There is a fire burning around the Dallas Cowboys headquarters in regards to their three-game losing streak and hopes for the season.
The optimism that came with the 3-0 start to the season has turned into panic and despair for fans and pundits heading into Sunday’s seemingly make-or-break, season-saving showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) for first place in the NFC East.
That’s what it looks like outside.
Now juxtapose that image with inside the Cowboys facility.
It’s one of focus and urgency but it’s also calm and confident from coach Jason Garrett, whose job is being questioned daily, to quarterback Dak Prescott.
Garrett spent time after his press conference on Thursday laughing and telling stories about going against Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders during practice when they both were members of the Cowboys in the 1990s.
There is no panic in him.
“It’s the same guy. He has been the same guy through and through and he always will be,” Prescott said. “Credit him to that. That is what you expect. The guy is a professional. He has always been that way. He knows how to lead a team. I have said it before, we all got his back in this locker room.”
Prescott said there is also no fear among the Cowboys because they know they have the makings of a great team and they are embracing the moment.
“We’re not down at all,” Prescott said. “It’s early in the season, a lot of football to be played. We know the team that we have, we know the men that we have. If you are down or you got a hangover from last week we are only going to put ourselves in a hole for this game on Sunday. So we are excited for this chance we get to play in a game that means this much early against a team like this. We are excited for it and we like our chances.
“You can’t ask for anything better than this. Got Philly coming in, division rival, winner holds first place in the division early in the season and especially where we are with our record at 3-3. To have this chance to be in a position to have a game like this early, we are excited.”
Vice president Stephen Jones understands the panic in the streets after losses to the Saints, the Packers and the Jets for a fan base that has been starving for a Super Bowl since the last title team in 1995, which included Garrett and Sanders. But he believes the best is yet to come from the Cowboys, who have been undone by turnovers, slow starts and poor execution during the losing streak.
“I think each one of these games has their own, if you look at it, have their own reasons as to why you did or didn’t have success,” Jones said. “Playing down in New Orleans is going to be difficult regardless. It’s hard to move the ball down in there. If you look at the Green Bay game, I think it’s pretty obvious. You lose the turnover battle to Aaron Rodgers. You turn it over three times to their none, then you’re going have a hard time beating them.
“And then (against the Jets), I think it’s just an execution thing. We’ve just got to execute better. But, like I said, I know, and certainly understand why our fans, why people want to think that this thing is in a bad place. We actually still think we have a really good football team and think they will respond.”
Prescott acknowledged he has encouraged the Cowboys to work harder in practice this week, same as tight end Jason Witten and running back Ezekiel Elliott.
“I definitely do it verbally. That’s something I’m always doing at practice,” Prescott said. “Pushing the tempo, talking to guys. But also trying to show it and exemplify it with the way that I practice. We have a lot of guys, Zeke as well, there’s a lot of guys on our team, Jason Witten, that if you look at them and you see the way that they practice, I don’t know how you’re not encouraged or motivated to practice the same way.”
It’s better to go through this funk now than later in the season.
“I’d rather right now than any time ever,” Prescott said. “And simply from the fact we started 3-0, felt good about ourselves, know the team that we have and then basically lose three to three different types of teams really by getting in your own way, I’ll take that. I’ll take that. We’re going to learn from it, we’re going to move (on) from it, we’ll get better because of it, but I’d rather it happen now when we still have a chance to go into Game 7 playing for first place in the division than have it happen late in the year when we only have a game or two left before the playoffs or we’re forced to be trying to make the playoffs.
“Yeah, the timing, it’s never good to lose three, never ever, but if there ever was an ideal time I’d say it’s now. We’re going to definitely get better because of these three games.”
There is more intensity but there is no lack of confidence on the Cowboys because they believe their problems have been mostly of their own doing and are thus fixable. And greatness is still attainable, per Prescott.
“I know we have a great team. I know it,” Prescott said. “As deep of a team I’ve ever been a part of talent-wise, and I’d say that the Cowboys have had in years.
“We’re there. We’re right there. We’re not being a great team right now and making those plays and getting out of our own way. We’re a good team that hasn’t been getting it done. So we’re going to make that step, we’re going to change and get out of our own way and we’ll make that step. I know we have all of the people, coaches and players to do it.”