Dallas’ Playoff Hopes and Off-Season Hurdles

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At 5-5, Dallas Cowboys fans have a myriad of questions about their team both short term and long term. This article aims to analyze both situations and present factual solutions both now and later.

Being so mediocre and depleted as they are, questions abound whether the Cowboys can win a playoff game should they win their division. I’ll show you how Dallas winning a playoff game isn’t so inconceivable in Part I.

If the Dallas Cowboys miss the playoffs or don’t play past January 5th, what is the answer going forward? Would the fans rather be dead than keep Coach Red? I’ll take a look at how the Cowboys organization addresses their current state in Part II.



The Dallas Cowboys’ playoff hopes hang in the balance like a loose tooth.

Going back to 1990, when the NFL last messed with the playoff formats to present what we have today, there have been 276 playoff teams. Among those 276 teams, only 29 of them had 5-5 records. That’s 10.5 percent.

In franchise history, the Dallas Cowboys have fielded five 5-5 teams: 1974, 1987, 1997, 1999, and 2012. Only 1999′s team, which finished 8-8, qualified for the playoffs, where the Minnesota Vikings summarily dispatched them in the wildcard playoffs.

Dallas’ saving grace has been the dismal divisional play. However, Philadelphia’s victories in their last three games, while Dallas has lost two out of their last three, has knotted things evenly at 5-5 for the NFC East’s top spot. If Dallas built its playoff hopes on the poor division play, it built its house on sand.

.500, or a follicle above, appears to be enough to win the 2013 NFC East title. With three of their last six on the road, and also three of their last six against potential winning teams, it’s safe to posit Dallas wins only three more games in 2013. The questions are:

  1. Will any other NFC East team tie or exceed their win total?
  2. Who did Dallas beat?
  3. What is their division record?

If Philadelphia and New York continue to improve as Dallas peters out, it’s curtains with the season ending on another familiar, underachieving note. More than likely, this is how the season will unfold. My heart tells me Tony Romo and the guys will find a way, but my head knows better.

However, let’s stay optimistic and talk about Dallas’ playoff chances.

Oct 13, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Kyle Wilber (51) recovers a fumble by Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (not pictured) in the fourth quarter at AT

Since 1990, there have been 10 division champions that had a 5-5 record at one point. The bulk of the teams came during the 2001-12 period. The 2006 Philadelphia Eagles are the only team to represent the NFC East in this criterion.

Of those 29 playoff teams, ten of them were division champions, which means they hosted a playoff game, a privilege Dallas earns with an NFC East title. Only the 2003 Baltimore Ravens and 2008 Minnesota Vikings lost in the wildcard playoffs. The formerly 5-5 team hosting a playoff game wins 80% of the time going back to 1990. Compare that to 13/18 formerly 5-5 teams that played on the road and lost in the wildcard. Going back to the year 2000, only 19/52 road teams won in the wildcard round. Also, going back to the year 2000, 7/9 of the division winners with 8-8 or 9-7 records won their playoff games, and that includes the 2010 7-9 Seattle Seahawks.

If the Dallas Cowboys qualify for the postseason, chances are they will win in the wildcard round, but lose in the divisional playoffs. Of the 14/29 formerly 5-5 teams that won in the wildcard round, only three of them ever advanced to the conference championship game: the 1995 Indianapolis Colts, 2001 New England Patriots, and 2007 San Diego Chargers. One of those teams should resonate in the mind of even the casual NFL fan.

Regardless whether the season ends in December or mid-January, the focus on the Dallas Cowboys long term comes to the fore.

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Tags: Dallas Cowboys Featured Jason Garrett Jerry Jones Popular The Landry Hat

  • SmartThinking

    I suppose, if you’re content with Garrett’s on-the-job-training snafu’s and lack of electricity these past two and a half seasons, then keeping him for the long haul makes some odd kind of sense.

    There are aspects of Garrett’s program that I very much agree with, in particular, his “the right kind of Cowboy,” philosophy and his ‘next man up approach.” But to accept those positives, then you also have to accept his continued rookie mistakes and errors in judgment. And I’m just not prepared to continue down that bumpy path. If Garrett even acted like he learned from last season’s errors, then this year’s errors wouldn’t possibly be so hard to swallow.

    But, it’s the same stuff again and again. Field goal attempts from the 54 yard line are more often bad than good and when they go foul set up the defenses to have to defend from continually worsening field position.

    The most glaring error, for me, is my perception that Garrett has lost control of and the respect of his players. Bryant’s rant a few weeks ago was painful to watch and embarrassing to try to explain. Regardless of Bryant’s rationale for acting so poorly, Garett should have put a stop to it at once. (Do you think Sean Payton would tolerate that kind of performance from one of his players?)

    I think Garrett is too lax, either because he want to be friends with his players or because it’s not in his temperament to be hard on his players and motivate them to find greatness.

    In any case, I just don’t see this team improving in any capacity under his leadership. For that reason, my reluctant vote goes to giving him until Chicago to get a couple of wins. If he does, then he stays until season’s end and a complete assessment. If he doesn’t, he’s gone after Chicago, along with Callahan.

    The last thing I want to continue seeing from this team is a coaching merry-go-round, but the situation right now is so acute, drastic measures are called for. And sending Garrett on his way just may be the first step along a long painful path back to a winning season.

    • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

      What if Garrett is fired and another coach does not do any better? Would you want to see him fired too? I don’t like to see coaches make mistakes either but if you have been paying attention they all do. And if Sean Payton was the coach I would be concerned that he might put a bounty on Bryant for acting the way he did. This article spells out exactly what the root of the Cowboy’s problems are………..Jerry Jones.

      • Jd

        You’re comparing a super bowl winning HC to a guy that’s 2 games over 500 during his tenure as Dallas head coach. & just saying that Jerry istthe problem, not getting it. Was he the problem when Dallas went to the playoffs under Phillips when Romo choked away a possible super bowl berth? Or was he the problem when they went to the playoffs under Phillips again and finally won a playoff game for the first time in forever?
        The bottom line is, yes, Jerry is a major problem, he’s not a real gm. But Garrett isn’t the answer here. I’ve always said that the hiring of Garrett was a knee-jerk reaction because the word around the NFL was Jerry needs to make a move and he can’t afford to lose him. So, he fired Phillips after a 1-7 start, Garrett goes 5-3 and everyone thought all was right in Cowboys land. The Cowboy were fgetting this innovative, creative, new style and brilliant offensive minded head coach. And that just wasn’t the truth. 8-8, 8-8, & probably another 8-8 season. And yes, Jerry hired him, bad move, like I said. But it’s time to move on and change the syste, nbring someone else in who actually knows how to coach. And definitely someonewwho won’t make the same mistakes he’s making in his 4th year that he was during his 1st year.

        • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

          If I recall the reason Dallas lost their chance to go to the Superbowl was because Patrick Crayton dropped a perfectly thrown pass from Romo that would have been a touchdown to put the game away. You posted this: “I’ve always said that the hiring of Garrett was a knee-jerk reaction because the word around the NFL was Jerry needs to make a move and he can’t afford to lose him.” And then you say Jerry isn’t the problem? My point is……….Jerry hired Garrett. Garrett did not hire Garrett. Unfortunately, Jerry’s mismanagement extends much further than the coach and writing about how the coach is the problem is short sighted. We won’t know if Garrett is the answer until the multitude of other problems are resolved.

          • Jimmy D

            Yes, he did drop the pass. I misspoke on another post about it. But I do believe Romo also threw the pick that ended that game.
            Now, as to the Jerry comments… One thing clear, I’m not a Jones for gm fan.
            But, Jones firing Phillips and hiring Garrett, whether he did it or not, it was a knee-jerk reaction. After the season was over, every single writer in America said Jerry would be stupid not to keep Garrett as HC. Every former NFL player doing shows and the radio shows, everyone was all over it. And if I recall correctly, I’m paraphrasing here… If Jones let’s Garrett go, it’ll be like the Payton situation all over again. So, how’s that work working out for us? And the fact of the matter is, Phillips took us to the playoffs twice in 3 years. And Jerry fired him because starting a season 1-7 is unacceptable. And again, whether or not it’s Jerry’s decision, it was still a knee-jerk reaction, anyway you look at it.
            And in the end, Garrett wasn’t and isn’t the coach for this team. Actually, he isn’t a head coach period.

          • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

            I agree. Hiring Garrett was most likely a knee jerk reaction just like all of Jerry’s other knee jerk reactions. The root cause of the Cowboy’s problems is Jerry Jones and until he is gone and a person with some football sense is hired in hist place, I will not be overly critical of any other aspect of the team. I can’t wait to see the blunders he makes next.

          • Jimmy D

            We’re in complete agreement about Jones getting the (bleep) out.
            I am so hoping he comes to his senses & just hires a real gm, someone who can run this team correctly.
            Funny thing is, I was hoping he’d step down & hire Jimmy Johnson as gm lol.
            I don’t think there’s a dumber more brilliant person alive. He steps down, gets a real gm in here, they start winning again, and he’ll make even more money than he already does. What an idiot lol.

      • SmartThinking

        Anyone who reads my rants knows I’m no fan of Jerry Jones, the football GM. I’m on record through most of these stories making a strong, sane argument for why Jones needs to hire a professional, veteran GM, give him the power and money, then stand back and shut the hell up!

        But, this story and my original response were about Jason Garrett and his coaching accomplishments, of which I am not a diehard fan.

        This team is no better because of Garrett. He’s brought nothing of value we can use to win with. And, for that paramount matter, he should be dismissed.

  • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

    Finally an article that hits the nail on the head. It always amazes me when fans want the coach fired as if they are the only piece of the puzzle necessary for success. The Cowboys have a multitude of problems least of which is coach Garrett. I think maybe fans should watch other NFL teams play so they will realize that all coaches make questionable game decisions. I can only guess they have not been fans for very long. Otherwise, they would recognize that poor management is the root of the present day problems with the Cowboys. I would be willing to bet 10 to 1 if Garrett is fired that the Cowboys will be no better off with another new coach.

  • jrcowboy49

    I am beginning to wonder if any Coach can win or play under Jerrah! His terrible reputation is known throughout the league and only a fool comes to Dallas. The Cowboys record of 134-134 since 1997 is the smoking gun and would be the head of any GM! Unacceptable!
    We need a GM who understands football, allows the Coaches to coach, and recognizes talent!
    Dallas is an average talented football team at best and the fans deserve