What a difference time makes. I remember way back, when Bleacher Report was just a budding sports blog, writing an article about the 2010 playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. I claimed that the stats of the two teams showed the ‘Boys out-matched the Vikes with Adrian Peterson and the aging Brett Favre.
At the time, the comments seemed like just good debate to me. But now? Some of those guys were on to something.
We turn to stats for everything these days.
Is Tony Romo an elite QB? Show me the numbers.
Was Marion Barber a beast or a bust? Show me the numbers.
Has Head Coach Jason Garrett improved this team? Show me the numbers.
If you want to know who has what bragging rights and why, suddenly it’s Jerry McGuire meets Car Fax commercials. “SHOW ME THE NUMBEEEEERRRRRRSSSSS!!!”
Gee, that was obnoxious.
Measuring players, coaches and teams by the numbers has become some convoluted pseudo-science wherein everyone – the media included – takes the numbers supporting their position and dumps the rest. I have to admit, it works just as well to destroy a legacy as it does to stuff it, mount it, and hang it on a trophy wall. But what are we really looking at?
When you’re judging a player on his individual stats, you get a good idea of a few of his tangibles. That’s it. You can pull up stats and frame them any which way but loose and still gain zero perspective on a coach or team. Not to say that stops people from having an outlook with some stats sprinkled in here and there, but it’s the perspective framing the numbers, not the other way around.
Take Dallas’ numbers over the past 14 years.
It’s a handy timeframe because it outlasts every player on the roster. So what? We’re not debating an individual effort here so player stats can stay safely locked away in a room, on a shelf, under some dust, in some old stats book at Jerry’s house. I’m speaking from personal experience here because let’s face it, as a Cowboys fan I’ve been met with every type of assault imaginable.
Just think polar bear in a meat market after hours. That about paints the picture.
The poor schmoes rooting for the likes of Cleveland, Buffalo or Miami get less flack than a Cowboys fan. Apparently there’s some disagreement over this whole America’s Team thing making non-Cowboys fans fling poo like monkeys at the zoo.
Anyway, take those numbers and look at post-season wins, like most people do. Hell, look at post-season wins and losses, because there’s only five. Total. Including that Vikings game. Five times that the Cowboys have suited up in the playoffs since 2000. They lost against Seattle and Minnesota and beat an Eagles team they had literally just beaten the week before.
Fourteen seasons of 8-8 to 13-3 that ended in the same waste bin year after year. If you ask a Cowboys hater, at least. They’d say that, with the brief exceptions of blinding possibility in the years over 16 games, the Dallas Cowboys have done nothing. Certainly not enough to warrant being America’s and God’s team.
Enough drivel already. What’s the point?
Tony Romo is the best quarterback in franchise history. His stats say so and there’s really no rational argument against that. Aikman and Staubach have more to show for their time on the field, but their numbers aren’t as good.
Herein lays the problem – if Aikman and Staubach were so masterful, then why didn’t Aikman lead the Cowboys to that fourth Super Bowl in a decade in 1996?
Aikman was more efficient in 1995. 63.7 completion percentage and 2.8% of passes intercepted in 1996 versus 64.8 completion percentage and 1.6% of passes intercepted in 1995. That translates into just 178 extra yards, or just 11 yards a game. Not exactly game changing right there. But Troy was sacked four more times in 1996 than in 1995. Four sacks that could’ve easily been where those 178 yards were lost.
The only thing significant about the differences in the passing game from ’95 to ’96 is that Michael Irvin had nearly double the receiving yards in 1995 that he had in 1996.
On defense, the 1995 team had 36 sacks, gave up 5,044 yards and 18 TDs, and had a +2 turnover ratio. In ’96 it was more like 37 sacks, 4,382 yards and 24 TDs, with a +4 turnover ratio.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Irvin wasn’t able to produce as well in 1996, though he was still the top receiver for the team. The difference in his stats more than equal the lack of efficiency in Aikman’s game from one year to the next. The championship defense gave up an extra 41 yards per game, had fewer sacks and a worse turnover battle, but gave up fewer scores.
