Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant is the 2013 winner of the team’s Good Guy Award. The award is given annually by the DFW chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America to honor a player for his consistent and outstanding cooperation with the team’s beat writers.
Four other players -- Orlando Scandrick, Jason Hatcher, Jason Witten and Barry Church -- received votes.
Bryant was lauded for having a consistent presence in the locker room this season. He was available most weeks and often multiple times during the week. After controversies against Detroit and Green Bay, Bryant made himself available to address both.
One voter cited Bryant’s maturation from his rookie season when he was a reluctant interview to now when he is among the team's most accommodating players.
Receiver Roy Williams won the first Good Guy Award in 2009. Quarterback Jon Kitna was the recipient in 2010. Defensive end Marcus Spears was the honoree in 2011. And Witten won it last year.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he made the decision to retain Jason Garrett as head coach “several weeks ago.”
“I didn’t make that decision yesterday,” he told KRLD 105.3 FM “The Fan” Tuesday in his weekly appearance. “I made that decision several weeks ago. What is important here is that I haven’t given it a consideration. What happened was I was answering questions, ‘Was I going to keep him?’ several weeks ago, and I answered, ‘Yes,’ then. Yes, we are going forward.”
Asked how he justified that decision, Jones said the Cowboys have been “in it.”
“We have been in it the last three years,” he said. “Of course, Jason has been on this staff going on seven years. We have been in it during his time as head coach. We have been in it right there, playing for it in the last game the last three years. I’m in complete step with our fans that want more than 8-8.”
Jones continued, “All you have to do is win a couple more. We have won some games that were hard-fought to get those eight wins. So having said that, I think there is a positive to have the team right there in a position to win the East, fighting for it, certainly prepared. That was a bearing on my decision with Jason.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones declined to comment on the job status of his coordinators -- Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin -- but he did say there would be fewer changes on the coaching staff than last year. Last year the Cowboys replaced defensive coordinator Rob Ryan with Kiffin, promoted Callahan to play-caller and made several assistant coaching changes, including hiring Rod Marinelli as defensive line coach.
"Well, I'm pleased that we have them," Jones said on his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM. "I know that when we got them, I've never had as many talk about well you have really upgraded, or you have really not upgraded, but you have really added a plus to your coaching staff. Now, we had a rough year, but we didn't necessarily have a rough year because of coaching in terms of our defense. So all of that will be considered as we look ahead. I haven't really sat down and discussed it, looked it and I don't know how much thought Jason [Garrett] has given to it here in this latter part of this season. But... there's no hurry on that."
Jones said Callahan and Kiffin remain under contract.
"I think this: I think you've got to assume that their contract status is [their status] until we do differenty," Jones said. "Those guys you just mentioned are still under contract. There are others that under contract. There are others that are not. The real world is since I haven't, we haven't, addressed this thing is whatever their contract status is, and I don't want to get into what that status is, but whatever it is, it is."
Callahan, who was hired before the 2012 season, took over play-calling duties from Garrett this season. The Cowboys ranked 16th in total offense, and their 5,461 yards were the fewest by the franchise since 2005.
Kiffin was hired during the off-season to change the Cowboys from the 3-4 to the Tampa 2. Injuries forced the Cowboys to play 19 defensive linemen; middle linebacker Sean Lee missed five games; and cornerback Morris Claiborne missed six games.
The Cowboys gave up the most yards, most passing yards and most first downs in team history. They finished last in the league in total defense.
The 6,645 total yards the Cowboys allowed was the third-most in NFL history behind only the 2012 New Orleans (7,042) and the 1981 Baltimore Colts (6,793). The 388 total first downs they allowed ranks second-worst all time behind only the 406 that the ‘81 Colts allowed.
Dan Bailey said he can’t see any negatives to re-signing with the Cowboys, but that from here, he just has to see what happens.
“This is a great place to kick. It’s obviously a first-class organization,” he said Monday after cleaning out his locker at Valley Ranch. “I can’t really see any negatives to playing here.”
Bailey, an undrafted free agent three years ago out of Oklahoma State, became a restricted free agent at season’s end. He is the most accurate kicker in team history, with a field goal percentage of 90.8 (89-for-98) in three seasons. He also holds the team record with eight game-winning kicks.
“Yeah, I’d love to stay here if I could,” he said. “We’ll just kind of see what happens. Hopefully we’ll be able to stick around a little longer.”
Bailey made it a point to improve his leg strength. He ranked 10th in touchback percentage, 55.9 (52 of 93), and made six of seven kicks from 50 yards or more.
“That was a big focus for me going into this season,” he said. “I felt like overall, I’m still going to have to take a few days to assess how the whole year went, but I think the initial assessment was that a lot of the stuff we did in the offseason really benefited, whether it was touchbacks or kickoffs or having a little more confidence and stuff on longer field goals, it definitely paid off.”
