At ABC, I broke down the Cowboys’ Week 15 loss to Green Bay:
Looking at expected points and historic outcomes based on specific game situations, sites like Advanced NFL Stats calculate the win probability for each team at any point during a game. Here’s the Cowboys-Packers win probability graph.
I marked down two percentages—the Cowboys’ win probability at halftime and their win probability prior to Romo’s first interception. Based on their lead and the fact that they were kicking off to Green Bay to start the second half, Advanced NFL Stats calculated the Cowboys’ chances of winning at 96 percent.
Another site that calculates win probability—Pro Football Reference—uses the game lines to factor in team strength. They actually had Dallas’s win probability at halftime at 99.7 percent.
That’s a big difference: a 1-in-25 chance of losing versus one-in-333. In reality, the probability was likely somewhere between those. Even if the Cowboys’ win probability was at the low end of that estimate, their strategy should have been the same: decrease the number of remaining plays as much as possible.
I’m as big of a proponent of passing the ball early and often as you’ll find. In typical game situations, I think the Cowboys actually run the ball way too much, especially on first down. They could benefit from being more aggressive offensively.
The problem was that much of the second half of this game wasn’t “typical.” The Cowboys’ focus should no longer have been on point-maximization—scoring as many points as possible—but rather closing out the game. Their goal should have been calling plays in such a way that the Packers wouldn’t have enough time to mount a comeback, even if they came out firing like they did. That means playing extremely conservatively on both offense and defense.
Despite the top football betting markets having the Cowboys as seven-point favorites, Dallas couldn’t capitalize. At Bleacher Report, I proposed some free agents and draft picks who might help the ‘Boys. And of course a few head coaches:
Perhaps the Cowboys’ biggest problem is that the players are continually placed in sub-optimal situations and expected to execute in spite of it. No matter how much talent a team brings in, the players need some help from the coaches.
Actually, I think the head coach is the second most important “position” behind quarterback. Look at what the Eagles and Chiefs have been able to do in just a single season by hiring coaches who embrace analytics, are forward-thinking and don’t coach in a cowardly manner.
If the Cowboys don’t hit in a big way with their next head coaching hire, they could be playing at a huge disadvantage to the Eagles for years to come.
Potential Head Coaches
Art Briles, Baylor
Chris Petersen, Boise State
Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M