Still not convinced? Of what? Exactly!
Look at the stats any way you choose, they’ll never change, even if the argument they’re being pulled into does. Individual stats belong in that book on a dusty shelf in some baron room at Valley Ranch, if you can’t take them in context.
The bottom line is that no team is made or broken by a single player. Being a team sport, you’d think this point would be too obvious to merit a single utterance, let alone an entire article. But time and time again I open up my favorite sports sites and find people ranting about how great or terrible a player is (usually Tony Romo) and how that player is the primary reason for the woes of a team.
In reality, the need for such an article, for the abundant and elaborate articulation of the fundamental basis and meaning of the term “team sport,” is kicking us right in our jockeys at every turn. Even my own crew at Dallas Cowboys Nation gets caught up in it. Granted, they’re generally trying to dispel the notion that a player (usually Tony Romo) is the sole bearer of all things good and evil during the course of season, but like so many they get so entrenched in the argument that they propagate its very existence.
Now looky here. It’s time for that bullhonkie to end right now.
A team can’t be measured by the successes and failures of one person.
For Cowboys fans, the people of greatest debate tend to be Tony Romo (Wait, what? Really? Stop!), Jason Garrett and Mr. Skeletor himself, Jerry Jones.
Jones and Garrett are probably the most susceptible to this problem because individual performances are part of the team concept they’re charged with cultivating and managing day in, day out. But all too often Romo is cast – simultaneously – as the hero and villain because he’s the field general. He’s the ultimate leader on that field, calling the shots and making decisions that affect every man on that field, yes?
Do you think DeMarcus Ware saw it that way? What about Rod Marinelli, think he saluted Gen. Romo after every down? Name any player in the game and I’ll give you three crucial things he’s got jack-all to do with.
It’s a team sport guys.
If the WRs aren’t up to snuff, the QB won’t be either. If the front seven miss a beat, the backs pay for it. If the offense goes to town strutting around in their party kicks, the defense can settle into a solid prevent formation and win the war. And when that defense gets caught with its head up where the sun don’t shine, the offense becomes predictable and vulnerable.
That’s basically football suicide. Unless you’re playing against the Cowboys 2013 defense.
Call a meeting with God and mold you a hybrid between Manning, Montana, Aikman, Staubach, Young, Favre and Warner that perfectly encompasses every bit of kickass in every one of those great quarterbacks and you know what? He’s still gonna have to pitch it when his line falters!
So don’t tell me Romo’s a choke artist who can’t win the big games.
Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?
The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.
The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.
All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?
Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.
In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.
That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.
So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.
Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.
It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.
Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.
Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.
Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?
Without Looming Suspension, RB Ezekiel Elliott Should Shine In 2018
NFL Films typically does a good job of exposing some truths around NFL teams. Whether through "Hard Knocks" or Amazon's new "All or Nothing" series, these documentaries do an excellent job of giving fans an inside look of their favorite teams.
If anything was revealed through the Cowboys' All or Nothing series on their 2017 season, it's that Ezekiel Elliott's suspension weighed heavy on his mind all year.
The Pro Bowl running back did not look, act, or play like himself while awaiting decision on his incoming suspension. And, once it was finally announced he would serve the six games, the entire team collapsed in Atlanta.
Despite the clear and detrimental effects Elliott's suspension had on the Cowboys' season, Zeke still put up more-than-respectable numbers; rushing for almost 1,000 yards and averaging a league leading 98.3 yards per game.
Now, Ezekiel Elliott enters a season with no doubts about his own availability. Scott Linehan gets to coach an offense that knows they will have their best player for the entire season barring major injury. And, Jason Garrett can lead his team without addressing questions about Elliott's future day in and day out.
Of course, these effects aren't quantifiable. We can't sit here and say that without the pressure of court appearances and suspensions that Elliott will be worth "X" amount of more yards and "Y" more touchdowns.
