Back in the day, the NFC East featured some pretty experienced NFL head coaches. As recently as 2013, 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 (fourth year as head coach) was a young pup by comparison.
But things have changed in the NFC East. Entering the 2017 season, Jason Garrett is the veteran of the NFC East with seven years of NFL head coaching experience. Philly and New York have head coaches entering their sophomore season as head coaches, Jay Gruden in Washington has three 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 2017 schedule, the Cowboys' 16 opponents have just 67 years of combined NFL head coaching experience, the second lowest value in the NFL.
||NFL HC Experience||W-L%|
|1||New York Giants||Ben McAdoo||1||.688|
|2||@||Denver Broncos||Vance Joseph||- -||- -|
|3||@||Arizona Cardinals||Bruce Arians||4||.648|
|4||Los Angeles Rams||Sean McVay||- -||- -|
|5||Green Bay Packers||Mike McCarthy||11||.651|
|7||@||San Francisco 49ers||Kyle Shanahan||- -||- -|
|8||@||Washington Redskins||Jay Gruden||3||.448|
|9||Kansas City Chiefs||Andy Reid||18||.602|
|10||@||Atlanta Falcons||Dan Quinn||2||.594|
|11||Philadelphia Eagles||Doug Petersen||1||.438|
|12||Los Angeles Chargers||Anthony Lynn||- -||- -|
|13||Washington Redskins||Jay Gruden||3||.448|
|14||@||New York Giants||Ben McAdoo||1||.688|
|15||@||Oakland Raiders||Jack Del Rio||11||.509|
|16||Seattle Seahawks||Pete Carroll||11||.588|
|17||@||Philadelphia Eagles||Doug Petersen||1||.438|
The Cowboys will play four games against teams with rookie head coaches (DEN, LAR, SF, LAC). Add Ben McAdoo and Doug Petersen with one year each, along with Dan Quinn (two years), 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 highest such total in the league.
Of course, playing against inexperienced head coaches didn't work out as expected last season, as the Cowboys lost twice against rookie head coach Ben McAdoo from the Giants, and gifted rookie head coach Doug Petersen in Philly a meaningless Week 17 game.
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 (WAS) and Doug Petersen (PHI) in the NFC and Todd Bowles (NYJ), Doug Marrone (JAC), Mike Mularkey (TEN), and Hue Jackson (CLE) in the AFC.
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' 2017 opponents combine for only 67 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, at least from a head coaching experience point of view. Whether that turns out to be an advantage or disadvantage depends largely on the Cowboys themselves.
Here is the full list of each team's 2017 opponent HC record based on PFR's list of head coaches. For your convenience, the table is sortable (just click on the blue column headers).
|Combined Opponent NFL Head Coaching Experience by 2017 opponents
|Team||HC Years||Games||Won||Lost||Tied||W-L %|