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For Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett, it's a question of words vs. reality

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FRISCO, Texas -- After almost every practice, Jason Garrett and Dak Prescott play a game of catch designed to improve accuracy. They’ve been doing it since Prescott’s rookie year. Sometimes the quarterback wins. Sometimes the coach wins.

Nobody is more intertwined with the Dallas Cowboys than the head coach and quarterback. The game has helped them develop a close relationship in two-plus seasons.

As the Cowboys prepare for the second half of their season with a 3-5 record, there should be little surprise that Garrett and Prescott find their futures being questioned as they stare at a second consecutive season without making the playoffs.

The coach

What they’re saying: To a direct question about whether he would consider an in-season head-coaching change, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones simply said, “No.” At the start of training camp, Jones said Garrett did not enter 2018 on any kind of hot seat.

If Jones answers any other way to those questions, he invites more questions about Garrett’s short- and long-term future.

Garrett was asked Tuesday about his job security.

“I just focus on doing my job as well as I can do it every day,” Garrett said.

He still has the attention of his players.

“I mean, I believe in Coach Garrett,” defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford said. “I’ve been with him for seven years and I know the type of guy that he is. I know that the situations he’s placed in at times where he may have to go against things that he may believe. I love him as a coach and hopefully everything just works out the best for him.”

The reality: Garrett is signed through 2019, making on average $6 million a season because of the 12-4 finish in 2014 when he was on the final year of his contract.

When he took over in 2011, Garrett oversaw a transition from an older team, especially on the offensive line, to a younger team. He was given time by Jones to learn on the job, and the owner was rewarded with an NFC East title in Tony Romo’s last full season as a starter. And the argument can be made that that team was robbed of a chance to compete for the NFC Championship Game by a Dez Bryant catch overturned by replay.

But Garrett is now in his eighth full season. Only two players remain from when Garrett took over for Wade Phillips midway through the 2010 season (Sean Lee, L.P. Ladouceur), so the bulk of the roster moves have had his blessing.

How much time does a coach get to put together a consistently contending team, especially when the owner is the general manager and believes he has put together a team that should contend?

Only Jones knows the answer. Garrett, the rest of the coaches and some players have eight weeks to prove something to Jones.

“Certainly this time of year, I think what you look for is results,” Jones said. “You’re going to have action no matter what at every level of our team and how the enthusiasm, how people react under pressure, how individuals react in adverse conditions, all of those things are important to assess. I look back on my personal activity and look at how I’ve acted in adverse situations and I look at how I acted in real, real positive situations. I think I do better at adverse situations than I do in a positive situation. Both of those will tear your ass up.”

The quarterback

What they’re saying: Jones is all-in on Prescott. He has consistently said Prescott, 25, is the quarterback of the future for this team.

“He’s young and he’s going to get extended,” Jones said on KRLD-FM 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday.

Jones often thinks back to Prescott’s rookie season, when the quarterback led the Cowboys on an 11-game winning streak and finished with an NFC-best 13-3 record. As a fourth-round pick, Prescott protected the ball, was accurate and made crucial plays at crucial moments.

In the Cowboys’ past two losses, to the Washington Redskins and Tennessee Titans, three of Prescott’s four turnovers were turned into touchdowns either immediately or eventually.

“His arrow is up,” Jones said. “His arrow is up physically. It’s up mentally. Having seen him and know his consciousness to protect the ball is one of his virtues and I think I’m going to go with that.”

The reality: There is no need to rush an extension for Prescott.

Through the first eight games of this season, Prescott has not played well enough to garner a huge extension from the Cowboys. Dating to the midway point of last season, Prescott has a 7-9 record and more turnovers (21) than touchdowns (18). He has 16 touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns to go with 14 interceptions and seven lost fumbles.

The Cowboys are not in position to change quarterbacks no matter how much Prescott struggles. Cooper Rush has not played a meaningful snap since making the Cowboys last year as an undrafted free agent. Mike White, a fifth-round pick, has been inactive for every game.

While the Cowboys would like to get deals done with their own free agents sooner rather than later, they can wait on Prescott. He is set to play out the final year of his rookie contract next year and make roughly $2 million.

If Prescott finds the 2016 in the final eight games this season and has a full season of success in 2019, the Cowboys can then think about a long-term deal or use the franchise tag on a franchise quarterback.