The Dallas Cowboys have been the definition of an average football team under head coach Jason Garrett. After 49 games at the helm, the equivalent of three full seasons plus one game, his record is 26-23 (a .531 winning average.) He took over in the middle of the 2010 season and lead the Cowboys, who were 1-7 at the time, to a 5-3 second half record. Each of the next two seasons, Garrett’s Cowboys finished a dead even 8-8. This year, one game into the second half of the season, the Cowboys are 5-4.
Average to below average is actually what this team has been since their last playoff win in January, 2010. Since then, the Dallas Cowboys are 27-30, with no playoff appearances.
In fact, one might say the Cowboys have been nothing but average for the past 15 years or more.
It could be argued that the biggest regular season win for the Romo/Witten/Ware-led Cowboys came on December 19, 2009 in New Orleans, when the Cowboys shocked the Super Bowl champion Saints in the raucous Super Dome, 24-17. DeMarcus Ware, then as now, was coming off an injury and only played about half of the game, but he recorded three sacks of Drew Brees and forced two big fumbles. Romo threw for 312 yards and a touchdown. Miles Austin went off for 139 yards on five catches and caught the Romo TD throw. Jason Witten chipped in 44 yards on five catches.
It was one of those shock-the-world wins for your Cowboys. The Saints would only lose three games that year. The Cowboys would finish 11-5 and with high hopes. Those hopes would be dashed with a 34-3 massacre at the hands of the 12-4 Vikings.
Since that 2010 season, the Cowboys have failed to post a winning record and have missed the playoffs each year. This is the most promising season since that one. The NFC East is in shambles. The Cowboys are the only team in the division with a winning record. It is there for the taking.
But if they are going to take the division, and if they are going to make another victory lap around the Super Dome, they have to elevate their game.
Average won’t cut it.
The beleaguered but resilient defensive line will need to get pressure on Drew Brees and force a turnover or two. The offensive line will have to open up enough running lanes to warrant more than the paltry eight carries the team had against the Vikings last Sunday. Romo will have to protect the ball, avoid turnovers, and make plays. He cannot simply manage this game. He has to win it.
That means Dez Bryant has to do what Dez does best, which is make big plays in the passing game, and avoid what he does worst. which is melt down and self-destruct.
That means DeMarcus Ware needs to return to the lineup with a vengeance.
That means the defensive backs have to figure out a way NOT to surrender 400 yards passing for a change.
Average won’t win this game against a New Orleans team that is still smarting from losing to a Jets team they should have beaten.
Garrett’s Cowboys have to prove they are better than average…or they will prove they are what they have been for a long, long time.