IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones is ever the optimist, but the Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager knows things have to change in the final three regular-season games if his team is to make the playoffs.
"We need to play better," Jones said during a break in NFL meetings at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas. "We've won games, but I don't know that any player or any coach in our organization was satisfied with how we were playing over the last couple of weeks before we had our loss at Arizona. We did some good things, but we just need to play better. I feel that we can play better than we played the other night. I don't know that (Tony) Romo can, but that's the way it goes.
"We have players really do well, and then sometimes as a group we don't. But my bottom line is we can play better. We have the ability to play better. Our players know that, and right now is when we need to be playing good. We can get on a good run here, play well against Tampa, come back here and play hard against Philadelphia and do well and it's a new day. ... That would qualify us, if we play well the next three games, to be where we want to be."
The Cowboys would clinch a playoff spot and their third NFC East title in five years by beating the Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants in their final three games. A loss to Tampa Bay or Philadelphia would not necessarily eliminate them from contention, but it could lead to them needing other teams, like Atlanta and Detroit, to lose to make the postseason.
With back-to-back losses, the Cowboys have dredged up memories of poor Decembers past. In 2009, however, the Cowboys dropped their first two games in December and won their final three to win the division. They went on to beat Philadelphia in the wild-card round before losing at Minnesota a week later.
Jones points to the 1995 season as an example of how things can turn around. Barry Switzer's ill-advised fourth-down calls led to a 20-17 loss at Philadelphia.
"I remember riding to New York after that game and shaking my head, 'Are we really that limited?' And we won the Super Bowl," Jones said. "I've been part of teams that certainly had times when it didn't fit right for them or didn't make the right decisions in hindsight and come on and been outstanding teams."
That Jason Garrett's job status has come in question has Jones perplexed. Garrett is only 21 games into his tenure and has a 12-9 record. Jones has expressed regret over firing Chan Gailey after two years and has often said the idea of recycled coaches is not very appealing because he is not sure the coaches have the same intensity as they had in their first jobs.
"It is inappropriate for me to even talk about," Jones said, "because we're just getting started. We're not even out of the gate. There's no issue about his job security, about him continuing to be the coach of the Dallas Cowboys."
And Jones does not believe Garrett needs to shed playcalling responsibilities after some clock management issues in the last two games.
"His biggest asset is his mental capability, as well as the fact that it's been oriented towards football," Jones said. "Jason's the kind of individual that you'd see out here building a computer company or out here being in medicine. ... He's handled it. He's had the osmosis of being involved in it all his life. When I look at the gambit of responsibility that Jason has and the things he needs to think about and cover, I see someone that's immensely qualified.
"I agree he doesn't have the experience that others have, but what I want our fans to be doing, what I want the Cowboys to do, is as things happen and he experiences them, then there's no doubt in my mind of where they're going in that computer. And I want to be around and I want our fans to be around to take the benefit from that."
Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.