Merry Christmas, everyone! We at BTB hope you and your family are staying safe out there and have opportunity to nestle together with the ones you love and enjoy this wondrous time of the year.
It’s been rough year for fans of the Dallas Cowboys. Starting with Jerry “Ebenezer” Jones not opening up his wallet to sign Dak Prescott to a long-term deal, to the series of misfortunate events that followed, we’re all left wondering how the Grinch stole the 2020 season from us. In the holiday spirit, let’s take a moment to reflect with the classic 12 Days of Christmas, with an America’s Team twist.
On the Twelfth day of Christmas, 2020 gave to me...
Twelve New Coaches
The Cowboys completely remodeled their coaching staff this past offseason as the team went through some major changes. Starting with Mike McCarthy replacing Jason Garrett, the former Packers coach assembled his staff by bringing on a lot of experience with him.
Like with any major coaching change like this, there are going to be challenges, and it’s likely to take a few iterations to get things to work. And with the craziness of COVID and the slew of injuries, it’s hard to really get a great feel for what these new coaches bring to the table.
Speaking of twelve. When Mike McCarthy interviewed for the head coach position, the interviewed last nearly 12 hours. That’s a lot of talking.
On the Eleventh day of Christmas, 2020 gave to me...
Eleven Games without Dak
If you were to identify a defining moment in the season, fans would undoubtedly point to that October afternoon when Dak Prescott broke his ankle and was lost for the season. You could feel the air leave the stadium that day, and with it was any hopes of a deep post-season run. This Cowboys team is completely different without their star quarterback as the splits are rather astonishing.
The Cowboys have also suffered a great deal of loss along the offensive line as well and that plays a role. However, Prescott never had Travis Frederick or La’el Collins on the field, and Tyron Smith only played in two games this year. Even without those guys, Prescott still kept this offense rolling.
On the Tenth day of Christmas, 2020 gave to me...
Ten Rookies Making the 53
There may not be a lot to love about this season, but we should all still feel pretty good about their new crop of rookies. From a nice draft haul to some very good priority free agent signings, the front office did a great job finding young talent.
- 1st Rd - CeeDee Lamb (14 starts)
- 2nd Rd - Trevon Diggs (9 starts)
- 3rd Rd - Neville Gallimore (7 starts)
- 4th Rd - Tyler Biadasz (4 starts)
- 7th Rd - Ben DiNucci (1 start)
- UDFA - Terence Steele (12 starts)
Both Lamb and Diggs have been day one starters. Diggs missed four games due to a foot injury before returning last week.
Gallimore has saw his snap counts increase with each new week and he’s now started the last six games. Last week against the 49ers, he saw a career high in playing time and tackles.
And center Tyler Biadasz was thrown into the starter role due to a Joe Looney injury, but then he hung on to it until he suffered an injury himself. He’s done well and he looks to be the guy in line to take on the starter’s job next season.
Seventh-rounder Ben DiNucci made one start at quarterback, but that was out of pure need and he didn’t make a second one.
Probably the biggest surprise is Terence Steele. Yes, he’s been scrutinized quite a bit this season because he’s the guy who has struggled the most, but you really have to tip your cap to how well he’s held up. Both he and last year’s UDFA tackle Brandon Knight have actually played pretty darn solid all things considered.
Other rookies making the roster are:
- Reggie Robinson (4th Rd) - played in just 26 snaps across three games, all on special teams, with the most action he’s seen coming against the 49ers last Sunday.
- Bradlee Anae (5th Rd) - was seeing roughly 60% of the special teams snaps through the first half of the season, but has been made inactive since Week 9.
- Rico Dowdle (UDFA) - primarily just a special teamer, he’s played in all 15 games this season with is biggest play being a 64-yard kickoff return against the Steelers in Week 9.
- Sean McKeon (UDFA) - also mostly a special teamer, however, he’ll see on average about five snaps a game as the team’s third tight end.
On the Ninth day of Christmas, 2020 gave to me...
Nine different starting offensive linemen
No one could’ve forecasted the severity of the Cowboys offensive line’s health this season. Starting with the surprise retirement of Travis Frederick followed by a hip injury to La’el Collins, 40% of the team’s starting offensive line was unavailable before the season even began. The Cowboys opened the season with Joe Looney back-filling for Frederick at center as well as UDFA Terrence Steele getting the nod at right tackle. Little did we know, this was just the beginning of the 2020 offensive line shuffle.
Right out of the gate, the other starting offensive linemen started dropping like flies. Tyron Smith got hurt in the season opener, forcing Brandon Knight to start at left tackle, leaving both tackle positions now being manned by a couple young undrafted free agents.
Joe Looney got hurt in Week 3, causing the team to call upon rookie Tyler Biadasz. When Looney came back, Biadasz stayed at center with Looney playing right guard. This allowed Zack Martin to move over to right tackle to replace the struggling Terrance Steele. More injuries followed, causing the team to rely on Connor McGovern and Cameron Erving as the season progressed. The amount of injuries and shuffling around was insane.
Up to this point, the Cowboys have used nine different starting offensive linemen, and 13 different arrangements. That’s nuts.
On the Eighth day of Christmas, 2020 gave to me...
Eighth overall pick?
This time a week ago, the Cowboys were sitting in the number four spot in the draft order for the 2021 NFL Draft, but then they went and mucked that up with a win over the San Francisco 49ers. Currently, they are slated eight, but with two weeks to go, there is plenty of opportunity to move up or down depending on how they finish the season.
