There's no transitive property in the NFL

DALLAS - The Cowboys didn’t play this week, which makes them like their defense every other week besides the Giants game. The Giants, somehow, handled the Broncos who destroyed the Cowboys. Not only does this not make any sense when we think about these specific games, it’s also a problem with the names. After all, if anyone should be able to handle wild horses, it would surely be cowboys, whereas nothing about the Giants name that even suggests skill in that area.

I was watching some pretty boring other game this weekend, talking to a friend about the disappointing Cowboys and he said to me, you know, basically nothing interesting is happening. The Cowboys lost a number of average-to-good defensive players and added only Jaylon Smith. Ergo, the defense is bad. Q.E.D. E pur si muove. E pluribus unum. And so on. It was a prosaic answer, but not one that I think can be improved upon.

The thing is, and all of us are guilty of this, if a team is based around young talent, you expect that team to be better next year. In a lot of sports, often enough you’re right although more so perhaps in the NBA than MLB. Things are so variable in that particular league that a 40 homer rookie season can often enough lead to a 200 strikeout sophomore season and so on. In the NBA, rooks almost always get better, but we typically assume things like, they’ll learn how to shoot, or, how to position their feet on defense, and often they don’t.

Football, though, football is a complex game. QB and RB play is so dependent on an offensive line, and good WRs so elevate it. Aaron Rodgers can do without for a while, but Matt Ryan can’t. And then those guys are often off the field entirely for much of the game, and it doesn’t matter how many touchdowns you score if you let the other team score more. That’s a hard to dodge reality.

And generally, it’s hard to say that the young core of the team – Dak and Zeke – look any better this year and they might look worse. It’s hard to have any qualms with Elliott’s season on the field although he has seemed to struggle getting himself started each game.

But Dak’s completion percentage is down, his yards per pass is down, his TD-INT ratio is up – how could it not be, he’s already thrown as many as last year. On the other hand, this may be happening because he’s trying to do more and for all we know he could be gathering for a leap. Growth isn’t linear, and comes from ducking into trouble then finding the tools to get out.

If there’s anything good about this season so far, it’s that it should at least help Tony Romo get a little more of the credit he deserves. Tony first became a starter in 2006 and played most of the games through 2014, with the exception of 2010. In every one of the seasons where he started more than six games, the Cowboys at least broke even and they never once had a running back like this or a line like this and they often had a defense like this.

There are plenty of good reasons, in retrospect, why this team is struggling, but it’s worth noting, looking back on a bye week, what the other guy made work – not to criticize, but to reflect on an important chapter in Dallas Cowboys history.

 

Share your favorite math related term or Cowboys opinion with Andy on Twitter @andytobo.

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