The Washington Redskins have seemingly made the conscious decision to tank the remainder of the season sending to the bench their best offensive weapon and their most dominant defensive player. Seemingly they are doing this in order to improve their draft position and will undoubtedly draft a quarterback.
The Dallas Cowboys, on the other hand, are playing to win these final three games against the aforementioned Redskins, the Arizona Cardinals, and the Philadelphia Eagles. At 4-9, the Cowboys have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The question is, whether it would be better go finish strong or go out with a whimper. Here is a breakdown of the advantages for both.
1. Better draft position: In every draft, there are only a small number of players who can immediately contribute at a high level and those players are generally off the draft board by the seventh pick in the draft. Additionally, the Cowboys could opt to trade down receiving an additional first round draft pick in the 2012 draft. The last time the Cowboys were drafting in the top five picks, they choose Terrance Newman in 2003. However, it should be noted that they were seriously considering Dwayne Robertson (DT) who was chosen one pick before Newman by the New York Jets. Robertson was not the impact player many presumed he would be tallying 16 sacks in his career.
Despite the talent level at the top of the draft, many players do not reach their potential, e.g., Charles Rogers, Robert Gallery, Ronnie Brown, Braylon Edwards, etc.
2. Jason Garrett fired: Garrett has proven little during his five game tenure. The team has played better and the offensive play calling has been more balanced since Garrett assumed the role of head coach. Though the question begs to be answered, why wasn’t the offense balanced while Wade Phillips roamed the sideline? Additionally, the defense is still porous and has the opportunity to be historically bad (giving up the most points per game and total points in Cowboys history). Garrett finishing the season at 3-5 would all but gaurantee the Cowboys will find a new face of the franchise.
3. Big name head coach hired: The bigger the humiliation, the bigger splash Jerry Jones will need to make in order to ensure Cowboys Stadium is filled to capacity. While there are many qualified candidates who have never been head coaches, expect Jerry Jones to hire a coach with previous success and possibly even a Super Bowl ring.
4. Will play a 4th place schedule: The 2011 season (if played in its entirety) will have 18 games. The schedule has not been determined whether the additional two games will involve regional rivalries or simply two inter-division games with the corresponding team (1st place plays 1st place, 2nd plays 2nd, etc.) If the schedule involves the latter, the Cowboys would play 4 last place teams along with the two last place teams of the two divisions. Consequently, the Cowboys would have a total of 6 games against last place teams and 4 games against teams finishing 3rd in their respective division. While this guarantees nothing, it could be a spring board to a playoff push.
At 7-9: The arguments are the inverse of the above.
1. Jason Garrett has two to three more years to prove he can be a capable head coach: If Garrett is a failure, at least we can say that he was given a fair opportunity to succeed. Dave Campo did not have a fair opportunity considering the lack of talent on the Cowboys roster; Chan Gailey had only two years to install his scheme. The worst case scenario for the Cowboys would be to hire Gruden or Cowher only to see Garrett have great success elsewhere.
2. Cowboys will draft between 13 and 20: The talent is still available, but it is difficult to trust Jerry Jones. Jones has had solid picks in the first two rounds within recent history. Dez Bryant is a steal and Sean Lee appears to progressing. Felix Jones, Mike Jenkins, and Anthony Spencer have flashed greatness despite having down seasons this year. The lone question mark was in 2006 when Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Fasano were drafted. Though Parcells gets credit for drafting Barber, Witten, Newman, Ware, etc.; consequently he should be equally as responsible for the 2006 draft.
3. 3rd place schedule: The Cowboys schedule will be slightly more difficult as they will play more 3rd place teams than 4th, but with the volatility in the NFL, you can never predict which team will make the jump from worst to first.
However the Cowboys finish the 2010 season will affect the team for the next five years. It is impossible to predict which outcome will lead to the Cowboys 6th Super Bowl Championship. Certainly 1-15 did not appear to lead to a dynasty. Keep your fingers crossed.