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Hidden Meaning


be gained in the locker room, and you're always being evaluated. It would be a mistake for anybody that has to go out and play to think like it doesn't mean anything because if it's being put on tape, everybody's watching it. Whether it's here or anywhere, they're going to see how many plays you play and they're going to make a judgment on you about those plays. There's a lot of personal meaning to it for sure." 

The Cowboys are trying to re-establish a standard. It's easy to say, 'Play this guy' because he's talented but inexperienced. Garrett doesn't think that way. As long as he's the coach, players have to earn their time on the field. When you inherit a 1-7 team, you can't foster complacency. There has to be a little air of tension in the building. The more competitive environment, the better practices are, and the better the games should be. 

Certain players have indeed gotten more snaps. In a lot of cases it's been due to injury. In others, they've demonstrated they can do more. Rookie tackle Sam Young is the latest example, moving to the game-day active roster for the first time Christmas night. 

The organization is sick of losing, period. Jones has mentioned he wants to win so the fans have a better feeling about things as the season comes to a close. Sure, that's part of it, although I'm not convinced fans will feel much better about 6-10 than 5-11. 

More than anything, I'd say it's important to win because this team absolutely had to restore a healthy mentality. Keith Brooking said back in November that losing becomes contagious, and by the time Wade Phillips was fired it became clear they had lost their collective confidence. 

Jones, and Garrett, too, if he becomes the permanent coach, couldn't allow that to happen. If the vets had taken a seat weeks ago, it would have sent the message that winning isn't important. Inexperience probably would have cost them a lot more games, and the entire franchise would have been mired in a losing rut for a full 16 games.  

The Cowboys had to distance themselves as far as possible from 1-7. To a large degree, they have. Garrett's three losses are by seven total points. They've proven they still can play with anybody. That's important going into next year. 

"I wouldn't say this game individually by itself, but I would say collectively," Kitna said. "What you've seen the last seven weeks is a team that has a lot of character - 4-3 and easily right there, a couple plays here and there, could be totally different. We've learned a lot about ourselves and I expect nothing different this week. This locker room is full of people of competitive character, and regardless of the circumstances they continue to go out and compete and play as hard as they can.  

"That's foundational. That's stuff that does carry over to next year, regardless of this game." 

This final game is part of that foundation they're trying to re-establish. It would be foolish to treat it as meaningless, no matter what the records are. 

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