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The ‘90s Cowboys Struggled To Win When They Were Missing Any One Of Their Triplets

It’s easy to blame last year’s disappointing season on some key injuries, but even the powerhouse team of the ‘90s had trouble winning games when one of their stars was missing.

Triplets Lithograph

Its Fourth of July weekend and like most red-blooded Americans, I did what everyone did on Saturday and immersed myself in the Dallas Cowboys marathon that was on NFL Network all day. All Cowboys, all day – whose not going to love that? What’s more American than watching America’s Team from dusk ‘til dawn?

Okay, well maybe I didn’t camp out in front of the television for the entirety of the day (because I wanted to stay married), but the TV was on all day and I got some good Cowboys action for the day. While I was watching the "Michael Irvin: My Road To Canton" segment, I heard a stat that blew me away…

When one or more of the ‘90s Cowboys Triplets were not playing, the team lost more games than they won. When all three were in, they won more than 70% of their games.

That’s amazing. Everyone knows just how important those three Hall of Fame players were to the team back then, but I wouldn’t have guessed that if just one of them were missing, that the team would have a less than .500 record. With such a great defense to complement them, it seems like they would be able to pick up some of the slack. We all know about the 0-2 start to the 1993 season when Emmitt Smith was holding out. The Cowboys would go on a tear once Smith returned and would win their second straight Super Bowl.

So when I look at last year’s 4-12 performance, should it be that shocking? Most of us fans just feel that despite the injuries, the team should have been good enough to put a few more wins on the board. What is a realistic expectation when Tony Romo misses 12 games and Dez Bryant misses seven games?

While the 2015 version of the Cowboys didn’t have a clear running back to qualify as a triplet candidate, both Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden did a solid job when they were given the ball. If you count either one of those RBs as an eligible triplet candidate, here are some records:

When all three started the game, the Cowboys only lost one game (Carolina). They won two, beating the New York Giants in week 1 and Miami in week 11. That’s a 67% winning percentage.

When any one of them were missing, the Cowboys were 2-11. When two of them were missing, the Cowboys never won a game and were 0-6. That’s terrible.

If you look at the 2014 Cowboys where DeMarco Murray emerged as a qualifying triplet, once again the stats seem to migrate in the same direction. The Cowboys only had one game when one of the triplets didn’t start (against Arizona). They lost that game. The Cowboys were 12-3 (80%) in games where all three played. That’s falls in line with the ‘90s Cowboys team.

As we enter the 2016 season, the Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott as the team’s third piece to the new triplets. And while he hasn’t stepped on the field yet, he could very well be the best running back the team has had since the last legendary RB triplet. What is the potential of this team with the combination of Romo, Dez, and Zeke?

  • The Cowboys will have quarterback that led the league in QB rating his last healthy season. Yes, even higher than the great, Aaron Rodgers.
  • The Cowboys will have All-Pro wide receiver who set a franchise record for touchdowns his last full healthy season. And that’s a franchise that includes Michael Irvin, Drew Pearson, Tony Hill, and Terrell Owens.
  • The Cowboys will have one of the best running backs to come out of college since seven-time Pro Bowler, Adrian Peterson.

These are all great things. The 2016 triplets could be something special. And if they are all on the field together, then look out. If the ‘90s dynasty Cowboys had trouble winning games without one of their triplets, it shouldn’t be too alarming that this version struggles as well. The good news is that a healthy trio could result in some very rewarding outcomes.