I know that the common misconception is that defenses win championships but the truth is that balance is what truly wins in the NFL. With all the talk on BTB focusing so predominantly on defense and how it seems to be the one and only ingredient a team needs to win, I thought I’d shed some light on, what is, IMHO, a misapprehension.
For example; did you know that through the first 43 Super Bowls the eventual Super Bowl champion has led that league in total defense only 8 times? Conversely teams that have led the league in total offense have won the Super Bowl 7 times. This means that Pittsburgh just broke what had been a 7-7 tie seven weeks ago (just think; if Asante Samuel hadn’t dropped a very easy interception in Super Bowl 42 then it would be tied at 8-8 right now). In fact, only 5 of the 43 Super Bowl champs have ever led the league in turnover differential while only 3 teams have led the league in sacks.
There has also been a lot of talk about how the Cowboys need to run the ball a ridiculous amount more; I’ve actually seen it suggested that the run to pass ratio should be as high as 80 to 20. Well, did you know that over the past 43 years the team to lead the league in rushing yards has only won the Super Bowl twice? On the other hand the team to lead the NFL in Passing Yards per attempt has won the Super Bowl 7 times.
Football also has so many variables that don’t show up in the stats. One team, like the ’99 Rams, had a statistically good defense (ranked 6th overall that year) because of their offense. That Rams team did so much scoring that their opponents were forced into one-dimensional game plans to keep up, thus making them much easier to defend. Just one year later the Rams D was exposed and they were ranked near the bottom of the league.
The fact of the matter is that there isn’t just one true way to build a champion. You could follow what has traditionally been the Steelers model which is to create a team that has an overpowering defense that is complimented by a decent to sometimes pretty good offense that comes through in the clutch. Or you could follow the Broncos of the late 90’s model and create a team that has an unstoppable offense that is accompanied by a decent defense that excels when the opponent is forced to abandon the run. Or you could follow what has traditionally been the Cowboys model and create a team of excellent balance.
When the Cowboys won Super Bowl 27 they had the number 1 overall defense and the number 4 overall offense that included the league’s leading rusher complimented nicely by the NFL’s number 4 passing offense. Add to that the Cowboys special teams which ranked in the top 10 in nearly every special teams category and you have a very impressive football team. A team that could win an offensive shootout one week and a defensive struggle the next. The following year the Cowboys defense slipped from number 1 down to number 10 but the offense held steady and remained the 4th best in the league helping them to win their 2nd straight Lombardy trophy. The truth is that you will find some teams that had better offenses and others that had better defenses but you’ll find very few that were as good at all of the phases of the game as the Cowboys champion teams have been.
The 2009 Cowboys have a chance to be a very well balanced team. The QB, receivers, and tide ends seem to be in place for an excellent passing attack that could finish in the top 5. The Running Backs are certainly there to finish in the top 5 in rushing. And with a defense that led the league in sacks last year the parts certainly there to at least finish in the top 10.
I would hate to see the Cowboys over draft or overspend on one side of the ball at the expense of the other. By my account they have made moves to address the defense this off-season by bringing in a new DE, ILB, and SS. By my estimation this leaves a glaring weakness from the other side of the ball, the offensive line, unaccounted for. I’m hoping that is addressed in some capacity over the next few weeks, (perhaps the draft) and that Dallas can maintain its slowly developing balancing act.