Cowboys can't escape .500 funk

NEW ORLEANS -- The Dallas Cowboys continue to be the NFL definition of mediocre.

Here they are, stuck in the middle again with a 5-5 record as they head into their bye week fresh off a 49-17 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints.

This is a franchise that finds a way to be .500. The Cowboys were 8-8 in each of the past two seasons and are 133-133 dating back to 1997, a span that includes a grand total of one playoff win.

“We've got to find a way to get over being mediocre,” cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. “No one made it to this level being average, so we have to find a way to get over being average.”

That's a heck of a lot easier said than done.

“If I had the special ingredient,” Scandrick said, “I would have used it already.”

The best solution would be to change the one constant from this era of Cowboys mediocrity, but we all know that Jerry Jones is the only general manager in sports who has guaranteed job security regardless of results. Plus, addressing that flaw in the front office wouldn't help the Cowboys' efforts to snap out of their .500 funk this season.

Right now, the Cowboys' locker room is full of guys who are frustrated by not collectively performing up to their own expectations and not knowing how to fix the problems.

“It's frustrating when you know you don't have average players on your team,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “We know we have some guys who can make plays. We have special players on this team and we're not able to show that right now. We're not showing the capabilities that we have out there as a whole.

“It is frustrating, but at the same time, it's all a learning process. It comes a point in time where you have to just say enough is enough, man. Same thing I'm saying, the players in this locker room, we all feel the same way. It's going to take just a whole team belief that we are the players that we believe in our minds. That's got to translate out on the field.”

There was nothing average about the Cowboys' performance Sunday night in the Superdome. It was simply awful.

The 49-17 score isn't indicative of just how lopsided this game was. The Saints set an NFL record for first downs with 40, just three fewer than the Cowboys' total offensive play count. New Orleans had 625 total yards, the most in franchise history and the most ever allowed by the Cowboys, breaking a record for defensive futility that was two whole weeks old. The Cowboys didn't even crack 200 total yards.

“We're a team that's got to play better football in all facets,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “We've got to go back and study and figure out what we need to do to be a better football team because that obviously was not good enough.”

That's the bitter taste the Cowboys take into the bye week.

Yet they're still tied for first place in the NFC East, the league's weakest division. All of their goals are technically still possible, no matter how unrealistic they may seem given this embarrassment and the bigger picture of prolonged mediocrity, a reality that makes the Cowboys sick.

“You have to eliminate the emotions from it,” tight end Jason Witten said. “Obviously, we're all sick of win one, lose one, right at .500. I think you've got to eliminate that and just say, ‘How can we play better football?'

“We're still in the hunt. We're tied for first in the division, but the focus has got to be on, obviously we've got to play a lot better football after the bye and the remaining six games. That's where our focus needs to be.”

You are what you are, as Bill Parcells would say, but the Cowboys can't accept that all that they are is an average team.