Cowboys begin process of seeking answers for yet another 8-8 finish

Posted Monday, Dec. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Nothing’s changed at Valley Ranch the day after the regular season. For the third consecutive year, the Dallas Cowboys finished 8-8, losing an elimination game for the NFC East title.

Players packed up their personal belongings and said their goodbyes. Coaches began the evaluation process, and the front office started seeking answers.

Nothing’s changed at Valley Ranch. At least not yet.

Jason Garrett will get a fourth full season despite a 29-27 record since he replaced Wade Phillips during the 2010 season. That’s better than what five others in his position received Monday as Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Washington and Tampa Bay joined the Houston Texans in firing their head coaches.

“You have to keep banging away; you have to keep fighting,” Garrett said. “When that doesn’t happen, you have to keep believing. There are great stories in all sports, really in all walks of life, with people who continue to persist and keep battling and scratching and clawing and fighting, and they break through and they have success.

“We believe that’s going to happen here.”

Change, though, could be coming to Valley Ranch.

Garrett said some assistant coaches have contracts that expire at the end of the season. The Cowboys also have not announced the futures of coordinators Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin.

Callahan, who was hired before the 2012 season, took over play-calling duties from Garrett this season. The Cowboys ranked 16th in total offense, and their 5,461 yards were the fewest by the franchise since 2005.

“We believe strongly in our system,” Garrett said. “It’s been a good system for us. There are other good systems. Bill has been in our system in a couple of different spots. He’s been in other systems at different spots. So he’s a really smart guy, and I thought he handled that part of it really well.”

Kiffin was hired during the off-season to change the Cowboys from the 3-4 to the Tampa 2. Injuries forced the Cowboys to play 19 defensive linemen; middle linebacker Sean Lee missed five games; and cornerback Morris Claiborne missed six games.

The Cowboys had their best defensive games against the Philadelphia Eagles, allowing 644 yards in two games, with eight sacks and four takeaways. But it might not be enough to save Kiffin’s job.

The Cowboys gave up the most yards, most yards passing and most first downs in team history. They finished last in the league in total defense.

The 6,645 total yards the Cowboys allowed was the third-most in NFL history behind only the 2012 New Orleans Saints (7,042) and the 1981 Baltimore Colts (6,793). The 388 total first downs they allowed ranks second-worst all time behind only the 406 that the ’81 Colts allowed.

“We did some good things on defense over the course of the season, primarily taking the ball away, better than we ever have around here,” Garrett said of the team’s 28 takeaways, which was the most for the franchise since 2010. “But having said that, we have to play better run defense; we have to play better pass defense; we have to play better situational defense.”

Still, Jones is showing patience with Garrett, hoping the more things stay the same, the more they change.

“I am certainly grateful for the opportunity, and the way we show that gratitude is to give everything we’ve got and put it all out there every single day to try to bring home a winner for the Dallas Cowboys,” Garrett said. “We’ve worked very hard this year to put ourselves in position to do that. We didn’t get it done. We’re going to go back and we’re going to try to do it again with everything we’ve got.”

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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