ARLINGTON, Texas — Even with the remote possibility of a back-door entrance into the playoffs at the start of the day, AT&T stadium was filled with an unmistakable air of finality.
"For it to end-- especially with the team we had-- it sucks,” said running back Ezekiel Elliott.
As fans feared, the scoreboard watching proved futile.
“We tried not to watch it,” said receiver Michael Gallup. “But everybody knows we were. It’s obviously tough, but you know that’s just on us."
After sleep-walking through the first quarter, the Cowboys offense eventually woke up, racking up 47 points with receiver Michael Gallup leading the way.
But in the end, the effort was wasted, like so much of the talent on this roster, wasted in a season where so many fell short.
“We’re not in the playoffs,” said Elliott, “and we lost some games we should have won. We weren’t good enough.”
Quarterback Dak Prescott echoed that sentiment.
“It’s tough," he said. "It’s part of it. We did it to ourselves, me as the leader, and you’ve got to live and learn.”
But in football terms at least Jason Witten’s living may be done. With 16 seasons under his belt, he was emotional after the Cowboys season finale, and said he’ll take a few days before deciding his future.
“It’s about winning,” said Witten. “And to not have that opportunity to hold up that [Lombardi] trophy, and bring that to the Jones family, bring that back to Dallas, that’s hard."
The frustration will continue to flow when inevitable changes take place in the coming days. The Cowboys course correction figures to start in the head coaches’ office.
“I love coach Garrett,” said Elliott. “Had him since I got here, spent four years with the man, it’s tough."
Linebacker Jaylon Smith said he’s not sure what will happen with Garrett, but briefly reflected on what Garrett has meant to him as a player,
“The highs, and the lows, the 13-and-3 seasons, the 7-and-9’s, whatever, he’s the same guy. He’s going to give you that clap,” Smith said with a smile.
“And you know, I just respect it.”
Respect was the word heard most often when players talked about Garrett on this night.
“That’s somebody, as I said, I respect, I look up to. He’s a great coach, great person, great man,” Prescott said. “Obviously, I don’t make the decisions, or I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in.”
“I mean it’s going to be hard. Change is always hard,” said Elliott. “But I mean, we’ve got a great group of men."
Jason Garett has completed his 9th full season. He recorded four winning seasons, and this year marks his fourth 8-and-8 campaign.
Fitting, because with just three playoff appearances and three playoff wins in his tenure, 8-and-8 seem's about right for Garrett.
It’s not downright awful, or he would have been fired sooner, but it’s still nowhere near good enough. And change is sure to follow.