Just throw the 2015 season into the trash chute where it belongs. At least that’s what this coaching staff and front office would like for all of us to do. It’s a depressing memory that we do not need to live through again. Do what every other self-respecting adult would do and suppress it down far enough to where only an 18-year old bottle of scotch can bring it back from the dead.
In reality, the Cowboys have all the rights in the world to believe that they will be much better in 2016 than they were last season. We know that plenty of things have to go wrong to go from 12-4 to 4-12, but the main catalyst has got to be the fact that they were without the services of four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo, who led the league in virtually every category in 2014. They also had to deal with an injured All-Pro WR1 in Dez Bryant, whom his peers Julio Jones and Roddy White predicted wouldn’t be the same after breaking his foot week one.
Just those two additions alone is music to the ears of Jason Garrett, his staff, and the entirety of Cowboys Nation. Then you think about the addition of Ezekiel Elliott or good musings we’re hearing surrounding other various players on the team and that’s a recipe that could lead to the NFC East crown. However, to quote that awesome locker room speech Garrett gave after his Cowboys won the division in 2014, "I think our sights are set a little higher than this."
The Cowboys would not be the first to go from the bottom of the basement to the top of the crop in the NFL. It’s a feat that has been proven possible many times. Our own OCC provided a list of teams in a recent post. It got me thinking about some of the better stories of teams that have gone from outhouse to penthouse in one year. A stroll through history should give us some more optimism for 2016:
2008 Miami Dolphins From 1-15 to 11-5
The Dolphins were in complete disarray after Nick Saban jilted them in the 2007 season. After only winning one contest, Cam Cameron was fired one day after Bill Parcells took over football operations and hired Jeff Ireland. With Parcells recommendation, the Dolphins hired Cowboys’ assistant Tony Sparano. A few storied veterans of the past were let loose in Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor. The Dolphins brought in linebacker Joey Porter, who coincidentally made a Pro Bowl. Partly in thanks to the Tom Brady-less New England Patriots, the Dolphins cruised to 11-5 and won their division behind the arm of Chad Pennington, 2008’s Comeback Player of the Year. Unfortunately, the Ravens would shellac them in the Wildcard round 27-9, effectively ending their Cinderella story.
1988 Cincinnati Bengals From 4-12 to 12-4
During the strike year, Boomer Esiason wore plenty of emotions on his sleeve as he and head coach Steve Wyche battled it out on the sidelines in a 4-12 effort. However, the following year the two seemed to have synced up. Esiason would have the best year of his career, throwing for over 3,500 yards, 28 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. The Bengals rode their high-powered offense that included the best rushing attack in the league led by Ickey Woods and James Brooks. Esiason would also go on to win the NFL’s MVP honors whilst leading his team to Super Bowl XXIII where they would eventually lose to the dynastic San Francisco 49er’s 20-16.
2001 New England Patriots From 5-11 to 11-5
The Pats would lose the first two games of the season as well as signal caller Drew Bledsoe in week two and replace him with the sixth-round pick from Michigan, Tom Brady. Bill Belichick rode his defense and young gun into the playoffs with an 11-5 record. New England was able to clinch the AFC’s second seed and rest until the Divisional Round. There they met the Oakland Raiders and the infamous "tuck rule" was called after Brady fumbled and it was subsequently ruled an incomplete pass. The Pats went on to win that contest, defeat the number one seed Pittsburgh Steelers the week after and were set to take on the heavily favored St. Louis Rams. Adam Vinatieri would use his leg to give the Patriots their first Super Bowl victory 20-17. From there with Brady and Belichick at the helm, the Patriots have become one of the most successful franchises in NFL history.
1999 St. Louis Rams From 4-12 to 13-3
The final and perhaps best comeback story belongs to the team affectionately named "The Greatest Show on Turf". At the time, the Rams were coming off an abysmal season under head coach Dick Vermeil, at 4-12, and the franchise hadn’t made the playoffs in a decade. In the offseason, the Rams traded for running back Marshall Faulk and drafted wide receiver Tory Holt with the sixth-overall pick. Incumbent starting quarterback Trent Green was lost for the year in a preseason game elevating undrafted free agent Kurt Warner to stardom. Along with Faulk and Holt, Warner led the Rams to a 13-3 record and received NFL MVP honors; Faulk was named Offensive Player of the Year with Vermeil being named Coach of the Year. The Rams would defeat the Tennessee Titans 23-16 in Super Bowl XXXIV and Warner was named Super Bowl MVP.
Can the Cowboys replicate some of the success that we’ve seen with storied teams of the past? The hope is that with their vaunted offensive line and firepower, Romo can lead a charge similar to teams on this list. If they can return to their 2014 form or perhaps be better, the defense won’t have to be All-World to be effective.
Anything can happen in the world of the National Football League. All of these aforementioned teams don’t even scratch the surface of all the NFL teams to go from worst to first. The Dallas Cowboys certainly hope they can make a historic comeback and become the NFL’s Cinderella story of 2016. Here’s to that potential idea becoming a reality.