The Dallas Cowboys have the word in huge letters inside the weight room: Prepare to Finish.
They offer a reminder outside the position meeting rooms: Attack. Compete. Physical. Relentless. Execute. Finish.
Lest they forget, Cowboys players wear it on team-issued T-shirts and sweatshirts: Finish.
It’s also become the team’s official Twitter hashtag in the postseason: #FinishThisFight.
“Finish is such an important part of football,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s such an important part of life. Our game is set up that way about finishing plays. We really emphasize that — finishing drives, finishing games, finishing seasons.
“You want to complete the task, and it’s a challenge to do that. It’s a real emphasis for us in what we do each and every day with our football team, both on and off the field. It’s a great lesson for life as well. You want to finish what you started.”
Garrett adopted “Fight” as the Cowboys’ motto at the start of training camp in 2014. In the playoffs that season, it turned into “Finish the Fight.”
Although the Cowboys lost to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round that season, a slogan was born.
“I think kind of looking back on it, it’s really been coach Garrett’s motto all along, since I’ve known him for 10 years,” Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. “It’s just finish everything you do. I think it goes back to more than just the obvious of winning the score, but just the mentality and how he approaches things. I think you’ve seen that in our team. That’s one of the things Coach has done a good job of sending that message to us of, ‘Hey, it’s the mentality of it, how you approach it.’ I think that’s served us well this season.”
The Cowboys have a chance to do something they haven’t done since the 1995 season and no DFW team has done since the Mavericks won the NBA title in 2011.
In 2016, three of DFW’s sports teams delivered letdown after letdown after letdown in the postseason after raising championship hopes with memorable regular seasons:
▪ The Dallas Stars raised 2016 Western Conference regular-season champions and 2016 Central Division Champions banners in the rafters at American Airlines Center. But the Stars lost to the St. Louis Blues 6-1 in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.
▪ The Texas Rangers won an AL-best 95 games only to have the Toronto Blue Jays sweep them in the AL Division Series.
▪ FC Dallas posted its best regular season ever, winning both the Supporters’ Shield for the best regular-season record and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the nation’s domestic cup competition. But it failed to win the most important title — the MLS Cup — losing to the Seattle Sounders FC in the conference semifinals.
The Cowboys want to “Finish” what they started after posting the NFC’s best record, earning them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The Cowboys failed to deliver nine years ago, losing at home to the New York Giants in the divisional round.
The 21-17 loss still haunts Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who said he has watched it “15 times since.” The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl.
“I think that in light of what happened to us nine years ago — and there’s still really some people around that experienced that, namely the head coach — I think that it’s so branded on our forehead of just how you can have a huge disappointment after having a great year,” Jones said. “I think last year’s four wins [against 12 losses] is so fresh on our memory. I’m a big believer that adversity carries over, and it can be as big or better motivator than success if you can reflect back on it and wear it for a day or wear it for two days.
“Pretend that you’re trying to drive in and come into this office after you’ve had a Sunday that you don’t want to have, and pretend going in and sitting there and looking out across that field and pretend how bleak that feels. All of that kind of stuff I think helps get you ready to just empty your bucket in terms of what you do out there in that playoff game.”
Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has the word tattooed on his back: Finish. He said he lives by three words, “Fight, finish and faith.”
“[Finish] is kind of the mantra of this team, and it’s been all year long,” Prescott said. “Finish everything we do. Finish drills at practice. Finish plays at the end of the game. Finish the game. Right now, it’s about finishing the season the right way.”
The Cowboys are three games from living up to their mantra.
“It doesn’t matter what we did coming up to now if we go in there and [wet] the bed,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “Everything we’ve done this season really meant nothing [if we lose].
“…When you have a great team with great chemistry, you’ve got all the tools to be a championship team. You just never know when you’re going to come across a team like this. This is the NFL. Things change year after year. You’ve just got to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Cowboys vs. Packers
3:40 p.m. Sunday, KDFW/4
Radio: KRLD/105.3 FM; KMVK/107.5 FM
Line: Cowboys by 5 1/2