Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones initially and purposefully tried to accentuate the positives in the aftermath of Sunday’s devastating 24-22 loss to the formerly winless and hapless New York Jets.
He talked about how the Cowboys fought to get back in the game after trailing 21-3.
He spoke of the competitiveness of quarterback Dak Prescott, who fought valiantly despite being battered all game behind a broken down line.
But in the end, Jones couldn’t escape the sad and disappointing reality of the state of his Cowboys team, losers of three straight.
It was the first time since 1999 that the Cowboys lost to a team 0-4 or worse.
The Cowboys came into the season with mandated hopes of at least reaching the NFC title game and possibly the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995.
How else do you explain coach Jason Garrett heading into the final season of his contract with the objective to get further than he did last season, when the Cowboys won the NFC East and a wild-card playoff game but lost in the divisional round?
A 3-0 start left Jones and the Cowboys with delusions of grandeur of possibly playing getting home-field advantage in the playoffs to better their chances of a super ending.
But no more.
Not after Sunday’s sock in the face from the Jets, which Jones compared to getting “bloody nose.”
The Cowboys are 3-3 for the third straight season.
Jones’ eyes are wide open about the 2019 Cowboys. Before the season he touted the team as the deepest and most talented group since the Super Bowl title teams of the 1990s.
Now he said they are not one of the elite teams and should focus on trying to make the playoffs by winning the suddenly mediocre NFC East .
Shocking, I know.
“The Jets beating us like that,” said Jones in beginning the preamble to his typical ramble. “I think it’s all about where you are in your division and that whole competition against each other and that competition in the division. I think that is where it all is. Ultimately, if you are one of the really top teams, which we are not. We are not. I hope that someday this season we could be one of the top teams. We certainly were not tonight. I hope we can do better than just win our division although I will take that right here in this circumstance. I would hope we could get up there and get a little special positioning in the playoffs.”
Wishing and hoping.
That’s where the Cowboys are right now.
Garrett’s job security was precarious entering the season. Fans are already calling for him to be fired.
His fate is a foregone conclusion if the Cowboys don’t miraculously turn things around.
“I’m going to be very trite,” Jones said. “I was a lot happier with he had done the first three games than what’s happened the last three games. But the big thing I want to say is, it’s not just him. This is across the board.”
That it’s across the board actually puts it all on Garrett.
The Cowboys defense, led by the HotBoyz up front and a supposedly special linebacker corps, is simply not elite and has not been all year.
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has not lived up to expectations due to injuries and double teams. And linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have made no game-changing plays.
The Jets averaged 9.8 points a game before the Cowboys showed up. They scored 24 on Sunday, repeatedly gashing the defense for big plays down the field, including a 92-yard touchdown pass that was the second longest allowed in team history.
The Jets defense allowed 25.3 points per game before holding the Cowboys to 22, which was the third straight outing and third straight loss in which opponents have kept the formerly high scoring attack under 24 points.
“I am surprised that our defense didn’t play better but I’m real surprised equally that our offense didn’t have a better night,” Jones said. “I think both sides didn’t play well enough overall to win. We are all disappointed ... I am disappointed right here. This was not unexpected but didn’t think this would happen.”
Prescott blamed the Cowboys’ self-inflicted wounds of penalties, drops and not finishing in the red zone, namely having to settle for two field goals and turn the ball over on downs on three trips.
“Great teams don’t don’t do that. Right now we are far from that,” Prescott said.
None of this bodes well for Garrett.
Jones’ focus is on Sunday’s NFC East battle with the Philadelphia Eagles for first place.
Both are 3-3 and coming off a loss, though the Cowboys are mired in a three-game losing streak.
“I’m just concerned about the Jets beating us right now,” Jones said. “I’m more concerned about not being able to beat them than I am about a losing streak. Those future type considerations are overcome by how we just stunk it up early here as a football team, if we’re doing some individual things and that overshadows any specific things on a long-term basis. ... I’m looking at the future is next week against those Eagles.”
The Cowboys have a bye after the Eagles game.
If they lose, all bets are off on Garrett keeping his job in the midst of a four-game losing streak in a season that had Jones dreaming super.
Jones doesn’t want to think about any of that now.
But he did sadly admit the Jets loss made for a disappointing 77th birthday.
“Yeah, yeah. But I am really glad to have this birthday,” Jones said with a laugh. “You won’t find me kicking the streets out there by the bus.”
And there you have it.
Being alive is better than losing to the Jets.