Bailey said he tries not to think about much beyond the field.
“My goal is just to play the best I can every year, hopefully string a bunch of good years together,” he said. “I think anything that happens beyond that is just part of working in the NFL. So my focus is just to be the best teammate and player I can be, try to perform to my best ability every day in practice and in games. So whatever happens beyond that is out of my control. All I can control is what I can do.”
Tight end Jason Witten and defensive end DeMarcus Ware have seen the Monday after a loss to end the season, knocking the Cowboys out of the playoffs one too many times.
The Cowboys finished 8-8 for the third staight year and out of the playoffs for fourth straight year. They lost the winner take all battle for the NFC East title and the playoffs in the season final for the third straight year.
It doesn't get any easier or any better to deal with.
"It is a disappointing season, ending 8-8," Ware said. "I mean, you get tired of it. After a while, each year, you feel like you lose something. It’s something that you lose from each one of the years, so it’s like, how do you come back from that."
Said Witten: "Obviously, it’s a disappointing day, to be in this situation, not preparing for a playoff game. Everybody’s disappointed. Every time you experience this, it’s been tough. It’s something I hope I never have to experience again. But, yeah, this one was really tough. To get there three years in a row and come up short, it hurts. Ultimately, we’ve got to do a better job."
Neither Witten nor Ware have the answers of what it will take for the Cowboys to get out of their mediocre funk and get over the hump.
Ware doesn't even now if the Cowboys front office has all the right answers.
"I don’t think there is always for sure a road map, but you got to have a road map early," Ware said. "You can’t have it late. You got to start that road map right now. You have to start all the way from watching games to getting ready for getting surgeries or whatever you need to get, getting healthy, all the way to OTAs, knowing what’s going on. It goes all the way through the off season to make sure that once training camp hits you know everything is right." Witten put it on the players. He said they just have to find a way to play better when it matters most.
“I really do think that you just have to obviously play better," Witten said. "Throughout seasons, there’s games we can go back and look at and circle and say if there’s different outcomes in those games, you’re in a different situation. I think a lot of teams would probably say that across the league, so you can’t use that as a crutch and an excuse. You ultimately across the board, players have to play better and give yourself a chance to win those games. This is a tough league and every team has those obstacles and challenges. You hope that you can overcome that and you can win those games that you look back and say, ‘Oh, man, we could’ve got that one.’ You got to find ways to do it. You can’t just say it. You almost sound a little bit like a coward when you mention that, but that’s what’s tough when you have those opportunities and you don’t take advantage of it, it hurts pretty bad.”
Three days after back surgery, Tony Romo made it to Valley Ranch for the final team meeting.
“I think that just speaks to what he is,” tight end Jason Witten said. “Going to find a way to come in, see the guys. It was obviously an emotional time. No team stays the same. It’s just what he’s all about. I thought it was great of him to come and be here and just share this time. It’s tough, and he’s a big part of this team. That was very stand-up of him to be here in the midst of the pain I’m sure he’s in.”
Asked if he is worried about Romo’s future, Witten said the quarterback will come back better than ever next season.
“Obviously, it’s been a tough eight months for him physically,” Witten said. “But I feel confident in him. I know what he’s made of. I know how he works, I know how he competes, I know how he trains. But he’ll bounce back and be even better next year. He’ll use this time to evaluate and get healthy and provide perspective and be a better quarterback because of it. I’m confident he’ll come back. I know what he’s made of. I’ve seen it for a long time, how he goes about it, and he’ll bounce back and be better than he’s ever been. I believe that to the bottom of my heart.”
Witten said it was also an emotional week for Romo.
“Obviously, it was difficult not having him out there,” he said. “You know, it was an emotional week for him. Fighting with him every week, you go into that last game, I know it was tough for him not to be in that moment with us, leading that charge. But yeah, he’ll be back. Better than ever.”
In the aftermath of the Cowboys' 24-22 season-ending loss to the Eagles on Sunday night, defensive end DeMarcus Ware said he would consider taking a pay cut to help the team manage the salary cap.
Ware clarified those comments Monday.
"The question was with the salary cap stuff and everything, would you be able to maneuver some things in your contract," Ware said. "I said I’ll do what I need to do to help the team out. It’s nothing new to me. But pay cut and restructure are two different things. You hear what I’m saying. Clar-i-fy."
So you didn't say pay cut?
"No, I didn’t say that," Ware said. "I said I will do whatever I need to do to maneuver some things around to help the team out. I’m for that."
Ware is scheduled to make a base salary of $12.2 million next season including a $500,000 workout bonus. Ware's 2014 cap figure is $16 million.
The looming question is how much Ware is worth at this point. He had just six sacks in 2013, his fewest since his rookie year 2005. He had sacks in only four games.
Ware also battled elbow, quad, neck and back injuries this year. He plans to have surgery to clean up issues with his elbow in the off-season.