Dallas is just one of six teams with a 5-9 record, but because their strength of schedule is so weak, they hold the tie-breaker over those other teams. Of course another win could bump them back even further as high as pick 13, which is a significant change in draft capital. The Cowboys are slowly playing themselves out of chance to land one of the top front-seven defensive stars like linebacker Micah Parsons or edge rusher Gregory Rousseau, and are now falling in the area where they could get one of the top corners in Patrick Surtain II or Caleb Farley.
On the Seventh day of Christmas, 2020 gave to me...
Seven takeaways in the last two games
This Cowboys defense have been notorious unsuccessful at taking the ball away over the last several years. They haven’t finished inside the top 15 in takeaways in each of the last five seasons, including finishing dead last in 2015. They were on the cusp of something similar up until a few weeks ago as they were ranked 31st in takeaways after Week 13.
But fortunately they’ve gone on a run, creating seven turnovers over the past two games, including one of them that was returned for a defensive touchdown. These turnovers have proven very advantageous as the offense has done a great job turning them into points. With the recent onslaught of takeaways, the Cowboys are now ranked 15th, and have a chance to finish with their highest takeaway number since 2014.
On the Sixth day of Christmas, 2020 gave to me...
Six decades of Cowboys football
This season marks the 60th anniversary of Dallas Cowboys football. To commemorate this special occasion, the team wore patches on their jersey.
Like any expansion franchise, the Cowboys had a rough go coming into the league, losing all 11 of their games in 1960. They didn’t have their first winning season until 1966, but once that happened, they kept it going, pulling off an NFL record 20-straight winning seasons. In fact, the New England Patriots franchise was about to embark on a similar run that they started at the turn of the century, however, after a down year this season, their streak will end at 19.
On the Fifth day of Christmas, 2020 gave to me...
Allow our old pals from 1985 to answer this one for us:
Five Super Bowl Rings
Little did we they know at the time that ten years after recording that video, the Cowboys organization would actually have five Super Bowl titles. Cowboys fans get labeled as “living in the past” as it’s been quite a long time since this team has seen a deep playoff run. I mean, a long time.
The Dallas Cowboys...— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 20, 2020
From 1970 to 1995:
5 Super Bowl Wins
8 Super Bowl Appearances
14 NFC Championship Game Appearances
The next 25 years:
0 Super Bowl Wins
0 Super Bowl Appearances
0 NFC Championship Game Appearances pic.twitter.com/GtMAT016ES
Yes, those achievements happened in what seems like a lifetime ago. And it’s true, that it’s sometimes our fallback when naysayers start giving us a hard time. But last we checked, football wasn’t just invented at the new millennium, so guess what, it...
On the Fourth day of Christmas, 2020 gave to me...
Four no. 88’s
The torch as been passed to CeeDee Lamb as the legend of 88 continues. With Hall of Famers Drew Pearson (congrats, Drew - it feels good to finally say that) and Michael Irvin winning Super Bowls, that number comes with quite a bit of responsibility. Dez Bryant made us proud for many years as his 73 touchdown receptions remains a franchise record. Dez just recently caught his 74th career TD reception wearing a Baltimore Ravens uniform this past Sunday.
Now, the responsibility falls on the rookie Lamb, and so far he’s not disappointing. He has more catches and yards than any of the previous no. 88’s did their rookie season, and needs just 176 yards to catch “Bullet” Bob Hayes’ rookie total of 1,003 yards. And he’s already passed everyone in receptions as he accomplished that Week 11 in remarkable fashion.
On the Third day of Christmas, 2020 gave to me...
Three failed fake punts
If first you don’t succeed, try, try again, right? Well, that’s the mindset of Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel, who just keeps trying to pull one over on the opposition. He’s tried a few different approaches - Chris Jones throwing it, running it up the middle, and then the biggest head-scratcher was a reverse to Cedrick Wilson that he was supposed to throw to the punter?
Whether we want to criticize the play design, the game situation, or just the poor execution, these plays have not been so festive for the Cowboys.
On the Second day of Christmas, 2020 gave to me...
Two straight wins
The wins have been scarce this year as this Cowboys team has experienced three different losing streaks, including four consecutive losses earlier in the season. But currently, the Cowboys are riding a two-game winning streak for the first time of the year. Technically they’re still alive for the NFC East crown. For the first time this season, the team is stringing together more consistent play. Some of this is related to improved health of the defense, and some of it is just getting more acclimated to the schemes. Either way, it’s nice to see the team playing well, even if it doesn’t produce bonus football.
On the First day of Christmas, 2020 gave to me...
One Watermelon Kick
It’s strange that the highlight of the Cowboys 2020 season came in Week 2, but that’s how this year has gone. The Cowboys trailed 20-0 after the first quarter, and all signs were pointing to a rout leading to an 0-2 start. But this team showed great resiliency in that game and kept fighting. The Cowboys went on to score 40 points over the next three quarters, including the last 16 points of the game.
There were a lot of positives to come out of that game, from an offense that turned on the jets to a defense that made stops when it counted the most. But this moment wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the perfectly executed onside kick. Such a conversion is a rarity these days with the rule changes, and the Cowboys special teams group pulled it off to perfection.
Here is the original 1985 video if you’re interested...