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Cowboys 8-8 not in same universe as Dolphins 8-8

A reasoned perspective free of over-reaction is important in the management of an NFL team and perhaps that's the reason multiple people within the Miami Dolphins organization let me know Monday they appreciate me sharing this perspective on why owner Stephen Ross not making a head coaching change after the 2014 season was understandable.


But, a reasoned perspective free of inaction is also important and for that reason today I address the folks riding the pendulum that's swinging wildly in the opposite direction -- those saying no change at all is warranted. I heard from a Dolphins person in that circle Monday (love you, bro, but you know I don't agree) and he used the Dallas Cowboys as an example of why continuity is the right way for Ross and his Dolphins to go now.

The narrative I heard is that just as the Dallas Cowboys stayed the course after three consecutive 8-8 seasons in 2011, 2012, and 2013, the Dolphins are so far staying the course after consecutive 8-8 seasons in 2013 and 2014. And, the narrative continues, just as the Cowboys were rewarded for their patience and perseverance with a 12-4 season in 2014 and playoff win two days ago, the Dolphins could be on the road to much regular-season success and perhaps a playoff berth in 2015.

And that is exactly wrong.




The Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins are nothing alike beyond those multiple 8-8 records.

First, it must be said the Cowboys did indeed finish 8-8 in 2011, but they did so after losing a season-finale against the New York Giants. That game was essentially an NFC East title game. And the Giants, having won the game, went on to win the Super Bowl.

Secondly, the Cowboys did indeed finish 8-8 in 2012, but they did so after losing a season-finale against the Washington Redskins. That game once again was an NFC East title game. And the Redskins won the game to capture the division title and move on to the playoffs.

Thirdly, the Cowboys did indeed finish 8-8 in 2013, but they did so after losing a season-finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. That game again was an NFC East title game. And the Eagles won it by two points, capturing the division title and moving on to the playoffs.

The Cowboys obviously did not make the playoffs any of those seasons. And they were merely a .500 team. But they were good enough to go to the season-finale with a chance to win their division.

How is that even remotely similar to what the Dolphins have done the past two years?

What year did the Dolphins have a chance to win the AFC East on the last weekend of the season? Indeed, the Dolphins this past season were basically eliminated from the playoffs earlier than they were the year before. And they never got close enough to be in a win-and-you're-the-champion situation because the gulf between them and the New England Patriots is vast.

The Dallas 8-8 record put that franchise thisclose to three consecutive division championships. The Miami 8-8 records left the Dolphins in third place this season, further back in the pack than they were last season when they finished in a tie for second.

But that is merely appetizer. To the main course: The differences between the Cowboys and Dolphins are much more stark than their seemingly congruent .500 records.

After the 2011 season in which Dallas finished 8-8, owner Jerry Jones made changes. Yes, he kept head coach Jason Garrett, which is where all the focus is. But he demoted John Garrett from his job as passing game coordinator and hired former Oakland head coach Bill Callahan as the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator.

After the 2012 season in which Dallas finished 8-8, Jones made changes again. He kept Garrett again. But Jones fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and hired Monte Kiffin as the defensive coordinator. Jones also hired former Detroit head coach Rod Marinelli as the defensive line coach.

After the 2013 season in which Dallas finished 8-8, Jones made more changes. Once again he kept Garrett. But the owner demoted Kiffin and promoted Marinelli to defensive coordinator. He also took away Garrett's play-calling privileges and hired former Detroit head coach Scott Linehan to call the plays.

So while Jason Garrett posted a 24-24 record, he kept his head coach post. But owner Jerry Jones fired two defensive coordinators, changed the offensive coordinator twice, and took away Garrett's play-calling role.

And when all that dust settled prior to the start of this fine season for the Cowboys, Jones had demoted inexperienced assistants and hired three former NFL head coaches (Callahan, Marinelli and Linehan) and two former college head coaches (Kiffin and Derek Dooley) to Garrett's staff.

Continuity? Jones is more interested in the right continuity rather than staying the course for its own sake.

Jones saw value in keeping his head coach but also in constantly adding superior experience and a higher grade of assistant coach year after year after year.

This year the Dolphins are banking on continuity. Joe Philbin, whose career record is 23-25, gets another shot to raise the Dolphins from their 8-8 doldrums of the past two seasons.

But as we sit here, the Dolphins have not shown quite the same aggressiveness in improving the staff serving their young coach that the Cowboys did in improving their staff for their young coach. Yes, there were moves foisted upon Philbin last season and, predictably, those worked.

But there is at least one obvious move that should be made this year at defensive coordinator that has not yet come to pass.

What I'm saying is Jerry Jones, patient with his head coach and eager to maintain continuity for his franchise, would absolutely force that move because, well, he did exactly that the last three seasons. Garrett, as loyal to his assistants as anyone, accepted those moves and is now benefitting from them.

Your move coach Philbin. Your move Mr. Ross.