Despite what the team records look like, the Dallas Cowboys (6-2) facing the Green Bay Packers (3-6) is a huge game. The Cowboys enter the matchup winning their last two games and are coming out of their bye week. Meanwhile, the Packers are currently in a tailspin and falling out of contention in the NFC North. However, whenever these two teams play one another, it means something significant to Cowboys fans both young and old.
These two teams have a long-standing history with one another. Famously, there’s the 1967 NFL championship game dubbed the Ice Bowl. The 1995 NFC Championship Game at Texas Stadium. Also, infamously, the 2014 and 2016 NFC divisional playoffs, that’s known for the Dez Bryant catch that wasn’t and an improbable catch by Jared Cook respectively.
While it may not seem like it in more recent years, historically these teams embody what it is to be a successful franchise. There are a combined thirteen super bowl appearances between the two clubs, and nine (aptly titled) Vince Lombardi trophies. The Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers have always borne a winning resemblance to one another. Although Dallas hasn’t won a super bowl in more than 25 years and Green Bay has not in over a decade, this year’s Cowboys share a lot of similarities to the champion Green Bay Packers of 2010.
The leader of the ‘Pack’
The first and most obvious parallel between the Packers in 2010 and today’s Cowboys is the head coach. Mike McCarthy patrols the sidelines of the Dallas Cowboys as he did for the Packers more than ten years ago. Along with him in Dallas from his time in Green Bay, is offensive line coach Joe Philbin and current secondary coach/pass game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. who served prior as the cornerbacks’ coach with the Packers.
Perhaps more interesting is the congruence between the defensive coordinators between both iterations of each team. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn shares a lot in common with former Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers in 2010. Both coordinators took their positions with prior head coaching experience and both of them have been viewed as being more equipped to be coordinators versus head coaches. Furthermore, in 2010, Capers was entering his second season as defensive coordinator in Green Bay as is Dan Quinn in Dallas.
Knowing how to pick em’
Entering this year, the Dallas Cowboys were facing uncertainty along the offensive line due to the inconsistent health of their starting offensive line and having to get younger. In response, the Cowboys selected offensive lineman Tyler Smith with the 23rd pick of this year’s draft. Green Bay, not unlike Dallas, was facing a similar situation.
Long-time Packers starters Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher had been in and out of the lineup the year prior with injuries and were becoming long in the tooth. Green Bay anticipating a need for an offensive tackle, selected Bryan Bulaga with the 24th pick in the 2010 draft.
Gil Brandt, the long-time scout for the Cowboys had this to say about Bulaga: “He’s a mean football player. He’s a mean, tough football player.” That sounds remarkably reminiscent of Tyler Smith, who has been a more than a pleasant surprise once named the starter at left tackle. Bulaga was named to the Pro Football Writers of America NFL All-Rookie Team in 2010 and it’s not out of the question for Smith to receive the same accolade.
The grossly mischaracterized quarterback
“He’s overrated.” “He’s not as good as the last guy.” “His numbers don’t equal wins.” “He’s a product of the system.” We’ve heard all of these superficial, and in many cases, unfounded claims levied at Dak Prescott. However, there was a time that these things were said about Aaron Rodgers before winning a Super Bowl. Replacing a fan favorite is never easy and both quarterbacks can relate to the pressure that goes with it.
By this time in 2010, Rodgers was entering the second year of a brand-new contract that many had argued he didn’t deserve after losing a wild card playoff game late by making a critical error. Dak Prescott finds himself in a comparable scenario following Dallas’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers last postseason.
Time has proven that much of the criticisms directed at Rodgers were proven false as he went on to win a championship and post prolific numbers for his career. The title served to validate his numbers, something ardent Dak Prescott supporters hope is true for the Dallas signal-caller this year. Since his return from injury, Prescott has looked razor sharp, and the hope is that Prescott can silence his critics this year as Rodgers once did.
The defense is now the catalyst
The most staggering comparison you can make between each team is the defense. Before 2010, the Packers were known more for their offense being the strength of their team. That is until their defense emerged as a dominant force. The same can be said for Dallas as they are constructed currently and at the pace they are on statistically. A closer look demonstrates that their respective numbers match up very closely.
This year the Cowboys are allowing 16.6 points per game (PPG). Green Bay allowed 15 PPG during their last championship season. Both teams also have a stellar pass defense. Green Bay finished that season third in net yards per pass attempt and Dallas is also ranks third in that stat presently. In the sack category, the Cowboys are currently leading the NFL in sacks with 33, whereas Green Bay tied for second in sacks in 2010.
Where the defensive comparison is particularly interesting is the personnel. Take Micah Parsons for instance. Parsons was named a Pro Bowler after his rookie season and he’s gotten even better this year, on pace to be among the sack leaders in the NFL. A terror to block around the edge and one of the more noteworthy players in the league already in year two. That’s almost a mirror image of linebacker Clay Matthews, who totaled 23.5 sacks his first two seasons and took the NFL by storm in 2010 to earn All-Pro honors.
Lastly, let’s examine the production at cornerback. In 2009, the year before winning the Super Bowl, Hall of Fame cornerback Charles Woodson led the NFL in interceptions (nine) and was named a First-Team All-Pro. Trevon Diggs led the NFL in interceptions last season (eleven) and earned First-Team All-Pro in 2021. Woodson again earned All-Pro honors the following year in 2010 (second-team) and so far Diggs is playing at a similar level. If you get a sense of déjà vu when both teams play on Sunday, you now know why it feels like something you’ve seen before.