ARLINGTON, Texas – The question everyone wants an answer to was the question Jerry Jones wasn't going to answer. Not yet.
The Cowboys' owner and general manager held court with the media for 30 minutes on Sunday night, just outside a somber locker room. Jones, along with his team, was presented with the surreal experience of being pleased by a 31-point win against Washington but disappointed by the knowledge that they'd been knocked out of the NFC playoff race.
"I appreciated, under the circumstances, the way they competed, and I would have to say congratulations to Philadelphia," Jones said.
Obviously, that disappointment was the main reason for the crowd of 60 or more reporters crowded around Jones. In finishing 8-8, the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs for the sixth time in Jason Garrett's nine-year tenure as head coach. And with Garrett's contract expiring, it prompts plenty of speculation about the future.
For the time being, it will remain speculation, as Jones declined to elaborate on his thought process.
"I'm not going to get into it at all, an evaluation or an assessment. I'm not," he said. "I'm going to do exactly what I always do and get up, go forward and do the best job that I can."
This is the fourth 8-8 finish of Garrett's tenure, though it is the first since 2013. Heading into this offseason, he owns a record of 85-67. But for a franchise that wants to reach its first conference championship game since 1996, his 2-3 playoff mark has always been a point of contention – and the Cowboys won't be adding to it this season.
Having watched his team pile up 47 points in its seventh blowout victory of the year, Jones was at a loss as to how the Cowboys won't be part of the postseason.
"Inconsistent, I've heard that word used a lot," he said. "The inconsistencies that are involved with this season are mind boggling."
Simultaneously, Garrett was answering similar questions about his future at his postgame press conference. For his part, he said he wants to coach the Cowboys in 2020, but he has no idea what is going to happen.
"I think the biggest thing for me was to focus on the task at hand," Garrett said. "Again, today was all about control what we control as players and coaches, and to put a great effort out there."
But the emotion of the situation wasn't lost on anyone. Garrett shared a poignant story about his high school football coach, who advised him to stand tall through both success and adversity. And when it was Dak Prescott's turn to consider the future, he became noticeably emotional.
"That's somebody that I respect, look up to in every which way," Prescott said of Garrett. "He's a great person, great coach, great man – so of course. That's my answer, but obviously I don't make the decisions."
Jones will ultimately make that call, and that circles back to the large crowd of reporters – many of whom tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to get him to tip his hand.
"What I wouldn't do, in anything I'm saying here tonight, is shut any door," Jones said. "I really want to make sure I'm clear about that and communicate that: There's no door shut here tonight."
Right now, Jones said he wants to focus on the disappointment of missing the playoffs. But from there, a decision on the future will follow.
When that will happen, Jones isn't quite ready to say.