But he will be 32 next season, and there is a question of whether he has lost a step.
"Not at all. Not at all," Ware said. "Like going back into training camp, I felt better than I have in a long time. Then the little injuries happen with the quad and your elbow and your back so you sit back and think about what can I do now this off-season to make sure this doesn’t happen again, because I know exactly where I can be and how I can play. Injuries took a toll on me a lot this season. But that’s no excuse because I got out there and played. I’ve got to figure out some way to get healthy this off-season for next season."
The Cowboys had their best defensive games against the Eagles, allowing 644 yards in two games, with eight sacks and four takeaways. But it might not be enough to save Monte Kiffin's job.
Kiffin inherited a defense built for the 3-4, and he had a host of injuries, including to key players Tyrone Crawford, Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff and Sean Lee. But the Cowboys were worse than awful on defense.
They gave up the most yards, most passing yards and most first downs in team history. They finished last in the league in total defense.
The 6,645 total yards they allowed rank third-worst all time behind only the 2012 New Orleans defense (7,042) and the 1981 Baltimore Colts defense (6,793).
The 388 total first downs they allowed rank second-worst all time behind only the 406 that the '81 Colts allowed.
The Cowboys allowed 4,589 passing yards and 231 passing first downs.
They did force 28 takeaways and were plus-eight in turnover ratio.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said last week he is committed to the scheme, but the Cowboys could have a new look next season with some new faces.
Kyle Orton played well in relief of Tony Romo, but it wasn't good enough. His interception with 1:43 remaining ended the Cowboys' comeback hopes.
"Everybody puts in a lot throughout the season, and this is my chance to contribute, and I had a chance down two [points] with two minutes to go," Orton said. "I'm expected to make good plays, and Miles [Austin] ran a good route, and I expect to make that throw."
With Romo watching from home after undergoing back surgery Friday to repair a herniated disc, Orton gave the Cowboys a chance. He completed 30 of 46 passes for 358 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“I thought Kyle played really well in this ball game,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “There were a couple of plays in the game he would love to have back, but I thought he did a heck of a job. He had a great week of practice. He was prepared. He was confident. The guys responded to him. He made a ton of big plays in this game over and over again. He made some great decisions.
“At the end of it, he gave us a great chance to win the game.”
'The Cowboys had 12 drives, with two red-zone opportunities. They scored a touchdown on one of the red-zone opportunities but settled for a field goal on the other.
Settling for field goals proved their undoing as they had to kick field goals after reaching the Philadelphia 26, 25 and 18.
“We really missed a few opportunities throughout the game, two interceptions, three turnovers and kicked some field goals when we had opportunities to go down and score touchdowns,” Orton said. “So we moved the ball pretty well but didn’t cash in when we needed to."
The Cowboys had 417 yards, 51 more than the Eagles had, but they still left the stadium with their season behind them.
"It's frustrating when your season's done, no matter when it is," Orton said. "When your season's done, it's frustrating. You put a lot into it, and it's disheartening that's the way to go out."
Jason Hatcher was motivated Sunday night, motivated to show he should have been a Pro Bowler and motivated to showcase his talents as he becomes a free agent in the off-season.
The defensive tackle had four tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble. It's no wonder Cowboys defensive line coach Rod Marinelli said Hatcher "made a statement."
Hatcher finished with a career-high 11 sacks. He had never had more than 4.5 in a season before this season, his first playing in the Tampa 2.
But Hatcher was passed over in Pro Bowl voting, as the six defensive tackles selected were Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy, Baltimore's Haloti Ngata, Kansas City's Dontari Poe, San Francisco's Justin Smith, Detroit's Ndamukong Suh and Buffalo's Kyle Williams.
“It’s just one of those things where politics takes its role," Hatcher said after the game. "I’m not big on Hawaii, man. It would have been nice to take my family, but it’s not one of those things I’m crying over. Screw Hawaii. I’ll take my family anyway.”
Hatcher becomes a free agent his off-season and is coming off a career year, but he turns 32 this summer. Hatcher earned $2 million this season.
Owner Jerry Jones wouldn’t comment on re-signing Hatcher, who has spent all eight years of his career in Dallas, but Jones gave Hatcher praise for his efforts this season.
“I wish Jason the very best,” Jones said. “I thought Jason had an outstanding year for us. I thought he played lights out tonight here, too.”
Hatcher said he is certainly open to the idea of staying in Dallas and finishing his career as a Cowboy, but he is also open to moving his family wherever he might land next season.
"I’m numb right now, and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “If I have to move my family out of here I’m good with that. It’s up in the air, and I really don’t care if I go or if I stay. It would be awesome to stay here and finish my career here, but if not I can move on. It’s a business. You know how it goes. You can’t get any emotions involved or else you’ll find yourself in a bad situation.”