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Offseason | 2024

Spagnola: Heading east creating complications


FRISCO, Texas – There is this old saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Well, welcome to the NFC East, where the Cowboys three foes, Philadelphia, Washington and the New York Giants ought to be damn tired of the Cowboys.

To note:

The Cowboys are the defending NFC East champs once again. They went 5-1 in the division this past season, the lone loss but a five-pointer to the Eagles, 28-23, in a game the Cowboys very well should have won. In those five wins, the Cowboys then beat the Eagles 33-13 the second time around, beat Washington both times, 45-10 and 38-10, and beat the Giants both times, 40-0 and 49-19.

Add all that up and the Cowboys combined score against their NFC East brethren comes to 228-80 of a whipping. Only the first game against the Eagles was contested. The others? No contest.

Now this is the second time in three years the Cowboys have won the East. The lone other time they finished second, but their 4-2 record matched the Eagles' 4-2 record, losing to the Eagles and the Commanders that year. When they won the East in 2021, the Cowboys swept them others, going 6-and-oh.

That means over the past three seasons, all playoff years for the Cowboys, they are now 15-3 against the East. They're darn fed up, telling you.

And on top of all that, the Cowboys have won the East five times in the past 10 seasons, going 4-2 in 2014, 3-3 in 2016 (though two of the losses to the Giants, just 20-19 in Dak Prescott's career- and season-opening debuts, and then 10-7) and then 5-1 in 2018.

Enough is enough. Time to do something about it.

Of course, this could be pure coincidence. Or maybe not, you know. Maybe some ulterior motives behind it all. And remember, back in the day the Cowboys never could trust the erstwhile Redskins, now Commanders, as far as they could spit. Because back when the old decrepit practice facility was on Forrest and Abrams, the end of the practice field butting up to a Days Inn, Tex Schramm would rent out the second floor of the motel for counter espionage purposes, fearing spying going on from the windows during Redskins Week. Just didn't trust George Allen.


Come on, don't you find this odd that within the last week the Commanders (nee' Redskins) have just hired Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as their 12th head coach since owner Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989. (The Cowboys are on No. 8). And they pulled that stunt once before, back in 1994 after the Cowboys had won back-to-back Super Bowls, hiring Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner to take over for Richie Petitbone as head coach, simply an unheard exchange between these two staunch enemy rivals.

Then how about the Eagles, winners of the East three times during the Cowboys' 10-year reign. The defending NFC champs, definitely butt-hurt getting elbowed out of first by the Cowboys in 2023 after starting off 10-1, hired former Cowboys backup quarterback, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for four years Kellen Moore. This past season's Chargers offensive coordinator, who spent seven of Dak's eight seasons with him in some capacity, is now Philadelphia's new offensive coordinator.

Does any of this make you go hmmmm? Suspicious?

Does me. Should you, too.

Because the lone common denominator through this Cowboys domination winning four NFC East titles over the past eight seasons has been Dak Prescott, the quarterback, right? Why, Dak has dominated the East, each and every one of those teams. Since his rookie year of 2016 he has gone 32-8 in division games, producing an 11-2 record against Washington and going 12-2 over the Giants. Then the Eagles, a 9-4 record, the Cowboys having won five of their past seven meetings.

Since 2014 the Cowboys are 16-5 against Washington. And against the Giants since 2017, the Cowboys have won 12 of the last 13 games. And that lone loss was the final game of the 2020 season, 23-19, with Andy Dalton starting and getting sacked six times in a 6-10 year when Dak was lost for the season five games in.

And know what you must be thinking by now: All this NFC East domination and nothing for the Cowboys to show for it over these past 10 years, going just 3-6 in the playoffs and never advancing past the second round.


But still, this is now, what's coming up. And what opposing coach knows more about Dak than Kellen Moore? Goodness, he, along with Jason Garrett, raised him in the NFL. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy tutored him up, too. But Kellen, he knows all there is to know about Dak' strengths along with any perceived weaknesses.

And then DQ, too. As a defensive savant, he's been up close and personal to Dak. He's been in meetings. He's got two eyes. He, too, sees the strengths and weaknesses. Probably has thought to himself just how he would attack Dak and the Cowboys offense if needed to do so.

Not only that, by osmosis Quinn also knows McCarthy's play-calling tendencies. Then again, McCarthy should have similar insights into Quinn's defensive schemes and how he likes to attack offenses. Probably the same for Mike with Moore's play-calling style, and just how he likes to run an offense.

But to me going forward, and this is no startling revelation, the key to this Cowboys offense is Dak. Even Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said it down in Mobile, Ala., on Tuesday while professing his belief in Dak being the Cowboys quarterback for years to come.

"Dak has done nothing to change my mind on any promise in the future," Jerry said, and would go on to say quite honestly, "we'll go as far as Dak takes us."

That is so true. Because if you've been paying attention to how teams have been trying to beat the Cowboys, they have been trying to take Dak away. Especially in the six games the Cowboys lost, no one feared the Cowboys running game. Their defenses could back off, control a team averaging just 4.1 yards a carry in the run game and scoring just 14 rushing touchdowns, leaving them in a three-way tie for 15th in the NFL.

Then come after Dak, suffering 39 sacks, second most in his eight-year career, only the 56 in 2018 more. And in the six losses, Dak was sacked 22 times, more than half his total. This is eye-opening, too. In the nine games the Cowboys played against teams finishing with winning records, Dak was sack 31 times.

Way too many, and hoping this is not too analytical. Just unadulterated facts.

Here is another factor, and probably why Green Bay won the toss on the road and chose to receive in a playoff game in front of 93,000 fans. Teams wanted the Cowboys defense to have to play from behind, the offense to have to play catchup. The Cowboys were 0-3 when trailing after the first quarter. They were 1-4 when trailing at halftime. They were 1-5 trailing after three quarters. They only lost six games.

Now this, having to play four of six NFC East games against their former coaches, Quinn the head coach and probably defensive coordinator in Washington and Moore the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, both with intimate knowledge of the Cowboys offense and quarterback.

It just seems to grow more complicated by the day.

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