Back in 2010, the Dallas Cowboys were coming into the season as self-titled favorites to make it back to the playoffs, and many hoped they could play in the Super Bowl they were to host in (then) Cowboys Stadium. But everything fell apart. The team started the season 1-7 with the final two losses against lowly Jacksonville and the eventual Super Bowl Champion Packers being blowouts. It was at this time Jerry Jones decided that something must be done and fired Wade Phillips in the middle of the season.
As Jason Garrett took over the team as interim head coach, there was a swift change in the atmosphere in Dallas. Not only did the team avoid any more big losses by a two TD differential or more, they actually finished the remainder of the season with a 5-3 record. It seemed the players were quick to respond to the change, but perhaps more importantly, were quick to accept Garrett's coaching principles.
I have been very candid about my belief in Jason Garrett, his process of team building, and the kind of culture he tries to implement. While his Cowboys' coaching record is an uninspiring 29-27, I find his approach and methods to be exactly what this franchise needs. There was also one great intangible that seemed to be ever-present on the football field, Jason Garrett's teams don't quit. It seemed that no matter the circumstance, no matter how poorly the first half of the game went, no matter how many starters were out due to injuries, the Cowboys never gave up and fought until the final whistle.
Of course, the Cowboys have suffered a few blowouts during the past three years, but it seemed to me that even during those debacles the team never quit on Garrett, never raised the white flag when faced with an overwhelming opposition.Was this an intangible factor that might be based more on my opinion and belief in the team and its head coach? I decided to compare the 2011-2013 Cowboys with their division rivals to see if there was any statistical evidence.
The results may surprise you...
|Blowout losses by two TDs or more
|2011||at PHI||7 - 34||Wk 8||2011||at BUF||0 - 23||Wk 8|
|at NYG||14 - 31||Wk 17||vs NYJ||19 - 34||Wk 13|
|2012||at SEA||7 - 27||Wk 2||at PHI||10 - 34||Wk 17|
|vs CHI||18 - 34||Wk 4||2012||at PIT||12 - 27||Wk 8|
|2013||at NO||17 - 49||Wk 10||2013||at GB||20 - 38||WK 2|
|at CHI||28 - 45||WK 14||at DAL||16 - 31||Wk 6|
|at DEN||21 - 45||Wk 8|
|vs SF||6 -27||Wk 12|
|vs KC||10 - 45||Wk 14|
|at NYG||6 - 20||Wk 17|
|2011||at WAS||14 - 28||Wk 1||2011||vs NE||20 -38||Wk 12|
|at NO||24 - 49||Wk 12||at SEA||14 - 31||Wk 13|
|2012||at CIN||13 - 31||Wk 10||2012||at ARI||6 - 27||Wk 3|
|at ATL||0 - 34||Wk 15||at NO||13 - 28||Wk 9|
|at BAL||14 - 33||WK 16||vs DAL||23 - 38||Wk 10|
|2013||vs DEN||23 - 41||WK 2||at WAS||6 - 31||WK 11|
|at CAR||0 - 38||Wk 3||vs CIN||13 - 34||Wk 15|
|at KC||7 - 31||Wk 4||at NYG||7 - 42||Wk17|
|vs PHI||21 - 36||Wk 5||2013||at DEN||20 - 52||Wk 4|
|at SD||14 - 37||Wk 14||vs DAL||3 - 17||Wk 7|
|vs SEA||0 - 23||Wk 15||at MIN||30 - 48||Wk 15|
That's right, folks. Dallas fielded two historically bad and injury-plagued defenses the past two years, and yet, in the past three years Jason Garrett's Cowboys have had roughly half as many "big losses" (two TD differential or greater) as their division rivals. While most Cowboys fans know the team has dealt with far more close games than most other NFL teams, it does come as a surprise that a big reason for this is their ability to avoid losing games by 14 points or more. The media, and many fans, often call these Cowboys teams mediocre, but it seems that they are also more competitive in more games than their division rivals.
Can you imagine what these teams could have done if they had more talented or healthy defenses? Surely, Romo has been a big factor for keeping so many games competitive, though likely will never get the credit for it. But there appears to be more involved in this big differential. The New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles also have had some high-powered offenses in the past three years, and statistically better defenses, so can it really only be the Cowboys offense that has led to such a better "big loss" mitigation?
An interesting note, the only times New York and Washington matched Dallas' low number of "big losses" were the years they won the division. Philadelphia breaks that trend with a Cowboys-esque 2010 season when their lowest number of "big losses" led to an 8-8 season, though they did manage to win the division last season with only three big differential losses - one of which was against the Cowboys.
It seems pretty clear to me that Garrett's mentality and team culture has been a big factor in avoiding these beat downs. The team does not quit in the face of adversity and does not let losses get out of hand. It is an intangible that will be vital to the team's success as they continue to rebuild around their young roster and head into the 2014 season with many questions surrounding their defense. While their success will depend more on managing to achieve wins than avoiding big losses, it is comforting to know that the underdog Cowboys appear to have more fight in them than their division rivals. They may not have the "star players" on defense to take over games, but they seem to have a culture that will not allow them to give up in the face of adversity.
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