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.
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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