys franchise its longest-ever winning streak, Garret dismissed the question quickly.

"We're not going to spend a lot of time on that."

Garrett approaches football like a scientist; eliminate waste and focus on what gets results. He doesn't spend time talking or worrying about superfluous issues and promotes the same mentality throughout the roster.

Cowboys Headlines - Rolando McClain: Garrett's 1That "stay in the moment" focus was evident on Sunday. The Cowboys' rookie-led offense got smacked in the mouth by Baltimore's top-ranked defense early, punting it away three times.

Earlier this year, other teams have come into a game against Dallas with good defensive rankings. The Cowboys exposed those defenses quickly on the way to wins, but this time the ranking was legitimate. The Ravens were for real, and Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were going to have to wipe their noses and punch back.

With the pressure rising, the youngsters didn't try to do too much. They stuck to the science of smart, consistent football. Over time, the Ravens' defense eroded and the Cowboys broke through.

Jason Garrett's message was loud and clear. While these rookies are certainly special talents, that talent is being honed by a coach who played the game alongside legendary teammates and has seen what greatness involves.

Cowboys Headlines - The Science of Winning: Jason Garrett Leads Cowboys to 9-1 1Every time Thanksgiving comes along, I can't help but remember Jason Garrett's greatest day as a player. In 1994, Garrett went from third-stringer to headline-maker in a thrilling victory over the Green Bay Packers. You know he's talked about that day with Dak Prescott, who went from third-string to starting QB almost just as quickly.

Garrett returned to the bench quickly after that game, but for that brief moment he practiced what he's always preached.

"Be your best."

The question has been asked to Jason Garrett and the Joneses more than once and in various forms; did you expect to be winning like this when Tony Romo went down?

The honest answer, of course, is that nobody saw this coming. But a guy like Garrett will tell you he doesn't think that way.

If you go into each game practicing, coaching, and playing to win then you don't ever expect to lose. To a football scientist, nine-straight wins isn't a feat. It's just a sum total.

Cowboys Blog - Jason Garrett 2-0 Against the Giants After Bye Weeks 1

Elsa/Getty Images

Garrett focuses on the hard work and perseverance it takes to win a single NFL game. He approaches every week the same way and his players are following his lead. That is the real story here; leadership and mentoring setting the basic foundation for grand results.

As of now, Jason Garrett should be running away with the Coach of the Year award. If he wins it, it will likely be something he says very little about. "Being your best" isn't about awards to Garrett, it's about the things that are accomplished as a team.

In 2016, Garrett is leading the Cowboys to do things that no Dallas team ever has. He's leading Dak Prescott to play like few, if any, rookie quarterbacks ever have.

Garrett's science is rewarding the faith of Jerry Jones and many Cowboys fans. There's a lot of season left, but even through 10 weeks it's been one of the greatest coaching jobs I've ever seen.



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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3 Comments
  • Kevin Black

    This just goes to show how patience can be rewarded. To many teams jettison coaches too early or blame the head coach even though it’s clear the team doesn’t have the talent. You can look no further than Green Bay where they are starting to call for McCarthy’s head, but the talent on the Packers has gotten old and there isn’t enough young talent to replace it with. You could blame the GM, but the league is setup to give under-performing teams access to the better talent in the draft. New England has found a way to win despite that, but not every team is as good in the front office as the Patriots.

    Garrett had a vision and he inherited a very old team that had a few stars that had some youth, but the bulk of the team needed to be replaced, especially the offensive line. Unfortunately, it took too long for Ware and Romo to be a part of it. That’s the breaks in the NFL. At least Ware got his ring. Let’s hope Romo gets his this year and he can play a part on the field getting it. But the NFL waits for no one and continues to march on.

    Welcome to the reality of the NFL and the fact that patience can be rewarded.

    • http://www.PigskinHub.com/ Jess Haynie

      Awesome comment, Kevin!

      I think so many front offices, be it NFL or other major sports, use coach firings as a crutch to try and placate fans. How often have we seen that this just leaves teams in perpetual disappointment, though? It’s often a short-term solution that creates a much larger, systemic problem.

  • Gary Barrett

    There’s never been anything wrong with Garrett’s message, his in game decisions have been questionable to say the least and at times downright puzzling. He’s shown growth and hopefully all those boneheaded decisions are in the past. Due to the success of the team he rightly belongs at the top of the list for Coach of the Year. Who’s the current competition? Bellichek for sure, Zimmer from Vikings, Eagles coach, you could mention the coaches of the Giants and Redskins to but all of them are behind Garrett for the time being. Bellichek is closest but Cowboys are way more popular when winning and if it continues there’s no doubt Garrett will win. Go Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys

How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Randy Gregory Withdraws Suspension Appeal, Cannot Return Until Week 15

Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.

Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.

Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.

You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.

Randy Gregory

Dallas Cowboys DE Randy Gregory

What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.

Or does it?

Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.

As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.

Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.



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Dallas Cowboys

Earl Thomas: Age is Just a Number Part II

John Williams

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Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de Earl Thomas, la NFL Sigue Equivocándose
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Yesterday, I wrote a piece attempting to assuage the fears that many in Cowboys Nation have about handing a contract extension out to Earl Thomas, who is 29 years old as we enter the 2018 NFL season.

In the comment section, a reader posed a very good question that is the basis for the rest of this article:

Earl Thomas Comparisons at age 29 and Beyond

It's a great question that certainly required some research, but Cowboys fans all across the world should be encouraged by my findings.

Just to refresh, here are the players we looked at as favorable comparisons to Earl Thomas at this point in his career. I searched Pro Football Reference for safeties who had at least three All-Pro First Team selections and at least six Pro Bowl appearances.

