Emmitt Smith still bleeds Cowboys silver and blue, but the NFL's all-time leading rusher is not sure his former team is mentally tough enough to go to MetLife Stadium on Sunday to beat the New York Giants in a game to decide the NFC East champion.
"Talent-wise, I think they have it," Smith said in an ESPN interview. "Leadership-wise, they have some good leaders on the ballclub. Do they have enough? Probably not. Can they go up to New York and be mentally tough in this situation? I think Jason (Garrett) has done a very good job of preparing the guys to be physically and hopefully mentally tough, but I think mental toughness is the thing needed in games like this.
"Mental toughness for four quarters or five quarters, if you have to go that far. But that's something our Cowboys have not been able to do in close games. And that's where mental toughness comes into play.
"Unfortunately for us we've lost four games this year in the fourth quarter -- four points or less. And so that in itself is something we definitely need to get corrected in the short period of time to make that happen up in New York."
The Cowboys blew fourth-quarter leads in losses to the Jets (27-24), Lions (34-30), Patriots (20-16) and Giants (37-34).
The Cowboys held a 12-point lead with 5:41 to play in the first meeting with New York but surrendered 15 points and lost when a game-tying field goal attempt was blocked by Giants' defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. They also lost at Arizona in overtime after a potential game-winning field goal attempt from 49 yards fell short.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones disagreed with Smith's assessment.
"I just question and obviously don't agree with him," Jones said Thursday on "The Football Show" on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. "I think our team does have the mental toughness. I think we'll show that when we go up to New York. I think we're going to have success.
"At the same time, this year, I think people have questioned because we've given up some leads late or we wouldn't be in this situation. We'd already be probably clinched and getting ready for the playoffs, but I feel good about our team. I feel good about our mental state."
The Cowboys, however, are hoping Smith questioning their mental toughness is as accurate as the 7-9 prediction he made in 2009. Those Cowboys finished 11-5 and won a wild-card playoff game against Philadelphia ... with Smith frantically waving a towel to rally the crowd.
Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com contributed to this report.