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Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, Eagles: The Biggest 2015 “What Ifs” For Each NFC East Team

Four key "What Ifs" that shaped the 2015 season for the Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, and Eagles.

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What if Jerry hadn't fired Jimmy? What if the Cowboys had drafted J.J. Watt instead of Tyron Smith? What if Dez’s catch hadn’t been overturned on review?

What if, what if, what if. We see questions like the above almost every day all over the internet, and I usually just move past those questions without a second thought because they often feel like hindsight trolling. But the other day I started thinking, what would be the biggest what if of last season?

So today we'll look at the four biggest what ifs, and not just for the Cowboys, but for the rest of the NFC East for 2015 as well, starting with the Redskins.

1. What if the Redskins had stuck with Robert Griffin?

Early in the 2015 offseason, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden announced that Robert Griffin would be the starting QB in Washington. Griffin had led the Redskins to the playoffs in 2012, but his star had dimmed considerably after injuries and difficulties transitioning from a read-option offense to a more traditional NFL offense.

Griffin remained up-and-down during training camp and the first two preseason games last year, until Gruden (with a lot of encouragement from Redskins players who insisted benching Griffin was needed to show the best players would actually get to play) opted for Kirk Cousins for the third preseason game. Cousins had started five games in 2014, but hadn't impressed much in those either, and he continued to be inconsistent for much of the first half of the season, but then settled down and threw 20 touchdowns to only three interceptions in his last nine games en route to the NFC East division title.

Griffin would go on to sign a 2-year, $15 million deal in Cleveland, while the Redskins chose to franchise-tag Cousins for a one-year, $19.95 million deal.

We'll see what the future holds for Cousins, but he did manage to get the Redskins to the playoffs, and it's hard to imagine that Griffin would have been able to do that. With Griffin under center, the Redskins could easily have missed the playoffs, perhaps even by quite a margin.

2. What if the Giants hadn't been such boneheads in 2015?

It's almost impossible to pick a single "what if" from a disastrous season that saw the Giants lose seven games by a combined 21 total points - that's seven of the team's nine losses that came by the thinnest of margins, and were often lost due to some particularly boneheaded play, move, or decision.

Week 1 @ Cowboys: In a game that seemingly set the tone for the season, Eli Manning told running back Rashad Jennings not to score when a TD would have put the Giants up 30-20 with 1:54 left to play in the fourth quarter. The Giants ran twice and didn't score from four yards out. On third down, like a 9-year old playing Madden for the first time, Manning decided to throw the ball, and the subsequent incompletion stopped the clock, giving the Cowboys (who were out of time outs) 1:37 for their game-winning drive. The Cowboys won 27-26.

Week 2 vs. Falcons: If the Cowboys game didn't set the tone for the season, this one certainly did. The Giants became the first team in NFL history to blow double-digit fourth-quarters leads in the first two games of the season when they allowed the Falcons to score 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and lost 24-20.

Week 8 @ Saints: In a spectacular snafu, with the score tied at 49 each, the Giants punt the ball with 20 seconds left from their own 25-yard line in anticipation of overtime. A 46-yard punt, a 24-yard return, a fumble, and a facemask penalty on the Giants punter later, and the Saints have the ball at the Giants 32 with 5 seconds left. The Saints kick a 50-yard field goal and win 52-49.

Week 10 vs. Patriots: Trailing the Giants by two points with 1:47 left to play, Tom Brady throws a wobbler directly at a waiting Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, with no Patriots player anywhere in sight. But rookie safety Landon Collins jumps in front of the waiting Rodgers-Cromartie, tries to catch the ball and loses it when he hits the ground. The Patriots continue their drive and score the winning field goal with one second left to beat the Giants, 27-26.

Week 13 vs. Jets: Leading 20-10 with 8:50 left in the fourth, Tom Coughlin decides to go for it on 4th-and-2 from the Jets' four instead of taking the easy field goal. Manning's pass is intercepted (of course), the Jets score 10 points in eight minutes to tie the game, and eventually win it in overtime.

3. What if the Eagles had drafted Marcus Mariota in 2015?

The Eagles were ready to sell their souls for Marcus Mariota in 2015. Chip Kelly and the Eagles reportedly offered Philadelphia's first- and second-round picks in 2015, their 2016 first-round pick, any quarterback on their roster (likely Sam Bradford) and any defensive player on their roster (likely Fletcher Cox) to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for the second-overall pick, according to Peter Schrager of Foxsports.com.

The Eagles topped even that insane offer this year, when they gave up a first, two seconds, and a third in 2016, along with their first and third in 2017 for Carson Wentz, but that'll be something for our "2016 What If" article next year.

Mariota had a good rookie season on a crappy Titans team, notching a 91.5 passer rating (ranking 17th among 35 qualifying QBs) and a 61.0 QBR (16th overall). By comparison, Bradford ranked 25th in passer rating and 33rd in QBR for Philly.

It's probably fair to say that Mariota, even in his rookie season, would have played better than Bradford in Philadelphia, and might easily have been worth an extra two to three wins, which could have put the Eagles into the playoffs.

Which in turn would have meant at least one extra year for Chip Kelly to pour more gasoline onto the Philly dumpster fire, and an opportunity for Kelly to ruin another draft for Philly.

Too bad.

4. What if Tony Romo had stayed healthy?

The Cowboys had quite an offense in 2014, when Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant were an unstoppable trio.

Romo led the NFL in passer rating (113.2), QBR (83.6), completion percentage (69.9), and yards per attempt (8.5) despite fracturing bones in his back; Murray broke Emmitt Smith's franchise record for rushing yards in a season (1,845) and led the league by a spectacular margin; Bryant caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and a league-high 16 touchdowns.

With Romo and Bryant out injured for large parts of the season, Murray off to Philly, and the defensive takeaways drying up, the Cowboys' average points per game dropped from 29.2 in 2014 (fifth overall) to 17.2 in 2015 (31st). You've got to believe that even without Bryant and Murray, a healthy Romo would have been worth at least an extra TD per game. With an extra seven points per game, the Cowboys could have won an extra six games last year, which would have been good enough for a 10-6 record and the NFC East division title.

The Cowboys ended up with Ezekiel Elliott for their troubles. Add a healthy Romo and healthy Bryant back into the mix and the Cowboys should show this year that 2014 was the norm offensively, and not a fluke.

Agree, disagree? Chime in with your own what ifs in the comments section.