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Auditing The Dallas Cowboys 2008 Season
Christopher Reina. 3rd February, 2009 - 4:43 pm

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Record: 9-7
Trench Counter: -0.9 (21st)
Point differential per game: -0.2 (19th)
Payroll: $146.4M (2nd)
Cost Per Win: $16.2M (22nd)
Passing offense: 236.8 (9th)
Rushing offense: 107.7 (21st)
Passing defense: 187.5 (5th)
Rushing defense: 106.66 (12th)
Turnover differential: -0.7 (30th)
Strength of schedule: 14th

If their season were a song: Disaster - The Besnard Lakes

Game-by-Game (Score, Trench Counter)
Week 1: at CLE, 28-10 Win, 15.3
Week 2: PHI, 41-37 Win, -4.8
Week 3: at GB, 27-16 Win, 8.2
Week 4: WSH, 24-26 Loss, -3.7
Week 5: CIN, 31-22 Win, 8.8
Week 6: at ARI, 24-30 Loss, 5.0
Week 7: at STL, 14-34 Loss, -14.3
Week 8: TB, 13-9 Win, 2.4
Week 9: at NYG, 14-35 Loss, -13.4
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: at WSH, 14-10 Win, 1.0
Week 12: SF, 35-22 Win, -0.8
Week 13: SEA, 34-9 Win, 15.0
Week 14: at PIT, 13-20 Loss, -5.3
Week 15: NYG, 2-8 Win, 5.8
Week 16: BAL, 24-33 Loss, -16.6
Week 17: at PHI, 6-44 Loss, -17.1

Cowboys Season Review

Instead of calling this an audit, many in Texas would prefer to categorize mixing through the Cowboys' pieces of 2008 as an autopsy.

The Cowboys were a popular choice to win the Super Bowl throughout the offseason and through the first three weeks of the season, but the glitter quickly faded on a nutty team enduring it all under a combination of intense hype and scrutiny. Jason Garrett was demoted from offensive boy genius to your run of the mill offensive coordinator as Dallas had 33 turnovers (2nd worst) and didn't at all maximize his wide array of weapons.

Tony Romo suffered that pinkie injury and he played to a 67.9 passer rating, while throwing six interceptions and getting sacked 12 times. They lost some veteran depth at running back as Julius Jones went to Seattle and they were more talented in Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard choice, but injuries turned Dallas into even more of a passing team. Terrell Owens and Jason Witten both had nice seasons, but both had drops in production while allegedly luring each other into a love triangle with Romo. Aggressively and costly, they acquired Roy Williams from Detroit (a move I didn't particularly like at the time) and he did not find a place within the offense whatsoever. Upgrading Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin with Williams was not a move that was really going to make or break 2008 for Dallas.

Reina Value and FIC Rank

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Quarterbacks

- Tony Romo (13th, 731, +74%)

Considering the injuries and the distractions, Romo had a nice season with a passer rating over 90.0 (91.4) for the third time. He reduced his interception rate and his line was largely very good in their protection, but he became even more fumble prone with 13. Romo is clearly one of the best four or five QBs in the league on talent and if he reels in his tendency to attempt the impossible, his overall efficiency should climb over the 100.0 level in 2009.

- Brad Johnson (46th, 68, -40%)

Johnson was 1-2 in his three starts, playing miserably in losses to St. Louis and the Giants. He finished the season with a 50.5 passer rating and he was a definite liability for a team that invests almost $150M in their team.

Running Backs

- Marion Barber (17th, 548 [282 rushing, 267 receiving], +49%)

Barber played hurt for much of 2008 and had his toughness, which by most all accounts seems impeccable, questioned by Jerry Jones. His yards per carry dropped from 4.8 to a human 3.7, but his production as a receiver increased, catching 52 balls for 417 yards (8.0 average).

- Tashard Choice (46th, 299 [179 rushing, 120 receiving], +258%)

With all the attention devoted to Felix Jones, Choice was the forgotten man in the early going, but Marion Barber, Brandon Jacobs and Darren Sproles were also once 4th round picks. He had a 5.1 yards per carry average on his 92 carries, while also catching 21 balls for 185 yards, giving Dallas great production while filling in for the bigger names.

- Felix Jones (72nd, 137 [130 rushing, 7 receiving], -33%)

Jones initially looked like he'd own the heralded 2008 running back draft class as he averaged an unreal 8.9 yards per carry in those first 30 attempts. He also had a brilliant 98-yard kick return in the Monday night game against Philadelphia. Jones injured his hamstring and then suffered a toe injury during his rehab that made his return impossible. Depending on how Garrett chooses to use his three running backs, he will have more talent than any coordinator in the game at this position.

Wide Receivers

- Terrell Owens (15th, 678, +3%)

Owens was targeted 140 times, which was tied for ninth in the NFL, but as always this was a subject of concern for the receiver. He had 10 drops, which certainly contributed to his drop in production, as he averaged just 65.8 yards per game, his lowest mark since 1999 when he was sharing balls with Jerry Rice and J.J. Stokes. He averaged 15.2 yards per catch, which is still significantly higher than his mark during his first season in Dallas. He has shown little signs of decline other than being a tad bit slower, but he has shown no interest in transitioning into a Rice/Tim Brown/Cris Carter role of an elder statesman.

- Patrick Crayton (58th, 353, -9%)

I've always really liked Crayton as a number two receiver, especially for a team that features Owens and one of the best tight ends in the NFL in Witten. He caught 39 balls for 550 yards, a 14.1 average.

- Roy Williams (95th, 135, -86%)

I don't think the Williams of 19 catches for just 198 yards while in Dallas is the version we'll see next season, but the trade is now an out and out bust and not having a first, third and sixth rounder this year is devastating.

Tight Ends

- Jason Witten (2nd, 627, +12%)

Witten has been incredibly consistent over the past five seasons and though he didn't have as big of a season as he did in 2007, he did have 81 catches for 952 yards.

- Martellus Bennett (31st, 194, +182%)

The rookie had 20 catches for 283 yards and a very good 14.2 yards per catch average. Bennett also caught four balls for a touchdown.

Defensive Summary

Dallas was ranked 7th in yards allowed per play , but were 20th in points allowed, which was largely because of the excessive turnovers from the offense and inadequate play on special teams which consistently put the unit at a disadvantage.

Led by the outstanding DeMarcus Ware, who had 20 sacks himself, Dallas led the NFL in the category with 59. But opposing quarterbacks had an 83.1 passer rating against them, which was 19th in the NFL; only the Chargers and Cardinals had a worse ranking and made the playoffs.

Jay Ratliff had a brilliant season at nose tackle, while Bradie James and Anthony Spencer are surging young linebackers.

Terrence Newman is still one of the better corners in the NFL, but was prone to the big play.

They seemed to improve when Wade Phillips essentially took over for Brian Stewart, who was fired after the season.

Biggest draft needs

The Cowboys don't have a first round pick, but they do have the 52nd and 69th selections and then they have two picks in the 4th, 5th and 7th rounds.

I'm sure Jones will attempt to consolidate some of those picks to move up in order to find a replacement at safety for Roy Williams and possibly another offensive lineman to plug in.

Previous Audits

32. Detroit Lions

31. St. Louis Rams

30. Oakland Raiders

29. Cleveland Browns

28. Seattle Seahawks

27. Cincinnati Bengals

26. Kansas City Chiefs

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

24. Buffalo Bills

23. Denver Broncos

22. San Francisco 49ers

- Chris Reina is the executive editor of RealGM