Sudden End: Garrett Reflects On Missed Opprotunities

IRVING, Texas – It was supposed to be a day the Cowboys' players studied film of the Giants game, but also got a head start on Atlanta, the team they would've played this Sunday in the NFC Wild Card round.

Instead, the Cowboys didn't take care of business on Sunday night, falling to the Giants, 31-14, in a winner-take-all contest that gave New York the NFC East title.

That left the Cowboys' only order of business on Monday to clean out lockers, partake in exit physicals with the training staff and meet with position coaches.

Head coach Jason Garrett also made a point to meet with every individual player on the roster before they took off for a few weeks, if not longer.

It's certainly a quick turnaround for a team that had visions of winning Sunday night and advancing to the playoffs, to a squad that is saying its final goodbyes for a while.

"Last night's game was a disappointment for everybody in our organization," Garrett said on Monday. "It's a great challenge for us to go up to New York and try to win the NFC East against the Giants. They deserved to win the ball game, we did not. They rose to the occasion and got the job done, we did not. We have no excuses. We embraced the challenge, we just didn't get the job done. Hopefully, there will be a game we can learn from going forward."

And there will likely be several games the Cowboys can point to in 2011 as contests that shaped this entire season. Many of them were fourth-quarter collapses, including outings against the Jets, Lions and Giants in which the Cowboys held double-digit leads in the fourth quarter and lost. Others, such as the Patriots and Cardinals, were games the Cowboys had in their grasp in the final minute of play but couldn't find a way to win.

Garrett was asked if those defeats were considered "growing pains" for a team that never could get over the hump.

"I think you could put those games into that category, there's no question about it," Garrett said. "There were some games that we felt we should have won that we lost. So any time you have a chance to win and you don't get it done, I don't want to use the word 'frustrating,' but you're certainly disappointed. And again, we've got to get better in those areas."

Garrett stayed rather vague in most of his answers on Monday, when asked questions on topics such as player personnel, the makeup of the coaching staff and which direction the team might go in the 2012 NFL Draft, in which the Cowboys will pick 14th overall.

Garrett also said the team will consider making some personnel moves within the depth chart, such as moving starters to different positions. There has been some talk for two years about defensive tackle Jay Ratliff moving to end, or right tackle Tyron Smith flipping to the left side, switching with Doug Free.

"We'll look at all of that," Garrett said about the general possibility of moving players to new spots. "Again, when we do our evaluation by the end of this week, we'll talk about each individual player and their strengths and weaknesses and how we're using them and if we're using them the right way and if a position switch is appropriate for those guys, then we'll certainly have that discussion."

But Monday's discussion wasn't about all of that. Garrett's purpose was to get one more visit with his team, thank them for their effort this year and try to give them some encouragement as the offseason is now upon us.

"There are a lot of things to be positive about, but we didn't get the job done," Garrett said. "But we had a lot of really good things happen for our football team this year. We had some disappointments. Ultimately, we didn't achieve our goal of making the playoffs. Last night, we had an opportunity to win the division in New York and we didn't get the job done. Now we are watching the games this week."

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