When it comes to recent seasons it feels like there’s always been a hiccup with the NFL.
For the longest time (shout out to the one and only Billy Joel) we didn’t truly know what a catch was, many would argue that we still don’t. These days the collective groan comes over the new roughing the passer penalties we’re seeing and how seemingly impossible it is to tackle the quarterback.
It’s obvious why the NFL wants rules like roughing the passer to be enforced. The objective is to protect the quarterback because it’s a quarterback league. Quarterbacks move the needle and help drive the point-scoring, and the NFL sure does love it some points.
The rules of the game in 2018 are very different than they were in 1975, 1985, 1995, 2005, heck even 2015 to a degree. The NFL wants points, scoring, and fantasy-like situations and that’s exactly what they’re getting.
Points are being scored like never before in 2018
While all of the roughing the passer calls provide for the occasional annoying moment when watching the game we all love, the fact remains that the NFL has somewhat achieved their objective. They’re in a state of nirvana of sorts with scoring in 2018 as there have been 3,739 points scored through five weeks... the most ever through five weeks.
Plenty of people play fantasy football. If so, your team is likely scoring at ridiculous rates (unless you’re me... sad face) and things feel like a video game. Quarterbacks are airing it out, running backs are getting in the endzone, and receivers are making spectacular catches. It’s a lot of fun.
Think about this and think about it long and hard. The NFL has designed an environment that lends itself to scoring. It’s like the league turned off gravity because they wanted everyone else to float the way Charlie and his Grandpa did in Willy Wonka, and as a result teams are soaring offensively like never before.
One team is sinking though, and that team is the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys are near their franchise-low in scoring through five games
Gravity has been diminished. Everyone has been given suits with flaps on the side for more aerial movement. Literally everything is set up for offenses to fly and somehow the Dallas Cowboys are plummeting.
While the NFL as a whole has scored more points than ever before through five weeks (3,739), the Cowboys aren’t exactly carrying their weight. Dallas has scored 83 points through five games. That is the seventh-fewest through five games in the history of the franchise.
Lowest point totals through a season’s first five games in Dallas Cowboys history:
- 1989: 54 points
- 1964: 66 points
- 1990: 70 points
- 2002: 74 points
- 2001: 75 points
- 1970: 78 points
- 2018: 83 points
- 1960: 84 points
- 1963: 86 points
- 1996, 2004: 87 points
It’s long been said that a rising tide lifts all boats. The NFL’s tide has risen as we’ve discussed. The game, its parameters, and its future are all designed to enhance scoring and offensive success. In spite of this the Cowboys are not only not experiencing that success, they’re regressing.
In the five seasons preceding 2018 the Cowboys scored (in order from 2013 on) 152, 135, 101, 129, and 125 points through their first five games. Their 83 points scored this season are a serious dip down. A very serious one.
It obviously all boils down to the passing game for the Cowboys which falls on the shoulders of quarterback Dak Prescott. Consider the team’s current standings in various offensive categories:
- Rushing: 4th
- Passing: 29th
- Points scored: 30th
That’s amazing to think about, really. The Cowboys offense is one of the best across the NFL on the ground, yet their inefficiencies through the air are so glaring that they sink their offensive scoring as a whole almost all the way to the bottom. It would be difficult to do on purpose let alone on accident.
NFL teams are adapting offensively which is yielding success, the Cowboys could learn to do that
Over the last few seasons we’ve seen more and more NFL teams adopt college-style offenses and philosophies. ESPN touched on this recently relative to Kansas City.
It’s difficult to predict where all of this is heading, but the spread is in the NFL to stay. Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton called defending the traditional NFL formations of two backs, two wide receivers and a tight end “batting practice.” Things get more difficult when defenses are required to defend the entire field and deal with concepts like motion and misdirection.
Whatever NFL offenses come up with next, it probably will come from college coaches like [Mike] Leach.
”The hardest thing in football isn’t in getting a good idea, because there are good ideas everywhere,” Leach said. “There are more good ideas than you could ever manage or have the privilege to run. The hardest thing is selecting the ones that complement each other and having the discipline to not do too much.”
It goes without saying, but the Cowboys are drastically failing to utilize any plays or pieces of offense that complement one another. They continue to avoid the renaissance that the rest of the league has experienced and are trying to shove square pegs into round holes. Adding a player with skills that work in offenses like this in someone like Tavon Austin doesn’t automatically make you like those teams if you don’t use him the way they would.
This stagnation ultimately comes down to one of two possibilities
There are only two possible explanations for why the Cowboys find themselves in this enormous rut, and one of them is more likely than the other. It just depends which one you think it is.
One possibility here is that the offensive system and scheme that the Cowboys are choosing to employ under Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan is archaic, outdated, and has been significantly improved upon by the competition both in terms of other offenses and in opposing defenses. If the Cowboys are trying to race a stagecoach against a sports car they’re going to lose that battle every time and then some.
The other possibility here is a bit more rare but technically is an existing option. It’s possible that the Cowboys just happened to have assembled a cast of offensive players that are so collectively bad as one unit that they are literally one of the worst groups ever (7th-worst to be exact) formed on this side of the ball in the longstanding history of the Dallas Cowboys.
Which do you think it is? The true answer is that it’s probably a bit of both, but what’s also true is that the coaching staff, and the front office, is the group that assembles the talent so theoretically more responsibility should fall on their shoulders. However you feel the fact remains that the other offenses in the NFL will continue to benefit from the rising tide while the Dallas Cowboys keep trying to swim downward for whatever reason they believe to make sense.