IRVING, Texas —
Dallas has become the definition of mediocrity, finishing 8-8 for the second year in a row and now holding a record of 128-128 since the start of the 1997 season. That means 2013 will be the third straight year with a record that starts at an even .500 going back more than a decade. Dallas has one playoff win in that span.
“If we don’t do a good enough job then it is the same old story,” Witten said Monday in a quiet and mostly empty Cowboys locker room. “We’ve just got to stomach it up and get better because of it. That’s the only way to get to the top.”
Much has changed since Dallas was 3-5 and facing early playoff elimination. In the midst of the 5-1 stretch that vaulted them to a tie for the division lead, the Cowboys had to play through the death of practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown in a car accident that led to intoxication manslaughter charges against nose tackle Josh Brent.
The wreck happened hours before Brent was supposed to be on the team plane to Cincinnati, where he was expected to start in place of injured Jay Ratliff. Dallas scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and beat the Bengals 20-19 on a field goal by Dan Bailey as time expired.
That turned out to be the first of three straight games decided on the final play, with the Cowboys splitting back-to-back overtime games at home by beating Pittsburgh and losing to New Orleans.
Questions about coach Jason Garrett’s job disappeared as he steered the team through the death of Brown and the wins kept coming. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones lauded Garrett’s leadership, and while Jones hasn’t directly said Garrett will return, he has said he was never really considering an alternative.