Sitting above .500 and atop the division through eight weeks doesn’t warrant praise from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Instead, it brings about feelings of regret and dismay, a sense that Jones spent hundreds of millions of dollars and isn’t getting the proper return on investment.
One game in particular — Dallas’ brutal Week 6 loss to the inept Jets — still sticks in Jerry’s craw, and he aired his unhappiness Tuesday during a long-winded appearance on 105.3 The Fan.
“I thought we would be better, our record would be better,” Jones said, via Cowboys Wire. “We didn’t think the Jets game would have the outcome that it had. But I do know this: I don’t know which ones, but I know you’re going to get some surprises, both ways. But I thought we’d be, really, better than this, and I’d hoped we would be better than this by three. That’s not to say that’s expectation. We know how balanced this thing is in the NFL. So let’s just say I thought we’d be better than this, but if, in fact, by getting here, we’ve gotten here going forward healthier, if we’ve gotten here having gained some knowledge of young players, or if we’ve gotten here by getting more mileage out of some of our veteran players than we had anticipated, then I’d rather be here at 4-3 with other positives going right for us- injury being the principal one- I’d rather get here like that than with one more win.”
A 4-3 record to this point is about what you’d expect from a team that’s faced elite competition (Saints, Packers, Eagles) and the league’s bottom-feeders (Jets, Giants, Redskins, Dolphins). That has battled significant injuries on both sides of the ball. That has had to overcome their superstar running back’s highly publicized holdout and swirling speculation surrounding lame-duck head coach Jason Garrett.
But it’s not the mark of a legitimate Super Bowl contender, either, as Jones fancies them to be.
In an ultra-competitive NFC — where the 7-0 49ers and 7-1 Saints lead the pack, and the 7-1 Packers and 6-2 Seahawks are nipping at their heels — the Cowboys may need to capture the East to secure a playoff berth. Jones acknowledged this but countered it’s not the “only way” to the tournament.
“It’s what we’ve got to have our eyes on, is to win this East,” he said.
Dallas might live to regret the Jets disaster; their second-half schedule is littered with tough matchups, from Minnesota to New England to the Bills and Rams. Can they convert these contests into victories? And if so, could it propel them to Miami in February?
“I think that we have the potential. I don’t think the way that we have played so far will get us there,” Jones said, per Cowboys Wire. “I think that with where we are this morning with our health, and where we are with how we can play as you go through the position groups, as you go through what we’ve put together relative to how we’re going to play defense, our strategies, just our approach, and I look at the competition? Yeah, I think we’ve got a chance to get in the playoffs. And if we do, and if we’re healthy, I think we’ve got a chance to advance.”
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NFL Analysts Echo Jones’ Disappointment
On Wednesday’s episode of First Things First, which airs on FOX Sports 1, legendary NFL wide receiver Cris Carter and hot-take extraordinaire Nick Wright each sided with Jones’ critique of the Cowboys.
Wright believes the aforementioned teams (49ers, Packers, Saints, Vikings, Seahawks) are better than Big D, while Carter subtly knocked Jones for revealing his true feelings, which may have been a little too truthful.
“Was the expectation to be the 6th best team in the NFC? It was not. The Cowboys have moderately underachieved. 4-3 is a little disappointing for them,” Wright said.
“The Dallas Cowboys, the Cleveland Browns were two of the hottest teams we were talking about,” Carter said. “I would be just a little disappointed. But that can all be corrected the second half of the season. … But Jerry didn’t have to say it.”
Cowboys’ Current Playoff Positioning
As of Wednesday, prior to their Monday night showdown with Big Blue, the Cowboys own the NFC’s No. 4 seed, which would earn them a playoff game at AT&T Stadium but not homefield advantage nor a first-round bye.
The NFC East race has quickly become a two-way battle between the Cowboys and Eagles, and the Cowboys gained an early leg up with a Week 7 victory over the Eagles. The Cowboys also have an early advantage in the division record tiebreaker with a 3-0 record; the Eagles are 1-1. If we’re lucky, the teams will play a de facto NFC East championship game in Week 16 at the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field. But the Cowboys have a more difficult remaining schedule, according to FPI. The strength of their upcoming opponents ranks No. 13 in the NFL, and the Eagles’ remaining slate ranks No. 30.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL