Most of the time when I look at Cowboys stats I am unashamedly predisposed to finding a positive nugget lurking here, a sign of good things to come hidden over there, or a lovely little number struggling to get noticed in a huge Excel file.
Today I have instead decided to revel in the badness of the Cowboys, but not just badness of the ho-humm, boy-are-they-bad variety. No. I'm talking epic badness here. So bad we could make it into the NFL record books. Badness you'll feel so ashamed about, you might not even tell your priest or your preferred person of piousness.
If the Cowboys continue along the course they've established in their first seven games, they'll end up with a 2-14 record, score 352 points and allow 427. Coming off an 11-5 season with 361 points scored and 250 points allowed, that is quite an impressive meltdown. Yet there is a lesson in all of this.
If the Cowboys play the rest of the season the way they started it, that would be a swing of -9 wins and -177 points allowed on defense versus last year, a feat that only very few teams have managed since 1978, when the league moved to a 16-game regular season.
Only one team since 1978 has had a bigger swing in wins: The 1994 Houston Oilers ended up 2-14 after going 12-4 the year before. Of course, Warren Moon moving to the Vikings that year didn't help any. After a 1-9 start, then defensive coordinator Jeff Fisher was promoted to head coach and hasn't moved since.
Two other teams have managed a swing of -9 wins since 1978: The 1999 Falcons fell to 5-11 after a 14-2 record and a trip to the Super Bowl the previous season. The 2002 Bears compiled a 4-12 record after going 13-3 the year before.
The -177 point swing on points given up is the fifth worst swing since 1978. The 2000 Rams lead the table here with a swing of -229 points allowed versus the 1999 season. Somewhat surprisingly, their record only dropped from 13-3 and a Super Bowl ring to 10-6 and a wildcard exit. Of course, an offense that scored the third most points in league history helps mask a defense that gave up 471 points that year.
The only other team team in the 'top five' in both lists apart from the Cowboys: The 2007 Ravens, who had a -8 swing in wins and dropped to 5-11 from 13-3 the year before. But in 2008, they bounced back to an 11-5 record.
Here are the highlights of the Ravens' turnaround, and a potential lesson as well:
- 2007 spelled the end of Brian Billick's head coaching career (to date), and he was replaced by the Eagles' then special teams and defensive backs coach John Harbaugh.
- Initially, the entire coaching staff was fired after the 2007 season. Rex Ryan was re-engaged as defensive coordinator and promoted to assistant head coach by Harbaugh, who had previously coached with Ryan.
- In 2008 the Ravens picked Joe Flacco with their number one pick (No, I'm not comparing Kyle Boller to Tony Romo, just stating what happened) and Ray Rice with their second pick. Wise choices, both.
- In 2008 the Ravens returned only two starters from their 2007 O-Line to their starting line-up and acquired a right tackle in free agency.
- The Ravens acquired a starting safety and starting corner via free agency in 2008.
Any of this sound even remotely familiar? Now these may be superficial similarities and they don't tell the entire story, but regardless, if I were Jerry Jones, I'd be on the phone with Ozzie Newsome right now trying to get as much advice as possible from a man who's already successfully managed a somewhat similar situation. This time, there will be no Hershel Walker trade to bail Jerry out.