FRISCO, Texas –The Cowboys won't be playing this weekend, or any other weekend until August. That's a harsh reality that everyone knows at this point, but in his first press conference since the calendar has flipped to 2018, head coach Jason Garrett was asked point blank, why his team failed short of the playoffs.
"Oh, a lot of reasons," Garrett said. "Obviously, we didn't play well enough to win enough games. That's the obvious one. At different times I thought we played very well as a team, won big games, at other times we didn't handle the adversities of the season well enough."
Those adversities seemed to pile up all at once, when Ezekiel Elliott was finally levied the six-game suspension, combined with injuries to Tyron Smith and Sean Lee. The Cowboys lost three straight games with Zeke suspended, including two without Smith and Lee as well.
While Garrett did think the Cowboys were able to right the ship down the stretch and win four of the final games, the hole they dug themselves was too deep, and needed to be perfect at the end of the season to make the playoffs.
As it turned out, even that wouldn't have been enough, since the Cowboys, even at 10-6 would've missed the playoffs due to a tiebreaking loss to the Falcons.
That Atlanta game on Nov. 12, was brought up several times Tuesday in Garrett's media session. It was the first game after the Zeke suspension and the Cowboys were without Smith, whose backup Chaz Green allowed six sacks. Lee also went down with a hamstring injury and the 27-7 defeat proved to not only the set tone for a bad three-week stretch, it was a difference-making defeat because of how the season played out.
Garrett tried not to single out one loss, citing there were "too many" as a whole that led to the Cowboys being at home for the playoffs, but couldn't deny the importance of the Falcons loss.
"Well the Atlanta game was certainly a game that wasn't great for us," he said. "It started with the protection. Tyron was out in that game and we didn't handle his absence as well as we could have and should have. They are a good defensive team. But I don't want to say that there was some kind of a trend that happened after that. You want to pull back, you got to be careful about huge generalizations. You want to look at specifics and see the ways that you can get better."
Garrett did say this team remains close in the big picture, even with some expected changes taking place on the coaching staff and/or roster.
"I think there are a lot of good building blocks in place on our football team," Garrett said. "There will be some changes to our coaching staff. There'll be some changes on our roster and we'll be very determined to make sure those changes are for the better.
"There are a lot of positive things that we can build on as we go forward. Some good young players have been added to our team in the last couple of years. They've helped us win some games over the last couple of years and we'll keep trying to help those guys individually and help our team develop and grow and continue to take the next step."