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In 2009, the Dallas Cowboys had one of their best seasons in recent memory. Despite some ups and downs in the regular season, they not only managed to beat the Eagles to win their division, but they picked up Dallas’s first playoff victory since the last gasps of the 90s Cowboys dynasty. Their season would end with a loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the second round of the playoffs, but hopes were high going into the next season. The Cowboys, it seemed, had found their winning formula, and they looked poised to capitalize on their newfound success.
Instead, in 2010, the Cowboys found themselves with a 1-7 record after the first eight games of the season. Due to a combination of some tough breaks in close matchups early in the season, and other fits of missed opportunities and bad luck (including starting quarterback Tony Romo suffering a broken clavicle) the team looked absolutely miserable at the halfway mark. Head Coach Wade Phillips was fired in the middle of the season, and the team would finish well out of playoff contention. The fans lamented that a promising year had gone down the drain.
It’s hard not to feel the echoes of the same one-two punch when looking at the Dallas Cowboys over the last two seasons. In 2014, despite times when it seemed like all was lost, the Cowboys stormed back to outpace the Eagles in the division, win the NFC East, and pull off the team’s first playoff victory since the one in 2009. After years of false starts (both literal and figurative), Jason Garrett seemed to have finally found a winning formula on both sides of the ball. Though the team’s post-season ended in a controversial loss to another NFC North opponent, hopes were once again high for the following season, where Dallas was penciled in as a playoff, and maybe even Super Bowl, contender.
Instead, in 2015, Tony Romo suffered another clavicle injury; the team again found itself on the losing end of a number of bad breaks in close games, and the Cowboys struggled, stumbling to a paltry 2-6 record at the halfway point of the season, hopelessly out of playoff contention. Once more, a season where Dallas looked so primed for success had gone down in flames. And it felt all too familiar.
Eight-and-eight, .500, out of playoff contention. These are your 2011 Dallas Cowboys. A team that had every opportunity, right to the very last game, to put naysayers like yours truly in their place. A team that had every chance to show they were ready to take the next step. It’s a bitter taste. It’s bitter to see a team with so much potential, so many times when it looked like they were coming into their own, to end their season in absolute mediocrity.
Four months ago, I wrote about why Jason Garrett, for all his talents, is the wrong man to lead the Dallas Cowboys to the promised land. I presented some criticisms and made a few predictions. Now, with a couple of weeks to digest the 2011 Cowboys season, it’s time to look back and see what was accurate, what missed the mark, and more importantly, what happened to the Dallas Cowboys this year.
Many scoffed when I questioned Jason Garrett’s offense in my prior article, Five Reasons Jason Garrett is the Wrong Kind of Guy to be the Dallas Cowboys’ Head Coach. Many of the problems I have with Garrett’s offense, like difficulty holding a lead, difficulty withstanding a comeback, or failure to use the team’s offensive weapons to their highest potential, are difficult to quantify. Some issues, however, can be illumunited through looking at the numbers the offense has put up under Jason Garrett. To that end, I put together a chart with some key statistics from JG’s five years as the Cowboys’ Offensive Coordinator that shows one of the biggest problems with Garrett’s tenure as OC – that his offense can gain yards, but has trouble scoring points.
Each cell in the column contains the relevant statistic. The number in parentheses to the right of the statistic shows where that year’s Cowboys team ranked in the NFL in that particular category. Obviously the data for 2011 is incomplete at this point, and with nine games left to play, those numbers could change dramatically. Nevertheless, they demonstrate the problems the team has been having this year and how those problems are consistent with what has come before.