Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Cowboys True Home Field Disadvantage

The Cowboys have a real problem in their path to becoming a better team and a more legitimate contender in the NFC. Well, they actually have several problems, but I believe this is the elephant in the room.
It's the stadium. The thing that visiting announcers declare to be the finest building that ever housed a football game.
That could very well be true. AT&T Stadium could be easy and enticing to visit, comfortable and convenient and all of those things. It has artwork, for crying out loud. What else could you ever want?

The problem is pretty obvious, really. The problem is that they are trying to be a contender in this league without a home-field advantage. Could you imagine what Seattle or Green Bay would be like if they did not reap the benefits of their home fields? Both are significantly better teams at home. I submit that is what we are looking at here with the Cowboys in their new (not so new, anymore) stadium. 
Of course, you are no doubt thinking that I write this today because of that little issue of the bright setting-sun blinding the Cowboys receivers at least two or three times late in the game in the season opener against the Giants. Oh, there is so much more evidence than that.
The Cowboys have now played 57 games at home and 57 games on the road since 2009 and are significantly better on the road (54% winning percentage) than they are at home (47%). In fact, the Cowboys have one of the better winning percentages of any team in the NFL on the road during that stretch. They trail only New England, Green Bay, Denver, and New Orleans during that period. Those are  all teams that have won Super Bowls in the last eight years (one of them in this very building). There is almost nothing wrong with the Cowboys ability to win away from Arlington.
The real problem exists at home. Here is the entire list of teams that have lost more home games than the Dallas Cowboys since this new stadium opened: Cleveland, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Miami, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, and Washington. Those teams have made the playoffs twice in that entire stretch -- both Washington.
In other words, they play like a heavyweight on the road and a powder-puff at home. Which, frankly, makes no sense.

Oh, there are theories that the stadium hypnotizes the fans into a state of quietness with the amazing big-screen HDTV or that the prices mean the fans who actually could impact the noise level are too high in those cheaper seats and therefore the affluent crowd down below offer no advantage at all. One of my beliefs is that the team is coached far more conservatively at home with decision-making and aggressiveness. I think I could present a case that they actually attack more on the road than they do in front of their faithful.
But, regardless of why, this must get sorted out quickly. You could try curtains, but you also might try tactical adjustments that attempt to turn this from a neutral field into a true advantageous home. 
What does it profit a football team to have the most beautiful stadium in the league, but to have one of the worst home field advantages inside it? Only three teams in the league have more road wins than home wins since 2009, and nobody has a bigger discrepancy in their form than the Cowboys.
Maybe the real solution is to ask the good voters of Arlington to build a better version with more home-field considerations in a few years.

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