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The Epicness Of The Cowboys 2015 Meltdown

As bad as the 2015 season has been, there may be some potential lessons in this meltdown as well.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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 other preferred person of piousness.

If the Cowboys continue along the course they've established in their nine games, they'll end up with a 4-12 record, score 295 points and allow 380. Coming off an 12-4 season with 467 points scored and 352 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 -8 wins and -172 points scored on offense versus last year, a feat not many teams have managed since 1978, when the league moved to a 16-game regular season.

For the Cowboys, the biggest negative swing in wins from season-to-season so far was -5, when they dropped from 11-5 in 2009 to 6-10 in 2010. The 2010 season cost then-head coach Wade Phillips his job.

The biggest negative swing in points scored was -171 when the 1984 team (9-7) scored 308 points to the 1983 team's (12-4) 479 points.

At this pace, the 2015 team is on track to eclipse franchise records for futility. Sure, Tony Romo will be back next week, and he may be the reason Dez Bryant holds on to the ball on a third-down throw or jumps for the ball in the end zone. Or he may not. We'll see.

Since the league moved to a 16-game schedule in 1978, two teams have managed a swing of -10 wins from season to season.

  • The 1994 Houston Oilers ended up 2-14 after going 12-4 the year before. 1994 was the year Warren Moon moved to the Vikings, and Billy Joe Tolliver took over duties in Houston.
  • The 2013 Houston Texans equaled that improbable feat, also dropping to 2-14 after going 12-4 the year before.
  • Three more teams, the 1999 Falcons, the 2002 Bears, and the 2013 Falcons dropped nine wins versus their previous season

If the Cowboys continue with their meager offensive points production and were to score 172 points less than last year, that would rank as the 10th-worst offensive points swing since 1978.

One interesting reference point on the list of teams with huge negative season-to-season swings are the 2011 Colts, who had a -8 swing in wins and dropped to 2-14 from 10-6 the year before. Peyton Manning had to sit out the entire 2011 season after spinal fusion surgery. The 2011 Colts offense also had the NFL's biggest swing in points scored since 1978, dropping by -192 points versus 2010. But after the disaster of 2011, the Colts bounced back to an 11-5 record in 2012.

Here are the highlights of the Colts' turnaround, and a potential lesson as well:

  • 2011 spelled the end of Jim Caldwell's three-year tenure as the head coach in Indy, and he was replaced by the former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano
  • The Colts fired Vice Chairman Bill Polian (who had been the team's general manager since 1998) and his son, team Vice President and general manager Chris Polian, and brought in Ryan Grigson as the new general manager.
  • After the season, the Colts let their three QBs (Peyton Manning, Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovski) walk in free agency, along with almost half of their offense (WR Pierre Garcon, RB Joseph Addai, TE Dallas Clark, TE Jacob Tamme, and C Jeff Saturday). Together, these veterans accounted for 71 starts in 2011, or 40% of the entire offensive starts.
  • In the ensuing 2012 draft, the Colts picked QB Andrew Luck with their number one pick.

The 2011 Colts are not directly comparable to the 2015 Cowboys, and there's a chance Tony Romo can turn things around when he's back. But Romo isn't the only reason why the Cowboys dropped from 12-4 to 2-7. And the Cowboys would be well advised to consider that carefully as they put together their team for 2016.

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