IRVING, Texas** – Owner Jerry Jones gave some insight into what he might focus on when evaluating his offseason decisions during a taped interview Monday night for Special Edition on KTVT-TV, scheduled to air Saturday.
Jones was asked how the multitude of injuries could cloud his thinking regarding offseason moves, or how they might factor into his decisions. His response didn't specifically refer to the defense or defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, whose firing would occur one day later. Instead, he referred to the team's inability to get any momentum early in the year, when the team was still relatively healthy.
"I didn't like the way we were playing in a lot of cases," Jones said. "I thought we could play better before the injuries, and so I factored that in. It wasn't like we had a lot of injuries out here when we played Chicago. It wasn't like we had a lot of injuries when we played Seattle. I didn't like the way we played there. It's not hard for me to go to those games and say, 'What can we do to improve when we played Seattle and Chicago?'"
The Cowboys lost by a combined 36 points in those first two losses against the Seahawks and the Bears. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff missed both of those games, while defensive end Kenyon Coleman and linebacker Anthony Spencer missed just the Chicago game. The Cowboys team that played the Bears was actually relatively healthy compared to what the defense would play with late in the season after the losses of Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, among others.
"It's not hard for me to go back there and say, 'OK, we had all of our players out there, we had our talent level there that we've been saying we didn't have," Jones said. "Now let's evaluate that, when we had all of our talent level. We've got to be able to beat Chicago at home and we've got to be able to go to Seattle and win that game there."
Beating the Seahawks in Seattle would be difficult for any team. In fact, it hasn't been done this year. Still, to get to where Jones wants to be, those are the wins he wants to secure.
His answers didn't focus on any specific part of the team regarding what needed to be fixed after another 8-8 season. Many assumed after Jones' comments that he pinned the first two losses of the season entirely on Ryan and the defense, though his answers don't indicate that specifically. Instead, they referred to the team's entire inability to get it done early on.
That Seattle game began with a fumbled kickoff return by Felix Jones and was followed shortly after by a blocked punt return for a touchdown by the Seahawks. If anything, it was the defense's prowess that kept the game, 10-0 to start, holding the Seahawks to a field goal after the fumble deep in Cowboys' territory.
Fast forward two weeks from the Seahawks game to the Bears game, which included a relatively healthy offense. Yet it was that offensive group that struggled most.
The defense held the Bears scoreless in the first quarter, but the offense also failed to put any points on the board. The Cowboys allowed their first points with 4:21 remaining in the second quarter, when Robbie Gould hit a 43-yard field goal.
One minute, 35 seconds later, quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant miscommunicated, resulting in a pick-six for Charles Tillman, as the Cowboys once again trailed, 10-0, to start the game, without the defense having much of a hand at all. That pick would be the first of five on the day for Romo and the first of two interceptions for touchdowns.
Blaming Ryan for the first two losses wouldn't make much sense, as I alluded to after the firing of Ryan. What Jones' comments do indicate is that his offseason moves are far from over, and the defensive staff might not be the only one to take a hit.
"Had an opportunity to be in the playoffs last year, didn't get it done," Jones said. "Here we go again, have an opportunity. All that we're doing needs an evaluation. We're in the process of that. That's what's been going on since that game was played and will continue to go on."
Jones said he liked the way the team played in the games after Chicago, attempting to hang in without the same talent level on the field as the Cowboys had early on in the season. Mistakes in all three phases cost the Cowboys a 6-6 finish the rest of the way after the initial two losses.
At this point, it's still possible those early season losses could lead to more moves for the coaching staff offensively, defensively or in special teams. But it's clear the last two losses and a 3-3 division record will also weigh in Jones' mind.
"We let Washington beat us twice this year, Philadelphia beat us twice last year, so all of those things are under our consideration," he said.