But I do believe we can say, without question, that playing with a clear mind and without a looming suspension will breed the type of production we saw from Zeke his rookie year.
We can say that Elliott has had a weight lifted off his shoulders, and could be looking for revenge on a league he feels did him wrong.
And, for the Cowboys sake, I hope this is true. Because they are going to need Ezekiel Elliott to be even better than he ever has been if they hope to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2018.
Cowboys en Español: El Regreso de Randy Gregory
A sólo días de que los Dallas Cowboys aterricen en Oxnard, California para dar inicio a su training camp como todos los años, el equipo recibió excelentes noticias respecto a la selección de segunda ronda del 2015: Randy Gregory. Después de pasar todo el 2017 suspendido, el ala defensiva ha sido oficialmente reintegrado por la NFL.
Gregory, quien tuvo muchos problemas debido al uso de marihuana, ha pasado los últimos meses rehabilitándose para poder volver a vestir la estrella y volver al emparrillado. Los Cowboys, quienes siempre apoyaron a su joven jugador, sin duda estarán felices de verlo de vuelta en el equipo por motivos más allá que el football americano.
Sin duda alguna, antes de estar emocionados y felices por verlo en el campo intimidando a quarterbacks rivales, deberíamos estar alegres por el logro personal de Randy como un ser humano. Realmente hizo un esfuerzo consciente en un lugar en el que muchos se hubieran rendido y dejado sus sueños de ser parte de la NFL. Pero no lo hizo, y ahora, todos sus esfuerzos han valido la pena.
El siguiente paso en su lista por-hacer, es volver al campo y poco a poco, ganarse su puesto en el equipo y después, la titularidad. La última vez que vimos a Gregory en el campo, fue contra Philadelphia, en el final de temporada del 2016.
En este juego, Gregory mostró muchos destellos de lo que sería capaz de hacer semana tras semana en la liga y porque valió la pena nunca dejarlo ir, lo cual no hubiera tenido sentido hacer, dado que los Cowboys no les costaba nada (literalmente) mantenerlo en el equipo.
Sean Martin escribió un artículo recientemente en el que analiza este partido a fondo.
El potencial de Gregory es inmenso, suficiente incluso, para aventurarse a decir que se convertirá en el defensive end (ala defensiva) derecho antes de lo esperado. El reto más grande para el jugador de 25 años será regresar a una condición física óptima para la NFL.
Afortunadamente, a diferencia del 2016, Gregory no estará regresando a media temporada. Su llegada toma lugar justo a tiempo para el training camp, dándole tiempo para regresar a la forma en la que tiene que estar.
Una vez ahí, ¿qué tanto le tomará ganarse un rol más importante que el de Tyrone Crawford y Taco Charlton? A pesar de que prácticamente no lo hemos visto jugar en Dallas, sabemos el potencial que tiene para convertirse en un defensivo de suma importancia para los Cowboys.
Un año después de ver la mejor temporada en la carrera de DeMarcus Lawrence, los Cowboys tendrán el potencial de una estrella similar en el lado derecho de su línea defensiva. Gregory tiene una montaña que escalar para cumplir las expectativas de los aficionados, pero no será una sorpresa si lo logra.
Vaya, no olvidemos que si no fuera por sus problemas fuera del campo, hubiera sido seleccionado en el Top 10 del Draft del 2015. Tiene el potencial de conseguir diez sacks por temporada.
Con un poco de suerte, no nos equivocaremos en tenerle fe al jugador que ha tenido un gran viaje para llegar a este punto. El punto de ponerse el casco e ir a trabajar con su equipo.
Incluso si sólo llega a ser un jugador de rotación, sin duda será importante para el éxito del equipo. Entre DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Randy Gregory y el resto del talento que los Cowboys tienen en la línea defensiva, el equipo podría tener un frente de muy buena calidad.
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