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No More Secret Sauce: Are Cowboys The Worst Team In The NFL?

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There's no way to sugarcoat this mess anymore.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

A long time ago and in a place far, far away, the Cowboys won their two opening games of the 2015 season. Since then, they have lost five in a row. Do you know how many other teams have lost five games in a row this season?

The Tennessee Titans and the Detroit Lions. Which means the Cowboys are just as bad as the Lions or Titans. Whether that makes them the worst team in the league is largely a matter of opinion, but there's no denying that over the last five weeks, the Cowboys are one of the worst teams in the league.

You think the Browns, Jaguars, Lions, or 49ers are worse? Nope. They all won at least one of their last five games. The Titans are on a six-game skid, so there's a case to be made for the Cowboys only being the second-worst team in the league.

This week, you'll hear a lot about how the Cowboys still have their fate in their own hands, about how Tony Romo can still lead this team to the playoffs, about how the Cowboys could still run the table, how their 2-1 divisional record could prove a valuable tie-breaker at the end of the season, how the NFC East is so weak anything is possible.

Forget about all of that. The Cowboys are not making the playoffs this year.

In the 37 years since the league moved to a 16-game schedule, only four teams have made the playoffs after starting 2-5.

Team Year Record after 7 games
Final record Playoffs
Denver Broncos 2011 2-5 8-8 Divisional round
New York Jets 2002 2-5
9-7 Divisional round
Detroit Lions 1995 2-5 10-6 Wildcard
New Orleans Saints 1990 2-5 8-8 Wildcard

So while in theory there is still a chance, the Cowboys of the last five games have shown nothing to make me believe a such an historic turnaround could be possible.

Which is just as well. Because now the Cowboys' braintrust can start focusing on the important questions for the future of the franchise:

  • What's the plan for a "Future Without Tony Romo"? It is no coincidence that the plan for a scenario called "Future Without Tony Romo" is exactly the same as the plan called "Future With Tony Romo". The Cowboys cannot go into a season anymore without a clear understanding of who will win games at QB for the team in Tony Romo's inevitable absence, be it through injury for a few games or eventual permanent retirement.
  • What does it say about the quality of your offense when it can't win a game without its starting quarterback? The Colts, Browns, Texans, and Steelers have all won games with their backup QBs. Looks like they have receivers who can get open or offenses that can convert third downs. Or score TDs.
  • What's true for the offense is also true for the coaching staff. Other teams have found ways to win without their stating QB, why can't the Cowboys? Perhaps their uber-conservative gameplan has something to do with it. That and settling for field goals when you are clearly the underdog. If you've got nothing to lose, why not play like you've got nothing to lose?

The Cowboys will eventually win a few more games, perhaps when Tony Romo finally makes it back, perhaps even earlier. It won't matter. Even with Tony Romo, this is not a team that can suddenly go 11-0 or 10-1 down the stretch. Because contrary to what the Cowboys have said in the past, they have no secret sauce - or it's all used up.

Whatever secret sauce they had did not work on Brandon Weeden, did not work on Matt Cassel, doesn't work on the offensive coaching, and hasn't gotten them a lot of sacks or takeaways.

And because I'm a chronicler of all things stat-related, know this: since moving to a 16-game schedule in 1978, not a single team has made the playoffs with just two wins at the halfway mark.