Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett

One of mantras Jason Garrett has preached since he became the Cowboys' head coach is to win the fourth quarter.

It seems simple enough, but we all know good teams typically find ways to win the fourth quarter and the game while bad teams figure out ways to lose.

In that respect, we really shouldn't be surprised the Cowboys are 10-0 when leading after three quarters, which is among the reasons why they won the NFC East and are tied with several teams for the best record in the NFL.

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Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsJason Garrett has built a team that has played its best in the fourth quarter this season.
Last season, the Cowboys finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. They were 6-3 when leading after three quarters, including losses to San Diego, Denver and Green Bay. With wins in any of those games, the Cowboys would have made the playoffs.

In 2012, Dallas was 3-1 when leading after three quarters, and they were 3-3 in 2011.

One of the reasons Garrett has persuaded owner Jerry Jones to use first-round picks on three offensive linemen in the past four seasons is so the Cowboys could control the line of scrimmage and run the ball in the fourth quarter.

"We certainly talk to our team a lot about what wins in the NFL," Jason Garrett said. "We talk about turnovers -- that's the only statistic we emphasize because of its correlation to winning, but we also talk about the importance of efficient and executing in the fourth quarter because that's what correlates to winning."

The reality is that if the Cowboys had been good enough to win the games they were leading after three quarters in each of the past three seasons, they probably would've made the playoffs each year.

After the Cowboys' victory over Washington on Sunday, Garrett stood in the Cowboys' locker room and talked about the importance of the killer instinct the Cowboys have developed.

"It's a mentality and a mindset," Garrett said. "You hear me emphasize it a lot. When you're ahead in the game, you have to go after it. You have to go finish the job the right way. Any kind of relaxing is not good for anybody.

"The idea is that this matters. This play matters. This series matters. Don't look at the scoreboard -- play this play to the best of your ability. That goes a long way in instilling that killer instinct that you want."
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' offense revolves around DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

But without a group of big-play role players -- Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Gavin Escobar, Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle -- it’s unlikely the Cowboys would be 9-4 and tied for first place in the NFC East.

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Those players have combined for 15 touchdowns this season; last season they had 11.

Against Chicago last week, it was Beasley who caught three passes for 42 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys' 41-28 victory.

“One of the best things we’ve done on offense,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, “is use our complementary players. Sometimes, those guys don’t get an opportunity in a game or, maybe, it’s a couple of games, but when they get their opportunity they cash in on it.”

Each of them has made game-winning plays at various times this season. Escobar scored two touchdowns in a win over the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium, and four of his nine receptions on the season have resulted in touchdowns.

Dunbar is averaging 13.4 yards on 15 receptions, which is more per catch than Witten, and he has four catches of 20 yards or more.

Randle made one of the season’s biggest plays in the Cowboys' win over Seattle. The Seahawks led 10-0 when Randle burst 38 yards for a first down and a momentum-changing run. The Cowboys scored on the drive and made it a game again.

Beasley has nine catches for 149 yards and three touchdowns in the past three games after having four catches for 45 yards in the previous five games.

In the first seven games, Williams scored six touchdowns and had five receptions of 20 yards or more. He has five catches for 75 yards in the last five games, including two games where he’s failed to catch a pass.

The very definition of being a role player means they don’t have a defined role in the offense. Their job is to be ready when called upon and to make a play -- whether it’s been a series, a quarter or a few weeks since they were needed.

“Sometimes it’s matchup. Sometimes it’s coverage,” Garrett said. “Sometimes it’s what they’re trying to do or take away on defense that gives guys opportunities.”

Being a role player is a job that’s hard on any player’s ego, but the priority for playcaller Scott Linehan is to get the ball to Murray, Bryant and Witten.

That’s not changing any time soon. It’s up to the Cowboys’ role players to make plays whenever they can.
IRVING, Texas -- If the Dallas Cowboys don't find a way to stop LeSean McCoy on Sunday night, they have virtually no chance to beat the Philadelphia Eagles.

Two weeks ago, McCoy rushed for 159 yards on 25 carries against the Cowboys. In the final game of the 2013 season with a playoff berth on the line, McCoy rushed for 131 yards on 27 carries.

