Despite watching and not participating, the Dallas Cowboys can still get something from the 2015 NFL Playoffs.
Just because you’re not in the playoffs does not mean you can’t learn from them.
Hopefully, the coaching staff and the players that will be around for the Dallas Cowboys the next time a meaningful game is kicked off is paying close attention to what’s going on in these 2015 contests.
During the Wild Card round, two games were decided by a total of three points. This past weekend, the Divisional round was completed with all four winners moving on by seven points or less. One game went into overtime and two more ended with the team in the lead having to recover an onside kick attempt to ice the game.
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To be successful in the National Football League, you have to be resilient. You have to be clutch. You have to win the close games.
Under Jason Garrett, the Cowboys have actually been decent at performing this feat.
Either way you want to slice it, Dallas has a winning record since 2011 in games decided by less than one score (23-22). If you want to count only the games that quarterback Tony Romo started, then that record gets significantly better (22-15).
This is one of the best reasons why getting rid of Garrett was never a thought and should never have been a discussion.
Call it what you want, but I’m going to focus on the games with Romo for a moment. Winning 59.5% of the time when you find yourself in a close game is pretty darn good. Let’s compare that for a moment to five random coaches that just about any sensical football fan would consider top-tier coaches.
Bill Belichick (23-13) or 63.9%
Mike Tomlin (20-20) or 50.0%
John Harbaugh (22-22) or 50.0%
Bruce Arians (13-5) or 72.2%
Mike McCarthy (18-11-1) or 60.0%
Four of these five coaches have won a Super Bowl as the man in charge of their current teams. Four of the five played this weekend. Two are playing for the chance to represent their conference in Super Bowl 50.
And right there, smack dab in the middle of it, is Jason Garrett.
If you want to use his overall record, he’s better than Harbaugh or Tomlin. If you choose to give him some slack and count only the games with Romo, he’s still better than those two and effectively tied with McCarthy.
Maybe even more impressive was the ability for him to keep his team engaged this season, when everything around this franchise went about as bad as it possibly could.
Four different starting quarterbacks, five different running backs, an injury-riddled year for the star playmaker on the roster, the drama that surrounded Greg Hardy and the loss of your best defensive back in training camp.
Through all that, the Cowboys played eight games that were decided by just one score. That 23-22 record looks a lot better when you realize that six of those 22 losses came this year.
Clearly the Cowboys can get better at winning close games. This will inevitably be aided with a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, not to mention the addition of a talented player at the number four spot in the draft.
If the experience of this season wasn’t enough, all anyone on this team has to do is look at the Seahawks coming back from down 31 points on the road to get within a score or the Packers effectively converting two hail mary’s to force overtime.
Even the Steelers, minus their two best running backs and probably the best receiver in all of football made a game of it to the very end against the Broncos.
One thing that was learned this year is that this team believes in their coach and does not quit. That will go a long way next year when the Dallas Cowboys are back in the mix come January.
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