The Dallas Cowboys are feeling good as the hottest team in the NFL, with a six-game winning streak and the league’s best record at 6-1.
It has resulted in a long-suffering fan base drinking the blue Kool-Aid again by the gallons and going berserk with Cowboys Mania.
The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has always been a winner’s town, and these Cowboys are starting to enjoy the spoils of success.
It would be hard to blame the Cowboys for getting caught up in the hype surrounding their surprising start heading into Monday’s night’s showdown with the struggling Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium.
Only six players remain from the 2009 NFC East title team. The rest are more familiar with the team’s 30-34 record over the last four seasons.
“We haven’t been this high above .500 for a long time, definitely since I’ve been here,” said safety Barry Church, who signed as a rookie free agent in 2010. “So the excitement of the team is pretty high right now. Our confidence is pretty high right now, but we know we’ve got to take it one game at a time.”
Said tight end Jason Witten: “I think it brings a lot of excitement. I know there are a lot of Cowboys fans, and I’m sure they’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Our job as players is to not really get caught up in that, but focus on the things that allow you to be good and continue to do those things.”
The Cowboys haven’t accomplished anything yet. If they aim to get where they want to go and reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995, they must remain focused and keep adhering to the process of “Coach Process” — Jason Garrett.
When asked how he’s going to keep his team grounded and not caught up in the hype, Garrett’s response was no surprise.
“You’re not going to like the answer, but it’s a process,” Garrett said. “You never have that ‘OK, we’ve got that part of it down.’ You have to continue to work on that every single day, and you have to earn it every single day.
“I think it’s an important way to live life, but it’s an important way to be your best as a football coach or a player and as a football team. Let the last one go, don’t worry about the next one, focus on this one right now and the preparation leading up to this one. That’s really something we talk about it, and we try to emphasize in everything that we do. Our game fits that. It’s a one-play-at-a-time type game.”
Garrett has talked about the process so much the past three years that it almost has become a dirty word. It was boring. It was mundane. It was routine. And the Cowboys weren’t winning, so the big picture of the process was loss.
Now that the Cowboys are having success, the process is the right one for this team. It’s consistent, focus-oriented and unwavering.
The players have certainly bought in and they are preaching Garrett’s mundane words right back at him and to anyone who asks about them buying into the hype.
“You believe that process will lead to success and wins and keep getting better,” Witten said. “I think that’s Coach Garrett’s message since Day One. I think people have understood that throughout the team. I think that’s the mentality he brings as a head coach of each day, how you approach it. I think the team has kind of taken on that mindset and it’s paid off for us.”
The Cowboys have stayed focused so far because of veteran leaders such as Church, Witten, quarterback Tony Romo and cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
Witten and Romo have seen the Cowboys experience early success in the past only to have it end in bitter disappointment. The Cowboys’ 6-1 record matches the start they had in 2007, when they finished 13-3 and had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, only to lose in the first round.
Witten, Romo, long snapper L.P. Ladouceur, defensive end Anthony Spencer and tackle Doug Free were a part of that team.
“To see our team evolve to this and everybody kind of just stick with it and not panic and continue to work hard and not allow outside forces to kind of creep in, it’s good to see,” Witten said. “But having said that, there’s still a lot of football to play and we need to keep it going.”
Coach Process remains in charge.
“Well, we always want to challenge each other and challenge our football team every day,” Garrett said. “So I don’t know if ‘Don’t rock the boat’ is the description. It’s ‘come in here and get better every day.’ And the big focus that we have is on ourselves to try to get better.
“Players and teams that get better over the course of the year are the ones that are playing at the end of the year.”