No surprise, the Eagles won both of those games.

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When Dallas beat Philadelphia, 17-3, on Oct. 20, 2013, McCoy had 18 carries for 55 yards.

"LeSean McCoy is a great football player and if you don't play good sound defense and let that guy get outside he's going to make you pay for it," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. "We've done that in the past, other times we haven't and he's had big games against us."

If the Cowboys don't control McCoy and the Eagles' running game, then it opens up Philadelphia's big-play passing game, which comes off run fakes. The Cowboys know what they have to do to stop Philadelphia's running game, it's executing the plan that's difficult.

Stopping Philadelphia's running game is all about the defensive linemen maintaining gap integrity, which means filling the gap you're supposed to fill -- even if it means not making the tackle. That's what takes away the cutback lanes McCoy is so good at finding.

But the most important thing the Cowboys have to do is play strong on the perimeter. Outside linebackers Anthony Hitchens, Bruce Carter and Kyle Wilber have to force McCoy inside where they have help and the Cowboys can gang tackle.

When he gets outside, McCoy is too hard to stop because he's terrific in the open field thanks to a litany of moves. Against Chicago, the Cowboys limited dangerous RB Matt Forte to 26 yards on 13 carries with a long of seven.

"I thought we did a really good job defending the run and I think they came into the ballgame wanting to run the football," Garrett said. "It was important for us to slow them down.

"I thought our guys did a good job having gap discipline, setting edges, tackling and running to the ball -- all of the things you need to do to play good run defense. There are some critical things that you have to do when you play this team. They were able to get to the edges and get into space and that's where they're most effective."
IRVING, Texas -- You can ask the question however you choose. Coach Jason Garrett's answer will never change.

Garrett isn't interested in the Dallas Cowboys' odds of making the playoffs, and he doesn't want to talk about whether Sunday's game will determine the NFC East champion.

All he wants is for the Cowboys to prepare this week to play their best football on Sunday. If they do that and win, Garrett figures everything else will work itself out.

"We don't spend a lot of time o what other people are doing," Garrett said. "We just focus on ourselves and what we need to do."

Still, if the Cowboys lose this game they'll essentially trail the Philadelphia Eagles by two games with two games to play. That would make it extremely difficult to win the division.

"This is a game that we have to go up there and play our best football. It starts with our preparation on Tuesday, putting good days together, and don't worry about anything else."

This is one of those things that sounds easier said than done. After all, football is an emotional game and the players don't live in a vacuum. They understand what's at stake, and they certainly understand the challenge, considering they lost 33-10 to Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago.

"One of our jobs as coaches is to try to help our team think the right way. A lot of that is taking care of the process along the way," Garrett said. "Get locked into this drill or this rep or whatever it is to give ourselves the best chance to play our best on Sunday night and we'll continue to reinforce that message."

The Cowboys have missed the playoffs each of the past four seasons. Win their last three games and that streak will end.

"The biggest thing we have to do is focus on ourselves," Garrett said. "We control our destiny as a team and if we focus on doing what we need to do to play our best football, then everything will be fine."

Garrett wants Cowboys to fight

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IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys skirmished with Seattle at the end of the first half two weeks ago. They had a pre-game skirmish with the New York Giants.

They even fought with the Oakland Raiders and among themselves at times during training camp.

These Cowboys, it seems, have no intention of being bullied, which is interesting because they haven’t really been known as a physical team since Bill Parcells left. Sure, the Cowboys played hard, but they didn't physically dominate either side of the ball.

Then again, this is the first year that Jason Garrett has passed out limited edition navy blue T-shirts that read, “Fight.” on the front.

“Fight is a really important word. There’s a lot of levels of fight, but ultimately, it’s about fighting to be your best,” Garrett said. “That’s what the whole thing is about, and we have to do that every day.

“It’s a big theme for us. It’s a big mantra for us -- fight to be your best regardless of the circumstances.”

Despite the 6-1 record, the Cowboys have had to fight in virtually every game.

