At 3-5, Cowboys Said, 'We're Better Than This'


FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys have quite a few players on this team that don't mind sharing their thoughts and opinions, especially in front of cameras and microphones.

All-Pro guard Zack Martin typically isn't one of them.

He might be one of the NFL's best overall players, but Martin will never been labeled as outspoken. But with his team sitting at 3-5 at the midway point, even the mild-mannered Martin knew something needed to be said.

"I think we knew this wasn't right," Martin said about the Cowboys' first eight games. "I know I talked about it to our team, and others said the same thing. We just looked around the locker room and knew it had to be better than this. I told our whole team, 'Hey guys, we're better than this.'"

And in the last seven games, the Cowboys have not only been better than what they previously showed, but they've been better than just about everyone else they've played.

The Cowboys are 6-1 so far in the second half of the season with Sunday's finale against the Giants to be played. Even that game may not be indicative of what this team has been considering the NFC East has been wrapped up and the Cowboys might rest some key players to avoid injuries for the Jan. 5-6 playoff game at AT&T Stadium.

When asked to clarify his statement on exactly what made him so confident his team could make a turnaround, Martin didn't hesitate.

"Just look at our team," Martin challenged back. "We've got, I think, the best player in football in 21 [Ezekiel Elliott] and a bunch of guys around him. We've got the best defense in football. So, I mean, sitting there at 3-5, it wasn't right. So again, credit to the guys for buying in and sticking with it this year."

Now, there were some changes being made at that time. Not only did the Cowboys trade next year's first-round pick for Amari Cooper, but the team replaced offensive line coach Paul Alexander and promoted Marc Colombo. The Cowboys also hired longtime assistant Hudson Houck as a consultant for the O-line.

Head coach Jason Garrett definitely deserves some credit in making sure the Cowboys didn't lose focus. When asked about the challenge to keep his team on the right path, he gave the credit back to his players for maturing on the fly, especially with their mental toughness.

"We are a young team. We seemed to be a little inconsistent. We didn't seem to know how to handle success and diversity within games and week-to-week," Garrett said. "I think after the Tennessee game we got a little bit of understanding around that. After that game, they were all hard fought. They all went down to the wire. I think we did a better job with our mental toughness within ball games – handle success and keep playing, fight through some of the adversity, understand the 60-minute game. But we had to keep playing, and to me that has been the difference of our team."

That 27-14 loss to the Titans on Nov. 5 was also the only home loss for the Cowboys this season. Their 7-1 mark is tied with the 2016 squad, which finished 13-3 overall, for the franchise's best home record in a season at AT&T Stadium. 

But the Cowboys wouldn't be at this point without a turnaround on the road as well. Key wins at Philadelphia and then Atlanta helped ignite the Cowboys to get back into the NFC playoff picture. While it might have been a surprise to some, quarterback Dak Prescott said he's not one of them.

Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones said the way his team has responded only makes it easier to cherish.

"I don't recommend it to anybody, but one of the neat things is if you can dig a big hole and dig out of the hole, that's a better story," Jones said. "Like I said, I don't recommend it to anybody, and there was nothing deliberate about it. When we won our championships in the 1990s, no one thought anything but that we tore that franchise up. But it made it nicer coming out of that hole."