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For The Cowboys, Or For Any Team, What Is The Right Mix?

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While we often here the axiom "Defense Wins Championships", the "Games are won in the Trenches" is an even better one. But all of the axioms have a lot of merit, so with that in mind, is there a formula or philosophy that usually wins?

Playoffs!
Playoffs!
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

We are told by everyone that this is a "quarterbacks" league and with the playoffs just completed we found that the teams with exceptional quarterbacks were for the most part the ones that were there proving that axiom while the teams without one were at home watching.

But the team with the best quarterback is not the one that wins the Super Bowl every year and neither is the team with the best defense, so if it is not the team with the best quarterback or the team with the best defense, then is there a formula or philosophy that teams can ascribe to and be assured that they will usually be there at the end of the year?

Looking at the two teams left we can see a pattern and that pattern is that a play here, a play there and the two final teams could just as easily be two completely different teams. Had the Lions made just one or two more plays, or the Cowboys had made one or two more plays one of them could be one of the teams in the Super Bowl.

In an article by our own FPW Tom Ryle, he points out this "little separation" concept by giving a link to a Bob Strum article where he does a nice job of explaining it. When Jimmy Johnson was asked what did he think was the difference between this Cowboys team and the ones he took to the Super Bowl, he replied..."We had the number one defense" on those teams.

The truth is "organizations win" and not quarterbacks or defenses. A team that wins has a certain amount of luck involved, but the teams with the greatest point differential should by definition have the least chance that luck will derail it as was pointed out by rabblerousr in his fine article about not having as many close games.

While a good case can be made that there were five mistakes by the Green Bay Packers that resulted in the unbelievable comeback by the Seattle Seahawks, Is there any doubt that the biggest was the huge blunder by Brandon Bostic when instead of "just doing his job" which was to block the oncoming Seahawks players so that the "hands-team" players such as Jordy Nelson could get that on-side kick that he decided to be the hero?

"3. Brandon Bostick. Heaven only knows why tight end Brandon Bostick decided to get fancy and go up for an onside kick reception instead of blocking for the far more sure-handed Jordy Nelson right behind him. That bounce off Bostick's helmet landed in Seattle hands, and barely 30 seconds later, the Seahawks had scored an improbable go-ahead touchdown. Oh, but the pain wasn't done for Green Bay yet."

To build on what rabblerousr was saying, let's look at the average margin of victory for all the Super Bowl winners for the last 22 years. And to be clear about what is meant about average margin of victory, it is the difference between the points scored, (PF), and the points allowed, (PA). This means that the teams with the largest difference between the points scored (points for), and the points allowed would have less chance of lady luck derailing their dreams.

As we can see in the chart below the average margin of victory for the last 22 Super Bowl winners was only 9.01 points. It is also interesting to note that using this criteria of margin of victory, the two luckiest teams were both the New York Giants. In 2008 their margin was a pitiful 1.38 points and in 2012 it was a negative .38 points. Yes, in 2012 they gave up more points than they scored.

Year Super Bowl Played Team PF PA O-AVG D-AVG DIFF
1993 Cowboys 409 243 25.56 15.19 10.38
1994 Cowboys 376 229 23.50 14.31 9.19
1995 49ers 505 296 31.56 18.50 13.06
1996 Cowboys 435 291 27.19 18.19 9.00
1997 Pakers 456 210 28.50 13.13 15.38
1998 Broncos 472 287 29.50 17.94 11.56
1999 Broncos 501 309 31.31 19.31 12.00
2000 Rams 526 242 32.88 15.13 17.75
2001 Ravens 333 165 20.81 10.31 10.50
2002 Patriots 371 272 23.19 17.00 6.19
2003 Buccaneers 346 196 21.63 12.25 9.38
2004 Patriots 348 238 21.75 14.88 6.88
2005 Patriots 437 260 27.31 16.25 11.06
2006 Steelers 389 258 24.31 16.13 8.19
2007 Colts 427 360 26.69 22.50 4.19
2008 Giants 373 351 23.31 21.94 1.38
2009 Steelers 347 223 21.69 13.94 7.75
2010 Saints 510 341 31.88 21.31 10.56
2011 Packers 388 240 24.25 15.00 9.25
2012 Giants 394 400 24.63 25.00 -0.38
2013 Ravens 398 344 24.88 21.50 3.38
2014 Seahawks 417 231 26.06 14.44 11.63
9158 5986 572.38 374.13 198.25
Last 22 Years Average 416 272 26.02 17.01 9.01

The really great teams will do whatever it takes to increase that differential. They will use trick plays, hire the most assistants, and every other aspect that they can discover that will lead them to getting that margin that can assure success.

As can be seen the 2014 Cowboys had only a slightly smaller margin of victory than the average for those Super Bowl winners, and we all know that the area that the Cowboys can improve the most is in the number of points the defense gives up.

Year Team PF PA O-AVG D-AVG DIFF
2014 Cowboys 467 352 29.19 22.00 7.19

I would also like to see them use every avenue at their disposal which includes trick plays. The Patriots and the Seahawks both used them in the playoffs to great advantage. Every team has its weakness and there are so many factors in a winning organization such as an outstanding scouting department, director of player/personnel, head coach, assistant coaches, strength and conditioning coach, quality control manager, general manager, etc, that it makes it imperative that the organization pays attention to every single area/factor.

Again, the point is the organizations that have the best in as many areas as possible are the ones that have the best shot at winning it all. The Cowboys are close to having the right mix of all those areas. Lets hope that they continue on the path that they are on to widen the gap with the other organizations in all of those areas.