They fought back from embarrassment after falling behind 28-3 to San Francisco. They fought off Tennessee in the second half after the Titans pulled within a touchdown after falling behind 16-0.

They fought back from 21-0 against the Rams, 10-0 to Seattle and 14-7 to the New York Giants.

“Certainly our game leads itself to fight -- fight with the opponents, battle hard and all that stuff,” said Garrett, “we want to do that individually and as a team.

“You have to earn it every single day. Just because you did it yesterday doesn’t really mean anything. Now it’s today and you have to go do it again.”
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett recently addressed his players about the team’s stance on domestic violence and similar issues.

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Garrett made it clear that any player involved in such an incident won’t be allowed to play until the situation has been resolved.

When defensive tackle Josh Brent was involved in a car accident in December 2012 and subsequently charged with intoxication manslaughter since the wreck resulted in practice squad player Jerry Brown’s death, the Cowboys deactivated Brent for the final four games of the season.

Brent, who spent nearly five months in jail and 45 days in a rehabilitation facility, rejoined the team this week after the NFL reduced his suspension.

“Part of what our jobs are as coaches is to create the right environment for our players to function both on and off the field,” Garrett said, “so we need to be clear about where we are and we need to be clear that we have a structure in place to help anybody who has any off-the-field issue.

“We have a lot of resources here to help guys, if you’re dealing with anything off the field. That was the first message. Having said that, there are standards we have about all off-the-field behavior and certainly domestic violence applies to that. We’re very clear about how we’re going to handle things.”

Jason Garrett trending the wrong way

October, 18, 2012
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IRVING, Texas -- Gotta give credit to Jason Garrett: He's gotten pretty dang good at those day-after-a-clock-management-crisis news conferences.

Heck, he's had a lot of practice.

Garrett aced it on Monday, explaining in detail exactly what happened during the Dallas Cowboys' mental breakdown down the stretch in Baltimore. The players didn't get a pass, but Garrett put the biggest piece of blame pie on his plate.

"It starts with me," Garrett said over and over again.

Man, he's come miles since early last December when he just kept on rationalizing his ridiculous decision-making the day after a similar debacle in the desert. Hey, if you're going to keep making messes, better become efficient with the clean-up process.

Can you think of any other evidence of Garrett's progress as a head coach?

Hear those crickets chirping? Here's why you do.

Time not on Jason Garrett's side

October, 16, 2012
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IRVING, Texas -- Jason Garrett preaches the importance of situational football, knowing that the outcomes of close NFL games come down to the final few moments.

If you had not seen in his past two training camps how Garrett has picked out some of the most famous end-of-game situations in NFL history and had his team play under the same scenarios, you would think the Dallas Cowboys had not practiced much -- or any -- situational football.

Sunday's loss at Baltimore was the third time in the Cowboys' past 10 games over the past two seasons that clock mismanagement played a major part in a loss.

The Cowboys let 16 seconds burn off the clock following Dez Bryant's 1-yard catch to the Baltimore 33 to attempt a 51-yard field goal try by Dan Bailey. As good as Bailey has been, he was a 50 percent kicker (2-of-4) from 50 yards or more. Sunday's kick missed to the left by a couple of feet.

"When I look at it, I say we left too much meat on the bone there," Garrett said Monday. "We needed to get more than one yard when we had one timeout and 26 seconds. It starts with the play call that I had and then it really goes from there."

Read more about Garrett's struggles with time management here.

Chad Ochocinco not Cowboys' kind of guy

June, 8, 2012
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The Cowboys don't have a proven third receiver on the roster. Chad Ochocinco, a free agent after being released by the New England Patriots, has a resume that features 766 catches for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns in his career.

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But don't count on Ochocinco's next catch coming with a star on his helmet.

You hear Jason Garrett use the same phrase to describe possible additions to the roster: "right kind of guy." Ochocinco, who is as much a reality show as he is a receiver at this point, doesn't fit that description.

The Cowboys don't need to invite drama into their locker room as Garrett continues to work on changing the culture at Valley Ranch.

They especially don't need to invite drama when it comes in a well-past-its-prime package.

