The Dallas Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles in tonight’s Sunday Night Football matchup. Both these teams came into the season with high hopes, and both are struggling and fortunate to be playing out of the NFC East Division where no team has a winning record. For the record, the NFC East is comprised of the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins in addition to tonight’s two combatants.
The Eagles won their first ever franchise Super Bowl two years ago in a season in which 2016 first round draft selection, the second player selected overall in the college lottery, Carson Wentz, was knocked out of action in December with an injury. Wentz watched from the sidelines as backup quarterback Nick Foles first guided the Eagles to the top seed in the playoffs and then a triumph over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
While Wentz was a favorite to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award in 2017 before the injury ended his season, last year, Wentz again missed the end of the Eagles campaign with a second major injury. Again, Foles led the Eagles into the playoffs, and a postseason opening win over the Chicago Bears before having their season end in New Orleans against the Saints.
Foles is now gone, and the Eagles are counting on their four-year veteran to lead them back to the promise land. Early returns this season have not added confidence to that quest.
The Eagles struggled on opening day to get by the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field, and have won only two of five games since. They arrive in Dallas today following a trouncing last week in Minnesota, the Vikings beat Wentz and company by 18 points, 38-20.
The problems in Philadelphia are not centered around Wentz, but rather the once stout Eagles defense that has leaked more than the White House this year. Still, with the benefit of playing out of a division without a team with a winning record, the Eagles 3 and 3 season mark is good enough for a share of first place in the NFC East.
They share that uninspiring first place tie with the Dallas Cowboys, who opened the season with three straight wins and have since lost a trio of games to the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and New York Jets.
The loss last week to the Jets was most surprising given Dallas had handled weak competition in their first three weeks, victories over the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins. When one steps back from the Cowboys three and three mark to examine who they have had success against, it is noted that their season opening wins came against three of the weaker teams in the league.
That is perhaps why there are rumblings in Dallas that head coach Jason Garrett is on thin ice. Dallas owner Jerry Jones has not had his team in the Super Bowl since they won it in 1995, and the long drought has him itching to find the key. In fact, Jones had the key when he first purchased the team in 1989. One of his first acts as team owner was to remove the only head coach the Cowboys had ever known, Tom Landry.
His first choice to replace the legend in Dallas was Jimmy Johnson, who led the Cowboys from a 1-13 campaign in his first season to a pair of Super Bowl wins in 1992 and 1993 before Jones’ ego battled with Johnson’s and the working partnership was abruptly ended.
Having Jones’s ego matched against Johnson’s ego was a heavyweight battle. As always, the owner was left standing, but without Johnson running the football side of the operation the Cowboys decline began with his departure. The talent Johnson had assembled in Dallas did produce one more Super Bowl win with Barry Switzer in charge, but the decline in the organization was apparent and once the team Johnson had built faded with retirements, Jones started a parade of head coaches in search of what he had with Johnson.
Switzer was the head coach in Dallas for four years, Chan Gailey followed in that position for two seasons, followed by the three years Dave Campo served. In 2003, Jones brought Bill Parcells on board to run his ship, but again he couldn’t allow a capable head coach to do his job without interference. Ultimately, Jones picked the signing of divisive wide receiver Terrell Owens more important than aligning with his head coach’s request to not bring Owens to Dallas.
A year later, Owens was a Cowboy and Parcells was out as head coach. The Dallas surge to excellence was once again interrupted by Jones’ need for something other than allowing his hire to properly run the football operation. Wade Phillips followed Parcells in Dallas, and spent 3½ years on the sidelines before being fired midway through the 2010 season. Phillips was replaced first on an interim basis by Garrett, who then earned the full time status that he now finds precarious at best after nine years on the job.
So, there you have it. Tonight Garrett looks to keep his job and get the Cowboys back into first place, while the Eagles hope to move to a winning record, take over first place, and push Garrett closer to the chopping block.
It is all very interesting, but by my numbers, doesn’t offer a clear choice to back with cash.