The preseason does not matter. That is a statement fans of the Dallas Cowboys are likely telling themselves after watching their team get trounced by a dismal Jacksonville Jaguars team in their preseason finale. It is true, of course, the preseason literally does not matter—but no one wants to go winless. However, in the case of the Cowboys, that could be a good thing.
With a 34-14 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, the Cowboys finished the preseason winless, 0-4, for the third time since 2014. But if history repeats itself, that could mean the Cowboys will win the division and win at least one playoff game.
They went winless in the 2014 preseason and again in 2018. In both seasons, they went on to win the division while winning ten and twelve games, respectively (and a playoff game). Of course, drawing a correlation between going winless in the preseason and winning the division during the regular season is ridiculous. That would mean going undefeated in preseason play should result in a losing regular-season record.
Unfortunately, history does not agree. The Baltimore Ravens have won their last twenty preseason games. They have not struggled in that time frame, but they have had winning records the last four seasons, including two division titles. Additionally, the 2008 Detroit Lions went undefeated in the regular season only to go winless during the regular season.
Preseason success is often a result of effort. Good teams often do not put forth much effort during preseason play. To them, those games do not matter, therefore they do not try to win. But for struggling teams, a winning preseason could mean getting the press and fans to relax a little. So—should Dallas fans care about their team going winless in the preseason? Of course not!
Dallas essentially threw the game. Neither coordinator called the game, and there were about thirty players that sat the game out. Meaning the plays were being called by inexperienced fill-in coordinators, and most of the players in the game will probably not be on the roster in a few days. Under such conditions, a win would have been surprising.
To be fair, Jacksonville does have some talent on their starting units and they should have dominated the Cowboys reserves as they did. That does not give the Dallas reserves an excuse once the Jacksonville reserves hit the field, though. But, in the end— who cares? A winless preseason means as much as an undefeated one. What matters now for the Cowboys is what happens on September 9 when they face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2021 NFL season opener.