Is It Too Early To Talk About "Air Garrett"?

Tony Romo and Miles Austin looking forward to 2011.

Earlier this week, our own KD Drummond caused quite a stir with an article suggesting the Cowboys may have the best passing attack in the NFC East.

That premise was hotly debated and the discussion quickly veered off topic, so today we refocus on the Cowboys' passing game with the help of a few very simple stats.

1,000+ receiving yards in a season is a stat that is correctly labeled as a season milestone for a player who achieves it. When a player puts up those kinds of numbers, he was at least very successful, perhaps even dominant against most opponents.

Last season, 16 NFL teams had one player who caught more than 1,000 yards. One team had two players above the 1,000 yard receiving threshold. Care to take a guess which team that might have been? The Packers, Colts or Saints? Perhaps the Texans?

No, no, no and no.

The only team with two players who each had more than 1,000 receiving yards were the Dallas Cowboys. Miles Austin notched 1,041 yards, Jason Witten just barely made it with 1,002 yards. Not bad, considering the Cowboys played with their backup QB for most of the season in an offense that was far from fully operational.

But was 2010 just a fluke for the Cowboys? Let's extend the scope of this 1,000 receiving-yards analysis a little further, and look at the stats from 2006-2010. Off the top of your head, how many teams do you think had more 1,000-yard receivers than the Cowboys? More than three? More than five?

Before we answer that question, let's first look at how many and which Cowboys players exceeded 1,000 receiving yards over that period. That this period corresponds to Tony Romo's career as a starter for the Cowboys should not really come as a big surprise to anybody.

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Player Yards Player Yards Player Yards Player Yards Player Yards
Terrell Owens 1,180 Terrell Owens 1,355 Terrell Owens 1,052 Miles Austin 1,320 Miles Austin 1,041
Terry Glenn 1,047 Jason Witten 1,145  - -
 - -
Jason Witten 1,030 Jason Witten 1,002

The Cowboys have players 1,000 receiving yards nine times in the last five years. 2008 was the only year in which the Cowboys didn't have two players hit that statistical milestone.

So how does this compare in the division? Over the past five years, the Cowboys have more 1,000+ yard receivers than all three NFC East rivals combined: The Giants and Eagles each have three, the Redskins two since 2006. So much for that discussion.

Somewhat more surprising is the fact that there are actually five NFL teams who have not had a single player reach 1,000 receiving yards in the last five years: Chicago, Jacksonville, Oakland, San Francisco and Tennessee all came up empty in this category.

Back to the original question: how many teams had more 1,000 yard receivers than the Cowboys in the last five years? Not a single one. Here's the list.

No. of 1,000+ yard receivers
Team 2006-2010
Dallas 9
Arizona 8
Green Bay 7
Indianapolis 7
New England 6
Cincinnati 5
Denver 5

When asked by Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden in October 2007 to describe the foundation of his offense, Garrett leaned back and invoked the "Air" Coryell offense:

"It's what you would have to call the Coryell offense."

"If you brought Don Coryell to Dallas and handed him our playbook," said Garrett, "he would recognize an awful lot of stuff."

In 2011, Garrett may have one of the most potent passing offenses in the league at his disposal. Take a healthy Romo, Austin clicking with Romo, Witten continuing to be Mr. Reliable and Dez Bryant in full command of the playbook. Add an improved O-line and an elite WR-coach, and 2011 could see the Cowboys aerial attack reach dizzying levels.

In his season review of Miles Austin, Bob Sturm nicely summarized the dilemma opposing defenses will face against the Cowboys passing attack:

Austin demands a double-team, but with Bryant on the other side, there are some real classic conflicts that defenses will have to face. Safeties will be stressed and if pass protection is solidified, there is plenty of reason to believe in a bit of a fireworks show. Austin is not the best WR in football, but he is very good and quite explosive if he makes the first defender miss (which he often does with his strength). And the Cowboys dream of having co-#1's at WR may finally be coming true.

Is it too early to talk about "Air Garrett"?

And in case you were wondering, only five teams in the history of the NFL have had three players each totaling 1,000 or more receiving yards in the same season. The 2008 Cardinals, 2004 Colts, 1995 Falcons, 1989 Redskins and 1980 Chargers.

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