The 34-year-old Ochocinco, who had one 1,000-yard season in his last three years with the Cincinnati Bengals, was the most overhyped nonfactor in the NFL last season. He was pretty much a spectator during the Patriots' Super Bowl run, catching 15 passes during the regular season and one during the playoffs.

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Heck, Kevin Ogletree caught 15 passes for the Cowboys last season, and he's not necessarily favored to beat out a bunch of guys who have never caught a pass in the NFL for the No. 3 gig. If none of the Cowboys' contestants prove worthy of the job, they can always sift through the waiver wire after the preseason and hope to find someone who can be halfway as productive as September pickup Laurent Robinson was last season.

Signing Ochocinco, who once promised to kiss the star on the Texas Stadium turf if he scored a touchdown against the Cowboys, would be a classic Jerry Jones move. And Jerry might pull the trigger if Ochocinco was still producing 1,400-yard seasons, but that was five years ago.

Ochocinco on his last legs isn't nearly tempting enough for the owner to bring in the wrong kind of guy over his head coach's objections.
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys signed probable starters at both guard spots and fullback in March, but their most important offensive addition won’t put on a pair of shoulder pads.

That would be offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

How key is Callahan? The presence and experience of an assistant who has been a head coach and playcaller for a Super Bowl team should expedite the process of Jason Garrett reaching his potential as a head coach.

It’s no secret that Garrett struggled with some game-management situations in his first full season as a head coach. It’s also a fact that Garrett’s best statistical season as a playcaller occurred in the one year that he had running game guru Tony Sparano help prepare the game plans.

Callahan, a head coach for two seasons with the Oakland Raiders and four seasons at Nebraska, should be a tremendous asset to Garrett in both of those facets of the game.

“Certainly his experience as a coordinator and a head coach will help us,” Garrett said. “He and I have talked about that. He’s someone that I can lean on.”

Garrett will continue to call plays, but Callahan will make recommendations on runs or pass protections during games. Callahan also said he still thinks like a head coach during games and won’t hesitate to make suggestions to Garrett on situations that arise.

“Whatever those situations are, I’ve got enough experience in my background to assist where he needs help,” Callahan said. “I will say this, though: A lot of that stuff is done during the game plan week. That’s where I see that I can really contribute and help this staff is during the course of the week. Then if you’re well prepared, I think it just unfolds on game days. You’re ready to make those crucial calls.”

Garrett’s willingness to take input is a critical element to his relationship with Callahan working. The chain of command is clear, but Garrett isn’t too proud or stubborn to realize that he’s a young head coach who can benefit from Callahan’s experience.

“He’s really open,” Callahan said. “That’s the great thing about Jason. He’s a great listener. He’s wide open to thoughts and ideas, anything you have to offer, suggestions, whatever it may be. That’s been great.

“I’m sure it will be that way on game day, but I do respect his ability to call plays. He’s had a great knack for it. He’s had offenses that have been close to being on top of the league. I think the work relationship has been terrific, and I only see it getting stronger as we move along.”
Tony Sparano’s return to Valley Ranch makes so much sense that Jerry Jones needs to offer as many dollars as necessary to make it happen.

Maybe that won’t matter, as Sparano has financial security from the contract extension the Dolphins gave him through 2013 before deciding to fire him as their head coach in December. Maybe Sparano will be offered a true offensive coordinator job with play-calling responsibilities, which Jason Garrett will not give up, that he considers too good to pass up.

But Jerry has to give it his best shot if he really wants Garrett to succeed.

Jones has proven in the past that he’s willing to pay top dollar for assistant coaches, compensating Garrett like a head coach to keep him on Wade Phillips’ staff and making Hudson Houck the NFL’s first million-dollar offensive line coach. Sparano, a key factor in helping Bill Parcells rebuild the Cowboys’ respectability last decade, justifies that kind of offer.

Loyalty to Houck, who is in his second tour of duty at Valley Ranch, can’t get in the way of what’s best for the franchise. Jones and Garrett can’t let their personal feelings for Houck cloud their judgment.

If Houck and Sparano can co-exist on a staff, that’s swell. But if Houck has to go to make room for Sparano, so be it.

