INDIANAPOLIS – Presiding over his ninth offseason as the Dallas Cowboys' head coach, Jason Garrett isn't about to switch up his style now.
Yes, Garrett is entering the final year of his contract, as the Cowboys' ownership has opted not to extend his current deal. Yes, that has prompted plenty of speculation about what Garrett must accomplish to earn that extension next year.
But for Garrett – ever focused on the process, always determined to block out the noise – Wednesday's press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine was business as usual.
"I don't really have any feelings about that," he said. "I've always just tried to do my job as well as I can do it and build a team we all can be proud of."
Garrett's position heading into 2019 is awfully curious, and indicative of the Cowboys' recent history. The team is coming off its third NFC East championship of Garrett's tenure, a postseason win and a trip to the divisional round of the playoffs.
At the same time, last season ended exactly where every other Cowboys season has ended since 1996 – short of the NFC Championship Game, and well short of the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl championship.
It's a fact the organization isn't shying away from. Speaking on Tuesday, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones was firm in his support for Garrett, while also being quite clear in setting the desired standard for the franchise.
"No one wants Jason to be around for the long-term more than the Jones Family. No one thinks more of him than we do, but at the same time – I know he uses it: everybody's backs are against the wall right now," he said.
"We've got a really good, young team. We've got high expectations for this young team. Everybody -- from Jason to his staff to our players to ownership to the organization – feels the pressure to take the next step. Our fans deserve that. We haven't done it. We haven't done it in a long time, and we certainly feel the pressure to do it."
In a sense, Garrett might agree. But if there's pressure, he said, it's simply the daily pressure to be great – not the byproduct of lingering contract questions.
"Again, I don't think much about that. I think that sense of urgency and that backs to the wall mentality is something that we've always tried to instill in our team," he said. "I certainly felt that as a player, the best teams I was on as a player, everyone felt that."
Suffice to say, it was business as usual in Garrett's first public comments since the end of last season. Perhaps it wasn't a conscious decision, but even Garrett's wardrobe seemed to suggest a football-focused mindset, as he wore a navy Cowboys sweat suit – the same kind he wore daily throughout the 2018 season.
And if his future is not a concern, then the present certainly will be. Every year, the Combine marks the beginning of the team-building process for the coming season. If the Cowboys are going to take another step in 2019, that process will be as important as ever.
"We go back to work. We have some business to do with our players, hopefully get some of our players re-signed, continue down the path that we're on, but we have to continue to grow," Garrett said. "We have to draft well, continuing to bring good young players into our building, try to share with them our philosophies and our structure and hopefully bring the best out in them so they can help us take the next step."
No one will know whether that happens for another year, so it's a good bet the speculation about Garrett's future will continue until then. It is worth noting, that even without extending his contract, the Cowboys are adamant about Garrett's commitment to the cause.
"I can tell you no one is more motivated, more fired up about this team than he is. And no one understands how bad we want to take that next step," Jones said. "It's been too long since we've gotten past that divisional round – we all know it."
That's a healthy dose of expectation, so it'd be easy to understand if Garrett was feeling some pressure. But for a guy who's always focused on the task at hand, there's no room to look ahead.
And if Garrett can accomplish the task at hand, the rest should take care of itself.
"Every one of us tries to come into our building with a sense of urgency every day to try to be our best individually and try to be our best for our football team," Garrett said. "That hasn't changed for me in 30 years. That's what we try to instill in our players and we certainly want to live that as coaches."