IRVING, Texas – In the scrum of the delirious postgame locker room, with the NFC East championship secured, it seemed like a given that Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones would have an opinion on his coach's future.
Jones has been famously mum on the prospects of Jason Garrett, who is playing out the final season of his coaching contract. With three 8-8 finishes and three missed chances at the playoffs, Jones was in no hurry to renew Garrett – and a fast start to 2014 had not swayed him.
Credit to Jones that, despite celebrating his team's first playoff berth in five years, he did not deviate when asked for an update on Garrett's contract status.
"I don't talk about our contracts," Jones said. "But it's no secret that it would be right at the top, with two or three fingers, one of the things I'm proudest of the success we're having is how it has reflected on Jason and his ability to go forward as the fine coach that he is."
Sunday's 42-7 win against the Colts gave Garrett his 40th win as the Cowboys' head coach, putting him third all-time behind Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson. It also secured the Cowboys an 11-win season, with a chance to add one more – and then there's the aforementioned playoff appearance.
It all points toward a likely extension for Garrett – which seemed unlikely when he entered the season with a 29-27 record. As the Cowboys gear up for the postseason, though, he's improved that mark to 40-31 with a division title.
"He's developed a lot of skill, he's done what all of us do – he's improved, improved, improved," Jones said.
Jones was complimentary, but Garrett's players were downright doting on their coach – none moreso than Tony Romo, who has had a close relationship with Garrett when the former Cowboys quarterback took over as offensive coordinator in 2007.
"Jason is the best head coach in the league that no one talks about," Romo said. "He's really gifted. He has ability to communicate with his players. He has a great mind for the game of football."
Garrett's job status looks downright rosy in light of this past season – particularly this three-game December stretch, which has seen the Cowboys go 3-0 and outscore their opposition, 121-62. Romo touched on the fact that it hasn't always been the case, though.
In light of that, he praised Jones' decision to keep Garrett as head coach, despite a frustrating stretch of three-straight .500 seasons.
"One of the best things Jerry has done is just stand by him and let his system, his mantra, his philosophy play itself out," Romo said. "I think that you're seeing the dividends and reaping the rewards of having him stay in place, because Jason is going to figure it out. He's as good a coach as I've ever been around, and he's special."
That mantra has pervaded the Dallas locker room, as the Cowboys have never allowed themselves to slip from Garrett's narrow, week-by-week focus. As a result, they're as hot as any team in the NFC, and they're guaranteed to host at least one playoff game.
With an improbable division title locked up, the Cowboys made sure to give credit where it was due.
"He's very confident, and he allows us to play the game. He doesn't over-coach us, he doesn't try to do too much," said DeMarco Murray. "He allows us to go out there, execute the gameplan and just have fun doing it. He's a great coach, a great guy."