Last season the Dallas Cowboys started 3-0, their first 3-0 start in 11 years. But much like the quick start in 2008 led to disappointment, so did getting out of the gates quick last season. Dallas would go on to drop their next three contests, pretty much erasing all momentum from their quick start.
Even though beginning last season on such a high note didn’t lead to a postseason berth, it’s just as vital the Cowboys get off to a quick start in 2020. Here are three reasons why...
1. If Dallas wants to make history, it shows a quick start is necessary
According to Pro Football Reference, since the 2013 season only two teams that have gone on to win the Super Bowl have failed to win at least four of their first five games. The team that did it twice is the New England Patriots in 2014 and 2018. In 2014, they fell to 2-2, went on to win 10 out of their next 11 games, and in 2018 they went from 1-2 to 7-2.
Furthermore, all but one team that has lost the Super Bowl has won at least four of their first five games. The only exception was the 2014 Seattle Seahawks who fell to 3-2 after losing to none other than the Dallas Cowboys.
Getting off to a quick start does not guarantee a Super Bowl appearance by any means, but the statistics back up that 11 of the last 14 teams to appear in the big game started with a 4-1 record or better.
2. Make Mike McCarthy’s transition smooth
Let’s face it, just because Jason Garrett is gone does not mean if Dallas starts the season 1-3 people are not going to be calling for the head of the head coach. As usual, expectations are going to be very high for the Cowboys in 2020, and Mike McCarthy is one of the guys who will have to shoulder these expectations the most.
Unfortunately for McCarthy, he has never been a great starter as a head coach. McCarthy made the playoffs with the Green Bay Packers nine times during his 13-year tenure. In just three of the seasons that Green Bay made the playoffs, McCarthy started winning four of their first five games. Strangely enough, the year they won the Super Bowl the Packers started with a 3-3 record.
In a year that already has so much uncertainty because of unforeseen circumstances, we don’t even know what football is going to look like in 2020. But no matter what it looks like, McCarthy will be in hot water if his team does not come out of the gate strong.
Obviously, rationally thinking, there is no risk McCarthy would lose his job even if Dallas started the season 0-6, but that sure does not mean people won’t be saying the Cowboys picked the wrong guy if he does start our poorly.
With a shortened, complicated offseason with an entirely new coaching staff, the Cowboys already have a lot going against them as it is. If McCarthy and the Cowboys can come out of the blocks quick, they can take a lot of the outside pressure off of themselves, and especially their head coach.
3. Prove they can hang with tougher competition early, plus have leeway for a tough mid-season stretch
At this point, it’s safe to say the Cowboys 3-0 start last season was mostly based on their poor level of competition. The three opponents Dallas beat to start 2019, New York, Washington, and Miami, finished with a combined record of 12-36.
This year, the Cowboys face a much tougher road to start the year. Dallas gets two of their first four on the road, including a matchup against the Seahawks in Seattle where they’ve had their fairshare of struggles.
Despite three of their four first opponents missing the postseason last year, all four have a legitimate shot to make it this season. The opener, the Los Angeles Rams, still have a great head coach in Sean McVay, some weapons for Jared Goff on the offensive side, and the best defensive player in the NFL in Aaron Donald.
The Cowboys home opener against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons in Week Two figures to be a high-scoring affair as does their Week Four matchup against Baker Mayfield and the bounce-back hopeful Browns.
Now no one would say the Rams, Falcons, Seahawks, and Browns are four of the top 10 teams in the NFL - Seattle is likely the only one that would make that list, but they are much stiffer competition than what Dallas started with last season.
Dallas also faces a tough middle of the schedule from Week Eight to Week Thirteen. During that five-game stretch, the Cowboys will have to face Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Washington, and Baltimore. Three of those games, against the three playoff teams from 2019, will be on the road, and all five will be in primetime.
Their first four to six games are not nearly as easy as they were last season, but they are much more manageable than that tough five-game stretch. If the Cowboys are able to win four of their first five, they set themselves up with some wiggle room in case they slip up against one of the tougher opponents during the middle of the season.