There are many reasons why Sparano, who is respected tremendously by team leaders like Tony Romo and Jason Witten, should be a priority for the Cowboys. The main ones:

1. Sparano would make Garrett a better head coach: Whether he wants to publicly admit it or not, everybody knows that Garrett made critical clock-management errors in a couple of losses. One solution would be to give up play-calling duties to allow Garrett to focus more on the big picture during games, but that isn’t going to happen. He’d benefit from having somebody else on the headset with significant head coaching experience.

2. Sparano would make Garrett a better offensive coordinator: This isn’t just a theory. It’s fact. Garrett’s best season by far as an offensive coordinator was in 2007, the only season that he worked with Sparano. The Cowboys ranked second in the NFL in scoring (28.4 points per game) that season despite it being Romo’s first full year as a starter. They’ve been a top-10 scoring offense only once in the four seasons since then, when they ranked seventh (24.6 points) in 2010.

3. Sparano would make the offensive line better: Dallas’ offensive line has steadily regressed since Sparano’s departure. His edginess and expertise have been missed. Hiring Sparano would increase Tyron Smith’s chances to reach his immense potential. It would increase Doug Free’s odds to return to his 2010 form. It’d give the Cowboys’ young, unproven offensive linemen – which should include another early-round pick in April – their best shot of developing into long-term solutions.

One man could help fix a few of the Cowboys' biggest flaws. What's that worth to Jerry?

UPDATE: Houck is retiring, as reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen. He will be replaced by Bill Callahan, whose résumé includes stints as a play-caller and head coach for the Raiders and University of Nebraska.

Jerry Jones hints at coaching staff changes

January, 6, 2012
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Changes are likely to come soon on the Cowboys’ coaching staff.

“We’ll give you better answers on that as we go over the next three weeks,” owner/general manager Jerry Jones said during a Friday appearance on KRLD-FM, indicating that hires would be made the week of the Jan. 28 Senior Bowl. “That’s pretty much the way I’ll leave it.”

Those changes will not include defensive coordinator Rob Ryan unless he gets an offer to become a head coach. Jones said he is excited about Ryan returning as defensive coordinator, adding that head coach Jason Garrett is in agreement on the issue.

Several assistant coaches have contracts that are expiring: Dave Campo (secondary), Hudson Houck (running game/offensive line), Brett Maxie (secondary/safeties), Wes Phillips (assistant offensive line), Keith O’Quinn (offensive quality control/wide receivers) and Skip Peete (running backs).

Poor performances by their position groups could result in Campo and Houck being replaced despite the franchise’s respect for the assistants in their second tour of duty at Valley Ranch.

The Cowboys tried to replace Campo last offseason by hiring Ray Horton away from the Steelers. However, Horton opted to become the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator instead. Had Horton been hired, Campo likely would have been reassigned to an off-field position.

Former Cowboys offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who was fired as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach this season, could be a candidate to replace Houck. Garrett’s most successful season as a play-caller was in 2007, when he worked with Sparano, who has excellent relationships with key Cowboys such as Tony Romo and Jason Witten.

However, Sparano would likely opt for an offensive coordinator job with play-calling responsibilities if given the choice. Garrett has no intention of relinquishing play-calling duties.

Garrett is also extremely loyal to Houck, who was on the Cowboys’ staff for two Super Bowl championship seasons during Garrett’s playing career and worked with him on the Dolphins’ staff before they returned to Dallas.


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Although he expected a win at MetLife Stadium, Jerry Jones emphasized this week that Jason Garrett would continue to be the Cowboys’ head coach regardless of the regular-season finale’s score.

Jones didn’t change his mind after a 31-14 loss to the New York Giants with the NFC East title on the line, ending the Cowboys’ season with an 8-8 record.

“Unequivocally,” Jones said when asked whether he still felt the same way about Garrett. “I feel that Jason is our coach and we can build and do some good things from here. We can take some of the things that we need to do better and address them.”

