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Up for Grabs: Bragging Rights, Tiebreakers, and So Much More

Let's take a break from the Jimmy Butler takes; it's rivalry week, it's game day, it's the Birds taking on the 'Boys at The Linc.

My research path for this blog was only going to end one way. I had sat down with all the right intentions: offensive and defensive efficiency rankings up on one window, All-22 game tape on another, a cup of coffee by my side.

I couldn't tell you exactly how long it took for David Akers' famous 2018 NFL Draft Cowboys-roastto appear in a new tab, nor could I tell you how an 11am beer sat where the coffee once stood. My search history might be able to tell you the precise time I typed the words 'Eagles vs. Dallas 2008 Week 17 44-6' or 'Kyle Orton Brandon Boykin interception' into Google, but I know I couldn't. The slide from 'balanced and detailed research' to 'laughing at Kevin Kolb / Dak Prescott stat comparisons' was as quick as it was inevitable.

Whilst Packers vs. Bears possess the history, and Steelers vs. Bengals lock in the concussion-filled brutality, Philly vs. Dallas is something different. I don't need to use words like 'intangible', nor phrases like 'difficult to define' to talk about the rivalry. The 22 on the field, the 106 on the rosters, head coaches down to special teams-assistants, the millions of fans: they hate those opposite them. Very easy, super simple-- lots of hate.

The past two seasons, the late-season matchups between Philly and Dallas have been dead rubbers. Starters were rested and stakes were lowered. It has been their first meetings of the season which have meant so much more in respect to playoff implications and general hostility. The same could be the case this year. Whilst the tight, muddled nature of the NFC East standings  through week 10 will most likely mean that the week 14 matchup will have important post-season implications, tonight's game is still crucial. Particularly crucial for one.

Tonight could be the last time Jason Garrett faces Philadelphia as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Since losing members of his historically great 2016 offensive line to free-agency and injury, Garrett has completely failed to develop Dak Prescott as a passer or assist him schematically. Whilst offensive masterminds in Kansas City, L.A. and Philadelphia are experimenting with and embracing college concepts (ranging from a variety of spread formations to the renaissance of the jet-motion) aimed at putting their young quarterbacks in the easiest situation possible, Garrett and his staff have completely stunted Prescott's growth with unoriginal, stale and predictable play-calling. Yes, the losses on the offensive line are not Garret's fault, but his inability to develop an adequate pass protection and run-blocking scheme without a top-5 line of all time is telling.

In his last 16 starts, Prescott has 16 touchdowns to 14 interceptions for 3166 yards. In today's offensive-driven league, with rule changes designed for maximum quarterback statistical output, that is not good enough. It is unfair to place the blame squarely at Garrett's feet; Dallas offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is responsible for play-calling and Prescott clearly struggles progressing through his reads if the first option is unavailable. But in Dallas, expectations are always high, especially only two years removed from an #1 seed in the NFC. If the general manager was anyone other than Jerry Jones, Garrett would have been given his marching orders already. Jones has given his head coach chance after chance, sticking with him through the 8-8 years and after the disappointment of 2017. Garrett's willingness to play his role as the unquestioning soldier certainly plays a role in this, but even Jones' patience must be wearing thin.

Another humiliating loss on a prime-time, national stage might be the final straw for Garrett's Cowboys tenure. It is normally just bragging rights and tiebreakers that are up for grabs when the Eagles play the Cowboys. Tonight, jobs could be too.

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