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Thursday, April 18, 2013
Updated: April 19, 4:02 PM ET
Cowboys must defend home turf

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

If Jason Garrett doesn't take the Dallas Cowboys to the playoffs in 2013, then we all expect to have a new head coach in 2014.

Romo/Garrett
The Cowboys finally get a home game in the season finale, and it just might decide Jason Garrett's fate.

Hey, that's what happens when America's Team has consecutive 8-8 seasons. Jerry Jones has run out of patience, even though his poor drafts and bad decisions have contributed to the Cowboys being stuck in the abyss of mediocrity.

At least Garrett's fate will be determined in Cowboys Stadium.

The Cowboys will end their season at home for the first time since 2009, which coincidentally is the last time they made the playoffs.

Hmmmm.

In 2009, the Cowboys beat the Philadelphia Eagles 24-0 in their home finale to capture the NFC East title. The next week, they beat Philadelphia again.

The past two seasons the Cowboys have failed on the road against NFC East opponents with a chance to win the division and make the playoffs. In 2011, the New York Giants beat Dallas, 31-14. Last season, the Washington Redskins beat Dallas, 28-18.

And who can forget the Cowboys' pathetic showing against Philadelphia in 2008, when they failed to compete in yet another win-and-get-in scenario as the Eagles rolled to a 44-6 victory?

Say what you want about the Cowboys' performance in their final game each of the past two seasons, but the reality is that it's difficult to win games of that magnitude on the road. Especially for an average team -- and that's what the Cowboys have been, for the most part, since 1997. What else can you say about a team that's 128-128 over the past 17 years and hasn't even managed to post consecutive 10-win seasons?

Whether the fault in your mind lies with Garrett or Tony Romo or DeMarcus Ware or someone else, it's not like the Cowboys were favored to beat the Giants or Washington. They weren't better than the Giants, and Romo once again failed to play his best football in the biggest game of the season against the Redskins.

Now, at least the obstacle of playing on the road has been removed. Sort of.

After all, the Cowboys went 4-4 last season at Cowboys Stadium and are just 17-15 in their $1.2 billion bauble since it opened in 2009.

We can blame the dirty dancers. Or the 60-yard video board. Or the wine-and-cheese tailgaters.

Bottom line: The Cowboys must do better at home. They've won two division titles since 2007. Both times the Cowboys went 6-2 at home.

The past three years, they're only 11-13 at home. Only Carolina (8-16) and St. Louis (9-14) have worse home records in the same span.

Dallas is only 4-5 at Cowboys Stadium against the NFC East the past three seasons. Clearly, this ain't Texas Stadium, a place that had mystique.

Texas Stadium was the home of former Super Bowl champions, a place with a hole in the roof just so God could watch his favorite team play, as the story goes. These Cowboys haven't created any mojo in this stadium. Their opponents have no dread of visiting Arlington or playing the Cowboys.

The Chicago Bears took over Cowboys Stadium last season, and the Steelers tried. Green Bay's Cheeseheads will do their best to take over the stadium this season, when the teams meet in December.

But it's the final home game against the Eagles and new coach Chip Kelly that figures to play a key role in the Cowboys' ability to end this wretched three-year drought without making the playoffs.

It will end a tough four-game December stretch at Chicago on "Monday Night Football," home against Green Bay and at Washington before meeting the Eagles in a home game that will likely decide Garrett's fate.