Considering an Earl Thomas Extension, Age is just a Number

The average age of the players listed at the time when they reached their third All-Pro was 31 years old. I'm removing Deion Sanders and Roger Wehrli from the equation as most of their work was done at cornerback.

Let's look at a chart that outlines what these guys careers looked like at age 29 and beyond to get a better picture. Remember, Earl Thomas already has three All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowls. Many of these guys didn't reach those kind of accolades until their 30s.

Earl Thomas Comparisons at age 29 and Beyond 1

Click image to view at full size.

The first thing I noticed as I looked into this question is that only two players had three or more All-Pro First Team selections prior to age 29, like Earl Thomas has. Those players were Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott. Every other player on this list didn't hit their third All-Pro selection until age 29 or later.

Only one player reached his sixth Pro Bowl prior to his age 29 season, that player is Ronnie Lott, who many NFL Analysts consider to be the greatest safety of all-time. Most of the players didn't achieve their third All-Pro selection until their age 29 season or later. Earl Thomas reached his third All-Pro selection at age 25.

Here's a hot take for you: Earl Thomas, when it's all said and done could be considered the greatest safety of all-time.  I'll just leave that there to marinate and if a trade does happen, we'll come back to that.

Back to the chart.

Another thing I want to point out is that none of these players were 100% healthy. Such is the life in the NFL, especially as you get older, but they were available for at least 14 games a majority of their seasons aged 29 or later. Health is an unpredictable animal in the NFL, but the safety position allows for much more longevity than many other positions. And as the chart depicts, it's a position that ages well.

So, as you can see in the chart, players who were highly productive prior to their age 29 season were also highly productive for several seasons after. These players went onto average almost seven more years in the league from their age 29 seasons.

Most players continued to average a healthy amount of interceptions. The player that saw the biggest decline from the early part of his career to the post-29 part of his career was Brian Dawkins. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos safety went from three interceptions per season prior to 29 to 1.9 interceptions per season 29 and after.

When it comes to the safety position, the elite seem to be able to get the most of their bodies and their abilities and can prolong their prime. The position relies as much on intelligence and awareness as it does quickness and athleticism. Earl Thomas has the mental capacity to play the game for many more years and there's been zero evidence to suggest that he is experiencing any physical decline.

At the rate of his career that he's on, Earl Thomas is destined for the Hall of Fame. He's one of the faces of the Legion of Boom defense that propelled the Seattle Seahawks into the elite category of teams in the early part of this decade.

If and when an Earl Thomas trade does occur, don't sweat an extension for Thomas.

Thomas' credentials put him in an elite group of players who played the game for a very long time and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys aren't that far off from having a Super Bowl contending defense built in the image of the Seattle Seahawks. Going to get the All-Pro, future Hall of Fame safety is the final piece to the to the Dallas Cowboys completing construction on "Doomsday III." 

Everything else is there for the Dallas Cowboys, now all they have to do is: Go. Get. Earl!



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Dallas Cowboys

Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPN

John Williams

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A Fully Focused Ezekiel Elliott can Carry the Cowboys into 2018 Playoffs 2
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN has long been considered "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," and for a long time that title was justified. If you wanted your national sports news, where did you turn to but the cable sports channel to watch that day's episode of SportsCenter. But over the last few years, it's become more and more clear that it's "The Worldwide Leader" in name only.

The ratings are dropping and the network has had to make a lot of business decisions as it relates to much of their on-air talent over the last several years. With their latest under 25 starting 22 -- ahem, troll job -- they seem to have finally come to terms that they are basically First Take.

Noah Brown put it best in his reaction to the ESPN "Insider" voting that led to Saquon Barkley being named to the starting 22 ahead of Ezekiel Elliott. Brown, Elliott's teammate when both were at Ohio State University, came to his defense upon seeing the list.

Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPNAnd here is the ESPN list:

SportsCenter on Twitter

43 of our NFL Insiders voted. Here's their best starting roster under the age of 25.

I'm sure there could be debates about different positions on the squad. Personally, quarterback is one where an argument could be made for Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott over DeShaun Watson, but that's for another time.

But to have a rookie, who has never played a down in the NFL ahead of the NFL's league leader in rushing for 2016, Ezekiel Elliott, is laughable.

Ridiculous.

Shameful even.

The fact that they had 43, again I use the quotations, "Insiders" vote on this and Ezekiel Elliott wasn't listed as one of the two running backs just shows you how far they've come as a network.

Let's remember that Ezekiel Elliott has averaged a touchdown a game -- receiving and rushing -- in his 25-game career. No running back has more rushing yards than Elliott does over the last two years, including 2017 league rushing leader, Kareem Hunt. No running back has more rushing touchdowns than Elliott's 22 rushing TDs.

Ezekiel Elliott's yards per carry is a healthy 4.63. Todd Gurley sits at 3.93. No player with more than 1,800 rushing yards over the last two years has a better yards per attempt than Ezekiel Elliott.

I get that you'd vote Todd Gurley in there, but to not have Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the game's best running back on your Under 25 starting 22 just makes you look like Skip Bayless or Stephen A. Smith. Not a sports journalism entity worthy of people throwing money at for "Insider" access.

I won't say that I never or will never watch ESPN, because where else am I gonna go for Monday Night Football, Todd Archer, or the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships? When I'm at my father-in-law's, I'll watch SportsCenter first thing in the morning, because it will be on and you don't change another man's television.

"The Worldwide Leader," however, loses credibility when they promote a list like this that has such a glaring omission.

Perhaps, maybe the goal wasn't to put out an accurate list. Maybe the goal was to get us talking about their list, just like when NFL Network releases their Top 100 players list. Like they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

This troll job from ESPN has certainly gotten them some publicity, or should I say, notoriety.



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