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Cowboys wait out coach's process

IRVING, Texas -- It is difficult to remain patient in the NFL.

Chan Gailey got one more year with the Buffalo Bills (three) than he did with the Dallas Cowboys (two). Pat Shurmur wasn't so lucky with only two with the Cleveland Browns, and Romeo Crennel got one full season with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Having tenures of 14 (Andy Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles), nine (Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears) and six (Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals; Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers) seasons are not the norm, especially without a Super Bowl victory.

Jason Garrett has a 21-19 record in two-plus seasons since taking over the Cowboys, with a 16-16 mark in his two full seasons.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones is rightfully being patient, but that all changes in 2013.

It doesn't make it a Super Bowl-or-bust season, but Garrett knows
8-8 is not good enough. And after seeing seven coaches fired Monday, he very well could be without a job next January if he misses the playoffs in 2013.

"I think every coach will stand here and tell you they want to see more progress," Garrett said. "You want to play better, you want to deal with a winning game like [Sunday at Washington]. You know, we've done a really good job over the last couple of years of putting ourselves in a position to win the NFC East in Week 17 and haven't gotten it done in either case. That's disappointing to all of us.

Garrett continued: "There is a tremendous investment that everyone makes in the Dallas football Cowboys. The coaches, the players, the fans, the people who follow our team. It was a disappointing evening for everybody. But I do think we're establishing an identity of how we play football around here. There is a relentless spirit we play with. There is a style where we play for 60 minutes, never having a feeling that we're ever out of the ballgame. And that's something you continue to grow. … I do believe we're establishing an identity of how we play, and that's an important thing when you put a program together."

Over the past three years the Cowboys have added pieces such as Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter, DeMarco Murray, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr to a veteran core that includes Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Gerald Sensabaugh.

They need more pieces to make that next step, but it's difficult to see the good that has been done after another crushing season-ending loss in a de facto NFC East title game.

"I wasn't expecting this type of ending," Carr said Monday outside the team's training room. "I had a good feeling going into the game that we would be playing and I would be talking to you about facing Seattle this week. But unfortunately it didn't go our way. It's time to move on and everybody can rest their bodies and kind of get away from the game for a while and get their minds refreshed, and 2013 has to be a good year for the Cowboys. Expectation level is set high, next year is going to be just as high, because we have a lot of talent and a lot of potential to do good things and great things but we have to do it consistently."

Garrett had about 30 minutes of sleep after the team's early-morning return Monday. He flipped on HBO and saw the documentary "Battle for Tobacco Road: Duke vs. Carolina," and made a correlation between the Cowboys and those early Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski teams that were good but could not break through and win it all.

"We have to understand there's history and precedent in these kinds situations as you're trying to put a program together," Garrett said. "You're going to get knocked back. You're not always going to achieve it in Year 1 or Year 2, but you keep doing things the right way and you will break through."

How Garrett is attempting to structure this program is the correct way to become successful. Surround yourself with the "right kind of guys," as he likes to say, who love football, add foundation pieces through the draft and supplement with free-agent picks, big and small, and you will win.

It takes time, but it could be worth the wait.

Garrett has one more year, or he will suffer the same fate as the seven coaches who were fired Monday.