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Dallas Cowboys Will Face One Of Least Experienced Group Of Head Coaches This Year

The head coaches of the Cowboys' 16 opponents have 69 years of combined NFL head coaching experience, the second-lowest value in the NFL

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, the NFC East featured some pretty experienced NFL head coaches. Mike Shanahan in Washington was in his 20th season as an NFL head coach, Tom Coughlin was in his 18th year, and Andy Reid in Philadelphia was in his 15th. Jason Garrett in Dallas (4th year as head coach) was a young pup by comparison.

After the 2013 season the four NFC East head coaches had 57 years of combined NFL head coaching experience, which is quite a lot considering that entering the 2016 season, the AFC West has the most experienced head coaching quartet with a combined NFL head coaching experience of "just" 39 years (Reid: 17, Del Rio: 10, Kubiak: 9, McCoy: 3).

But things have changed dramatically in the NFC East since 2013. Entering the 2016 season, Jason Garrett is the grizzled veteran of the East with six years NFL head coaching experience. Philly and New York have rookie head coaches and Jay Gruden in Washington has two years as an NFL head coach under his belt.

That means the Cowboys will play their six divisional games against a fairly inexperienced group of head coaches, and if we look at the entire 2016 schedule, the Cowboys' 16 opponents have just 69 years of combined NFL head coaching experience, the second lowest value in the NFL.

Week Opponent Head Coach
NFL HC Experience W-L%
1
New York Giants Ben McAdoo - - - -
2 @ Washington Redskins Jay Gruden 2 .406
3
Chicago Bears John Fox 14 .558
4 @ San Francisco 49ers Chip Kelly 3 .553
5
Cincinnati Bengals Marvin Lewis 13 .543
6 @ Green Bay Packers Mike McCarthy 10 .653
7 Bye Week
8
Philadelphia Eagles Doug Petersen - - - -
9 @ Cleveland Browns Hue Jackson 1 .500
10 @ Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Tomlin 9 .639
11
Baltimore Ravens John Harbaugh 8 .602
12
Washington Redskins Jay Gruden 2 .406
13 @ Minnesota Vikings Mike Zimmer 2 .563
14 @ New York Giants Ben McAdoo - - - -
15
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Dirk Koetter - - - -
16
Detroit Lions Jim Caldwell 5 .550
17 @ Philadelphia Eagles Doug Peterson - - - -

In addition to the Giants and Eagles, the Buccaneers also have a rookie head coach, so the Cowboys will play five of their 16 games against rookie NFL head coaches. Add Hue Jackson with one year along with Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer with two years of NFL head coaching experience, and the Cowboys will play nine of their 16 games against NFL head coaches with two years or less of NFL head coaching experience.

The Cowboys' schedule above has an interesting six-week stretch from Week 12 through Week 17, where they'll play three teams coached by rookie head coaches, and all six teams combine for just 9 years of NFL head coaching experience.

In principle, you would think that playing against less experienced head coaches would be an advantage. As a rule, longer-tenured head coaches are more successful than their younger colleagues; in the what-have-done-for-me-lately NFL, losing coaches quickly lose their jobs, while winning coaches get their contracts extended. Of the 32 coaches heading into the NFL season, only six head coaches have a career losing record as a head coach: Jay Gruden in the NFC and five head coaches in the AFC (Rex Ryan, Mike Mularkey, Gus Bradley, Mike McCoy, Jack Del Rio).

At the same time, where veteran coaches are a known commodity, their less experienced counterparts are often less predictable, perhaps making them harder to game-plan for. But the lack of NFL head coaching experience doesn't automatically mean lack of NFL experience. Minnesota's Mike Zimmer is a case in point: Zimmer was a defensive coordinator in the NFL for 14 years (including from 2000-2006 in Dallas) before moving up into the top spot with the Vikings, and at 60 years of age, he's got plenty of football experience.

In a league that chews up and spits out unsuccessful coaches at a rapid-fire rate, playing against head coaches with a lot of NFL head coaching experience usually means you're playing against strong competition. Similarly, playing against teams without a lot of NFL head coaching experience usually means you're playing against weaker competition.

The Cowboys' 2016 opponents combine for only 69 years of NFL head coaching experience. Taken at face value, that's the second-lowest total in the league, an indication that the Cowboys face a favorable schedule this year. But in those 69 NFL head coaching years, that collection of coaches was fairly successful, accumulating a .575 win percentage, the ninth best of any of the 32 teams' collection of 2016 opponents.

Ultimately, the Cowboys can only play the schedule they're given. They'll face a fairly high number of teams with little NFL head coaching experience, but with a strong win percentage. Whether that turns out to be an advantage or disadvantage depends largely on the Cowboys themselves.

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Here is the full list of each team's 2016 opponent HC record. The table is sortable, just click on the blue column headers to sort.

Combined Opponent NFL Head Coaching Experience, 2016 opponents
Team HC Years Games Won Lost Tied W-L %
CHI 58 912 505 405 2 0.555
DAL 69 1103 632 468 3 0.575
GB 74 1169 622 547 0 0.532
WAS 82 1296 751 541 4 0.581
LA 82 1297 781 515 1 0.603
KC 83 1292 675 616 1 0.523
CIN 85 1336 792 544 0 0.593
MIN 87 1377 774 600 3 0.563
PHI 89 1408 797 608 3 0.567
TEN 89 1416 772 642 2 0.546
NO 93 1469 807 658 4 0.551
BAL 97 1526 858 664 4 0.564
NE 97 1512 834 675 3 0.553
IND 99 1549 822 725 2 0.531
CAR 100 1581 874 705 2 0.554
OAK 101 1603 874 726 3 0.546
SD 101 1593 857 733 3 0.539
PIT 103 1627 943 679 5 0.581
DET 103 1623 897 723 3 0.554
CLE 105 1652 949 699 4 0.576
JAC 105 1658 907 749 2 0.548
NYG 108 1702 952 746 4 0.561
SEA 109 1709 993 712 4 0.582
ATL 114 1805 1025 775 5 0.569
ARI 117 1837 1038 796 3 0.566
DEN 122 1935 1082 848 5 0.561
TB 126 1989 1107 878 4 0.558
HOU 126 1994 1099 891 4 0.552
BUF 127 1990 1168 819 3 0.588
SF 133 2087 1193 891 3 0.572
MIA 135 2116 1229 884 3 0.582
NYJ 145 2309 1367 938 4 0.593