IRVING, Texas** – The consensus around the Cowboys' organization is that 4-4 isn't ideal at the midway point, even given the abysmal state of the NFC East.
It's particularly disappointing for the Cowboys given that their four losses have come by a combined 14 points. On the other hand, the four wins are good enough to put the Cowboys in first and keep the team hopeful about the second half of the season.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys still control their destiny in the division, and he expects the results of the close losses to eventually tip in the Cowboys' favor.
"It's disappointing for us," Jones said. "I think we're a better football team than 4-4, but at the end of the day, Bill Parcells used to say you are what you are. We've won four games pretty solidly, and we unfortunately can't win a close one right there. That's going to change."
Jones doesn't think the talent on the team has been a problem, despite the injuries. The Cowboys are plus-44 in point differential and have dropped three of their four losses by a combined five points.
"We just haven't been able to pull out one of these tight ones," he said. "We've lost four really close ones, and we're 0-4 in the close ones, and you'd like to think one or two of those would go your way. But you are what you are. We're 4-4, we're disappointed, but we're certainly optimistic about what lies ahead of us."
Jones is confident the Cowboys will have reinforcements on the way in the coming weeks, which makes him think the team will get better later in the season. They also have the well-timed bye week in Week 11.
Head coach Jason Garrett reiterated similar thoughts about optimism for the final stretch of the season.
"Absolutely, everything is in front of us," Garrett said, "and we're focused on getting better each and every day, focusing on the task at hand each week, which is playing that opponent, this week it's the Minnesota Vikings."
The Cowboys didn't have the cap space to be big players at the trade deadline.
Still, Jones isn't bothered or frustrated by the lack of money to go spend on free agent defensive linemen at this point of the season.
"There's no one on the street to go get," he said. "It all comes down to a trade, and usually that's difficult, too, to get value for somebody. I wouldn't say it's that frustrating."
The money part isn't frustrating, at least. It is frustrating to him that the Cowboys have lost Tyrone Crawford, Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff and Ben Bass for the season, as well as losing DeMarcus Ware for a portion of the year.
"I mean it's frustrating that we have five people of our top eight that aren't able to play right now, don't get me wrong, but I don't think it's frustrating in that there's some magical answer," he said. "Was there an answer way back? Probably was, but you obviously don't count on five people getting hurt on your defensive line."
DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin both appear to need another week to heal from injuries.
Jones said Ware (thigh) is getting there and is "real close" to a return, but he didn't sound optimistic about his chances to play against the Vikings. Ware and Austin (hamstring) are both listed as doubtful this week and missed all week at practice.
"Doubtful, but we'll see," Jones said of Ware. "He's really had a great couple of days."
Austin, meanwhile, is getting more rest after trying to play most recently against the Eagles. The emergence of Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley has allowed the Cowboys to ease Austin back from his injury.
"In all fairness, we're really wanting to make sure we get him 100 percent back," Jones said. "He's not out there playing at 85, 90 percent, but give him the chance to get all the way back rather than push it."
The Cowboys will have some decisions to make next week regarding when to bring back injured players. Their Week 10 tilt against the Saints is followed by the bye week.
"Any team's probably looking forward to their bye week, whether it's the third week, fourth week, because you're going to have injuries," Jones said. "An extra week of not having to push people out there, and the players pushing themselves to get out there, is a positive."
Releasing A Rant
By now, most people are well aware of the footage of Dez Bryant on the sideline, as well as the audio released later that seemed to validate what he was saying about why he got so animated.
Head coach Jason Garrett said he has great respect for NFL Films and all the work they do, which sometimes may include audio of his players.
"NFL Films is one of the great entities in this league, and one of the great entities in this country," Garrett said. "I think they've done an unbelievable job through the years capturing this great game that we play and we're all a part of. So there's a great level of trust and respect that those guys have for the game and people involved in the game, and they've always done a really good job of that. [embedded_ad]
"However those things get worked out, those things happened in the ballgame and sometimes you're in a high-profile situation, those things will come out and there is a lot of commentary about those kinds of things, both good and bad, and what we need to focus on is playing and coaching and learning from all the experiences that we have, and that's what we'll try to do as a team."
Garrett typically doesn't comment on topics that he believes could put his team in a competitive disadvantage, but he doesn't worry about NFL Films revealing any sort of team strategy through any of their on-field work.
"That's an issue the 32 teams have to deal with, and I think the relationship between NFL Films and the NFL and all the teams within it is really good," Garrett said. "It's longstanding, it's been in place a lot longer than I've been around here and there is a level of trust there."