IRVING, Texas - Here we are again.
It's December. The Cowboys are right in the thick of the playoff hunt. They've got four crucial games down the stretch that are all relatively must-wins.
With the NFC playoff picture looking the way it does, winning the division is the best way to get into the postseason. Sure there is a chance to become a wild card, but it doesn't seem as probable.
So as expected all along, the Cowboys will have to outlast the Eagles, who share the same 7-5 record with Dallas. Fortunately for the Cowboys, they have the tiebreaker advantage over Philly, thanks to an impressive 17-3 win over the Eagles back in November.
In fact, that victory over the Eagles is the only one against a team with a winning record of the seven the Cowboys have. And down the stretch, Philly is the only team on the remaining four-game schedule for the Cowboys with a current mark over. 500.
Still, that doesn't mean this will be an easy month of December for the Cowboys. In fact, none of them have been, dating all the way back to the 1990s.
The Cowboys actually went 3-2 last year in December, despite losing their last two and missing the playoffs. It was the first time they had a winning record in the month since 2001, when they went 3-2 in a 5-11 season.
If the Cowboys have a winning record this December, it will mark the first time since the 1992-93 seasons that the club has enjoyed back-to-back winning Decembers. The Cowboys, of course, won the Super Bowl those two years. And since then, they've been 31-47 for the month.
So what does that mean to Jason Garrett? Not much, according to the coach, who was on the practice squad and active roster the last time the Cowboys had success in consecutive Decembers. But he isn't worried about teaching his team any history lessons.
"You hear me say this all the time, but we're focused on winning one game," Garrett said. "A lot of people step back and say, 'This team won eight in a row and won the Super Bowl. This team lost their last three.' It has nothing to do with us. What has to with us is today and our preparation for Chicago. We want to play one good ballgame. That's really what we're focused on. We'll let everyone else figure out what the history of the world is."
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on his weekly radio show Tuesday on 105.3 "The Fan" that one of his biggest disappointments in his time with the Cowboys stems from the club's lack of success during the prime years of Tony Romo's career. Jones said Romo has played well the last two seasons, and is even more dissatisfied, considering the Cowboys wasted those opportunities to make the playoffs and possibly make a run.
And that's one reason why Jones said Romo gets more criticism than he deserves, mainly because of his 10-16 record in December.
"We've always known that what they remember is what you do in December," Jones said. "We can't expect to be where we all want to be unless we play better than we've certainly played the last two years. We need to change that. That was our goal this year. And we've got a chance to do something about it this year."
Garrett certainly agrees, but doesn't share the same broad overview as the owner and GM. To the head coach, it's about next Monday night and only next Monday night.
"We certainly feel good that we control our destiny," Garrett said. "Really, what we focus on around here is what we can control. We live in the short term. We're focused on the Chicago Bears and what we need to do today to win that ballgame. Certainly, we're getting healthier and healthier. We anticipate getting a couple of guys back who have been out the last few weeks and hopefully that will happen as the week progresses, and we'll be closer to full strength come Monday night." [embedded_ad]
But one of the motivational signs that hangs in the Cowboys' team meeting room is a sign that simply reads: "Finish, Finish, Finish."
It doesn't just mean a player or a series or a game. Finishing the season is also implied.
"I think that's a theme that we always use with our players and it's really important we understand the importance of finishing," Garrett said. "And there are so many different things that you finish. You finish plays, you finish drives and you finish games, and certainly emphasize finishing the season. That's just something that we have to continue to emphasize as a coaching staff. But again, you focus on today and doing what you need to do today to win one ballgame. That's where our attention's going to be. That's where our focus is going to be."