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Jason Garrett's approach to life also helping Cowboys win

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Packers' D has hands tied with high-powered Cowboys' offense (1:16)

Ron Jaworski looks ahead to the challenge the Packers' defense will have going up against the Cowboys' offense. (1:16)

FRISCO, Texas -- No matter what outrageous thing owner Jerry Jones says, it has no effect on his Dallas Cowboys.

Head coach Jason Garrett won't let it.

Whether the Cowboys enjoy a blowout win or endure a close loss, the team's approach never changes. Whether the Cowboys' opponent has a good record or a poor one, Garrett's approach never changes.

Garrett is all about living in this moment -- not 10 minutes ago or 10 minutes from now. It's a mantra he preaches daily to his players and assistants.

This approach has helped make the Cowboys, who play the Green Bay Packers in a divisional-round playoff game Sunday at AT&T Stadium, a better team. Talent matters, but the teams that consistently maintain their focus the best over the course of a 16-game season win more than those that don't.

The Cowboys have withstood the adversity that accompanies losing Tony Romo, their starting quarterback, in the third preseason game -- and the never-ending debate over whether he'd get his job back. They've dealt with injuries to key players such as left tackle Tyron Smith, cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick, and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.

They've handled the scrutiny regarding rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, whether it was his trip to a marijuana dispensary during a preseason trip to Seattle or the NFL's refusing to close an investigation into domestic violence allegations from last year.

Garrett's approach is among the reasons the Cowboys are 6-2 on the road this season. In 2014, they were 8-0 in the regular season as visitors. Teams focused on the next play don't succumb to the emotions of playing on the road.

Garrett's approach isn't about just winning football games. It's about winning in life.

"The only way to be your best is to focus on the task at hand," Garrett said. "If you're thinking [about] what happened on the previous play or what may or may not happen on the next play or the last game or the next game, by definition you're not going to be your best at that particular moment.

"It's a daily endeavor for everybody in life to live that way. We try to instill that in our football team. We really emphasize that and some guys get to the point where they do that very naturally."

You talk to the players and they'll tell you the consistency of Garrett's message never changes. That gives the Cowboys confidence.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will tell you about the many creative ways Garrett illustrates the importance of consistency and discipline, much like a pastor using different sermons and scriptures to give his congregation the same message each week.

When the Cowboys rally from a 14-0 deficit to beat the San Francisco 49ers on the road in October, or rally from 10 down at home to beat the Philadelphia Eagles later in the month, the message is reinforced. When Elliott is labeled a bust by some after two games, then reels off four straight games of more than 130 yards, Garrett's message gains credence.

When Prescott rebounds from the first two-interception game of his career against the New York Giants in December by completing 32 of 36 passes for 279 yards in a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there's tangible evidence Garrett's approach works.

"Our game sets up that way," Garrett said. "It's play by play. You focus on this particular play and you let the last one go. You score a touchdown, you gave up a sack, you threw an interception, you threw a touchdown. Whatever those things are, you're done with that one. You learn from it and you move on.

"There are probably religions since the beginning of time that have been trying to instill that in people who follow that particular religion, and there are a lot of different stories and parables that try to get people to think that particular way. It's a challenge in life, but it's the only way to live."

After going 5-3 as the Cowboys' interim head coach in 2010, Garrett went 8-8 in each of his first three seasons. Folks criticized his approach and his focus on process more than results because they couldn't see the big picture.

He has spent as much time changing the team's mindset and culture as much as its roster. Each requires daily maintenance.

"It might be a simple philosophy, but it's a very difficult thing to do," Garrett said of living in the moment. "Oftentimes, most people have anxieties about the future or regrets about the past.

"They have things in their lives they're constantly focusing on instead of the things they love and the people they love to do them with, it's something we try to emphasize to our guys."

Two seasons ago, the Cowboys went 12-4, secured the NFC East and won only their second playoff game since 1996. Last year, they went 4-12 as Romo missed all or parts of 14 games.

This year, Dallas tied the franchise record with 13 wins, won the NFC East and captured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

When Jones tabbed Garrett to lead the Cowboys, it was the first time he'd ever been a head coach at any level.

"I felt that Jason Garrett as a coach with four wins, was progressively getting better at winning a significant amount of ballgames," Jones said. "The last thing I wanted to do was invest the years that we have had in Jason and have that go someplace else and have another franchise take advantage of it.

"We all know how capable he is and how smart he is. We all know how driven he is and what football means to him and the quality of his character."

Jones' patience is being rewarded. Only seven NFL coaches have a longer tenure with one team, and six have earned Super Bowl rings.

The Cincinnati Bengals' Marvin Lewis, hired in 2003, is the only current coach with a longer tenure than Garrett's without a Super Bowl ring. The Carolina Panthers' Ron Rivera, hired in 2011 just after Garrett's interim tag was removed, took his team to the Super Bowl last season.

Perhaps this is Garrett's year.

"I want to take advantage of how he's evolving. We've got the benefit of a guy in essence had his nose rubbed in it," Jones said. "He's had some tough days and had some successes.

"There's another great coach who coached here 29 years that evolved in becoming arguably the greatest coach ever. I'm not saying that [Garrett's] Tom Landry; I'm saying Coach Landry had to evolve."

Landry needed 11 years to win his first title.

Don't worry about that putting pressure on Garrett. We all know he's too busy making sure he's the best version himself today to worry about how he measures up to Landry.