Garrett’s first full season as a head coach will be remembered for the Cowboys blowing three double-digit fourth-quarter leads -- something that had happened only twice in the franchise’s previous 51 seasons -- and a clock-management crisis in the final 26 seconds of regulation in an overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It will be remembered for the Cowboys collapsing down the stretch, losing four of their last five games to miss the plays.

Jones, however, sees hope and growth when he evaluates a 45-year-old head coach with a 13-11 record.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in him,” Jones said. “He has done a lot of good things here. He’s learned a lot this year. Hopefully we all do, but still he’s learned a lot. Our fans and Cowboys will take advantage of that.”

Ask all you want, Jason Garrett's job is safe

December, 30, 2011
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IRVING, Texas – The speculation still swirls, so the questions continue to come at Jerry Jones, no matter how clear he has been about his commitment to Jason Garrett as the Cowboys’ head coach.

“That’s just ridiculous,” Jones said Friday on KRLD-FM, referring to the suspicion that Garrett’s job is on the line Sunday night. “As I’ve said earlier – and I think it expressed it very well – we’re just getting started with Jason.”

Garrett’s job is not in jeopardy. It hasn’t been at any point this season. It will not be even if the Cowboys get blown out by the Giants with the NFC East title at stake.

“We’ll answer this thing as many ways as you want to answer it with as many circumstances,” Jones said. “His job has no bearing and is not a part of this ballgame. Yes, he’s going to be our coach next year, period, no matter what the score is.”

There are many reasons to take Jones at his word. Start with the fact that the Cowboys have made major progress since Garrett took over a 1-7 team last season. Consider that Jones has never fired a coach so early in his tenure and puts canning Chan Gailey after two seasons near the top of the list of his biggest regrets.

If you need further evidence, just look at the last time the Cowboys played a win-or-get-in game on the road. Jones guaranteed in no uncertain terms that Wade Phillips would return as head coach the next season. He stuck to his guns even after the 44-6 Philly flop.

It can’t get any worse than that for the Cowboys. And Jones believes his team will only get better under Garrett.
IRVING, Texas -- Never mind the nonsense about Jason Garrett’s job potentially being in jeopardy if the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs.

The Cowboys aren’t just committed to Garrett, who has a 13-10 record as he nears the end of his first full season as a head coach, they’re confident that Garrett will lead them to a title in the near future.

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“Jason has only been a head coach for a year and a half, and if you talk to any head coach who has been a head coach for a long period of time, they learn something every year they’re coaching,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said during a Thursday appearance on ESPN 103.3’s The Football Show. “Jason is going to continue to learn. We all learn in our jobs and continue to get better. He’s done a great job.

“I fully expect him to only get better. He has such dedication and such focus and such a commitment to becoming a better coach each week that he walks out onto the field and we’re fortunate to have him. He’s obviously a Princeton grad and there’s not a doubt in my mind that he’s only going to get better and he’s going to lead us to a championship sooner than later.”

Jones, owner Jerry Jones’ son and right-hand man in all football matters, holds out hope that sooner might only be a little more than a month away.

The Cowboys (8-7) need a New Year’s Day road win over the New York Giants to punch their playoff ticket. Jones is optimistic that can happen and believes the Cowboys are capable of winning their sixth Super Bowl at the end of what has been a wildly inconsistent season.

“As long as we’re in it, our goal is to go win a championship and win a Super Bowl,” Jones said. “We still think that’s the bar of what we want to have, what’s going to get us satisfied in terms of being successful, the only thing is to win a championship. We feel very strongly that we can still get that done this year.”

The primary reason for Jones’ belief is quarterback Tony Romo, who is having arguably the best year of his career with 3,895 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and only nine interceptions entering the win-or-else regular-season finale.

“We have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in our opinion,” Jones said. “Tony has had a great year up to this point. I think in the NFC, going into this week, he’s the third-highest-rated passer behind two guys who have had career years in [Drew] Brees and [Aaron] Rodgers. We feel like we can be one of those teams that get hot in the playoffs.

“At this time last year, Green Bay was squeaking in and they ended up winning the championship and went on to have a great year this year. We have a lot of confidence in this team. We feel confident going up to New York and feel that we can beat the Giants and then make a successful playoff run.”

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