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Are the Cowboys more consistent (play harder) under Garrett?

At the beginning of the 2006 season, Vegas had the over / under on the number of wins the Cowboys should accumulate as 9.5. With Drew Bledsoe, Terry Glenn, and Jason Witten spearheading the Dallas attack behind the guidance of future Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells; at least 10 wins seemed certain.

The boys in Vegas seemed to hit the nail on the head, as the Cowboys were 9-6, and preparing to host the pathetic the 2-win Detroit Lions with John Kitna. Of course, Dallas lost the game, Detroit slipped to the second overall draft pick and selected Calvin Johnson, and the Cowboys headed up to Seattle for the wild card game that ended with a botched field goal attempt.

Considering the difference in talent that should exist between a team that made the playoffs and went 3-13 in 2006, it would not be a stretch to wonder if the effort to win the final game of the season was less than usual. But 2006 was hardly the first time the Cowboys underwhelmed against an inferior opponent.

Season

Opponent

Dallas wins

Opponent wins

Head coach

Result

2003

ATL

10

5

Bill Parcells

L 27-13

2003

TB

10

7

Bill Parcells

L 16-0

2003

NO

10

8

Bill Parcells

L 13-7

2005

OAK

9

4

Bill Parcells

L 19-13

2005

STL

9

6

Bill Parcells

L 20-10

2006

WAS

9

5

Bill Parcells

L 22-19

2006

DET

9

3

Bill Parcells

L 39-31

2007

PHI

13

8

Wade Phillips

L 10-6

2007

WAS

13

9

Wade Phillips

L 27-6

2008

STL

9

2

Wade Phillips

L 34-14

2009

NYG

11

8

Wade Phillips

L 33-31, L 31-24

2009

DEN

11

8

Wade Phillips

L 17-10

Notice that with Parcells and Phillips as head coach between 2003 and 2010, the Cowboys lost 13 games against teams that finished the season with a record that had at least two fewer wins than the Cowboys that season. In 2004 and 2010 the Cowboys finished with a 6-10 record. Dallas did not lose to a team that was 4-12 or worse those two seasons.

The table goes through the 10th week of the 2012 season. As recorded, however, the Cowboys have not lost to a single team that finished with a record two wins short of that posted by the Cowboys after 2010.

In the interest of full disclosure, please note that Dallas did not play the majority of its starters in the loss to the 9-7 Redskins in 2007. In the loss to the 2-14 Rams in 2008 under Wade's watch, Tony Romo was unable to play due to a broken hand.

Here are the records of the last two head coaches and the current Cowboys head coach against teams that are within either a win or a loss of the Cowboys at the end of the year, a team with at least two fewer wins than Dallas that season, or team that has at least two more wins than the Cowboys:

Opposing team record

Parcells

Phillips

Garrett

Record within -1 to 1 wins

10-10

7-7

5-7

Record at least -2 wins

19-7

25-6

7-0

Record at least +2 wins

5-13

2-9

4-7

Total

34-30

34-22

16-14*

*New York (1-1) and Seattle (0-1) are currently 1.5 games ahead Dallas and could go in one of two categories not affecting the conculsion of the study.

Several things stand out in the table. Against teams that were within a game of the Cowboys (e.g., Dallas is 9-7 and the opponent is either 8-8, 9-7, or 10-6), Wade and Bill won as many as they lost. This could be strong evidence that the talent on the Cowboys from 2003 through the first eight games in 2010 was average overall.

But since Bill inherited Quincy Carter and Darren Hambrick, a strong case could be made that Parcells exchanged below average talent over the course of his 4-year tenure to above average talent. Considering that Wade started 13-3 with Bill's players and finished his last two and a half seasons 21-19 as the head coach, Phillips probably returned the talent level to average.

That is likely a more accurate depiction of the talent-level on the Cowboys. It also fits with the Dallas record between 2003 and 2010 against teams of their own ilk: 17-17.

During that stretch, however, the Cowboys have lost 13 games (as the first table details) to teams that were significantly worse than Dallas that season. The Cowboys won a little less than a quarter of their games against teams that had at least two more wins than Dallas over that time period.

It seems that the talent exists to occasionally defeat a better team, but the performance of the team from 2003 (under Parcells) through the first eight games of 2010 (Phillips' reign) was uneven. Dallas could beat good teams about 24% of the time, but lost to bad teams approximately 23% of the time. The Cowboys under Bill and Wade beat teams with similar records exactly 50% of the time.

Under Garrett, however, the Cowboys beat good teams (teams that finished with at least two more wins than Dallas) 36% of the time, while beating teams within one win or loss of Dallas 42% of the time. The latter percentage is within one win (that was a loss) of being exactly 50%: just like Garrett's predecessors.

Unlike Parcells and Phillips, however, Garrett's editions of the Cowboys have not lost to a bad team yet. Teams that have at least two more losses than Dallas have never beaten the Cowboys with Garrett as the head coach.

This strongly suggests that the Cowboys under Jason have a much more constant level of performance than the team did under either Bill or Wade. If this trend continues throughout the rest of this season, the Cowboys should win against:

Cleveland (2-7)

Washington (3-6) twice

Philadelphia (3-6) again

Cincinnati (4-5), New Orleans (4-5), and Pittsburgh (6-3) will likely fall into other categories. If Dallas wins two of those three games, the Cowboys would finish with a 10-6 record if this trend continues.

10-6 will likely win the NFC East this season. The way the Giants are playing, 9-7 could easily take the East...again.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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