Time for Cowboys to focus on draft

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jerry Jones walked to the Dallas Cowboys locker room with the rest of his brain trust behind him, looking like a general strolling to headquarters following a lost battle. You had to wonder what Jones was thinking following his team's 41-35 loss to the New York Giants on Monday night.

Was he thinking the war was over?

The rest of his troops came about 30 seconds later, heads down trying to avoid eye contact as much as possible. Linebacker Bradie James slowly walked to the locker room and seemed to just want to just stop short of the place and have a heart attack.

Receiver Dez Bryant and center Andre Gurode walked side-by-side to the locker room. Bryant, sweat dripping down his face, just wanted to turn around and go back out to play more football.

But the time on the clock read zero, and Gurode put his hand on Bryant's head and said, "Come on."

Quarterback Tony Romo walked down the wall with a security guard shielding him like the wind was going to blow him over. Romo was wearing a jacket as if it were cold outside. The jacket wasn't protecting his body from the temperature; it was covering up a sling that put his left arm in a L-shape because linebacker Michael Boley drove him into the turf and fractured his left clavicle.

When Romo went down, the season ended.

The Cowboys (1-5) have the highest payroll in the NFL and they're dwelling in the territory of the winless Buffalo Bills.

A team with Super Bowl aspirations now has goals of making sure it finds a high draft pick next April. Cowboys officials won't admit this to anyone, at least not in public.

"I'm disappointed," Jones said. "They have fallen short of what the expectations were."

You can say the Cowboys needed to create turnovers to win, entering the game with just four takeaways on the season. Monday night they forced a season-high five turnovers.

They still lost. What are the odds of that happening? NFL teams that were plus-3 in the turnover battle were 26-1 this season. Make that 26-2.

NFL teams that forced three or more turnovers were 48-17. Make that 48-18.

The Cowboys have lost games where they compiled over 500 yards in total offense, held the opposition under 100 yards and set up an opponent's go-ahead touchdown with a celebration penalty after a touchdown.

You can't make this stuff up. Really, you can't.

"It's unreal, I'm still like in shock that we're 1-5," James said after he composed himself.

Coach Wade Phillips has tried to fix this thing and should be given credit for that. He changed practice times and added officials so the players could see what mistakes they were making in terms of penalties. There were two days last week when the Cowboys' offense didn't commit a penalty.

Phillips and special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis wanted that unit to pick up the intensity and make more plays. Bryant returned a punt 93 yards for a score to give the Cowboys a 20-7 lead. Of David Buehler's seven kickoffs, two of which were onside, five went to the end zone and two were touchbacks.

But his team quit on Phillips in the third quarter. Third-quarter touchdowns by Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs made the Cowboys look like the Washington Generals.

On his way to the end zone, Manningham juked past safety Gerald Sensabaugh, who flew into the sideline. Jacobs ran though a bunch of arm tackles. When the third quarter was over, the Cowboys trailed 38-20.

"It looked like the team let down," Phillips said.

The Cowboys gained a first down with 64 seconds left in the second quarter and didn't get another one until roughly 12 minutes were left in the game.

There was nothing left to watch for the exception of a pair of Bryant touchdowns wrapped around a Lawrence Tynes 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

You could say the season was over last week because only 6 percent of the NFL teams that start 1-4 make the playoffs.

How many teams have reached the postseason from 1-5?


"We're not in the playoff hunt right now," James said. "We're just surviving."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.