IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys left Texas Stadium a few nights ago, they were in shambles.
Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn were whining about not getting enough passes. Cornerback Terence Newman was telling his teammates to shut up. Bill Parcells was grouchy and Jerry Jones was at a 17-year boiling point.
By Wednesday, the message changed drastically enough to make political spin doctors get whiplash.
Parcells was pushing the theory that all is fine because the Cowboys already are in the playoffs, which means they have a chance to win the Super Bowl.
Plus, he optimistically noted, the NFC is as wide open as it's ever been.
"No one knows what's going to happen here," Parcells said, offering to take a blind poll and predicting that all five teams that are in would get votes -- and that as soon as the sixth team is decided, "somebody would vote for them."
"The team that plays the best from here on out has the best chance. That's the way I look at it," Parcells added.
And he was only getting warmed up.
"What is the objective of the season? Tell me what the objective is," Parcells said later.
Upon hearing the answer he wanted (win the Super Bowl, of course), he continued: "Now, are we going to have the opportunity to do that? How about 20 of the other teams that are sitting home. Are they going to have that opportunity? How about the other 20?"
Parcells essentially admitted he was adopting a new approach with this statement: "If I don't have hope, then who has it?"
The Cowboys (9-6) were hailed as a possible Super Bowl front-runner in the weak NFC when they won five of Tony Romo's first six starts, including four in a row.
"We're almost coming in with the approach that this is a new season. We're going to forget everything that happened in the past and go forward and hopefully make a little five-game run here."
-- Tony Romo
Then, playing for second place in the conference, they lost 42-17 at home against New Orleans. They beat Atlanta next but allowed 28 points, the most the Falcons had scored in seven games. Then they were trounced 23-7 by Philadelphia in a game that could've locked up the division title and kept alive their chances for grabbing the No. 2 seed.
The wasted opportunity was bad enough, but the lousy way they played on both sides of the ball against the Eagles is what triggered all the fallout and finger-pointing.
When players arrived in the locker room Wednesday morning, before Parcells spoke, the memo about his attitude adjustment apparently hadn't been received.
Newman was still telling everyone to let their actions speak louder than their words and linebacker Bradie James echoed it. Owens was a rare Wednesday no-show and Glenn was absent, as usual.
Then there was Romo, who showed Pro Bowl-caliber elusiveness to stay on message -- the likely result of what Parcells described as a "personal conversation" between coach and quarterback earlier in the day.
"We're almost coming in with the approach that this is a new season," Romo said. "We're going to forget everything that happened in the past and go forward and hopefully make a little five-game run here."
Romo even sounded like Parcells when he blamed the media for the impression the Cowboys are reeling.
"Every time we lose, it's 'We're not good enough.' Everyone is throwing in the towel," Romo said. "But this team has got a lot of resiliency. We've come back before. I have a feeling we're going to do it again."
Parcells dismissed all the negatives that poured out following the Eagles game as "postgame frustration." In fact, just minutes into Wednesday's session he tried eliminating questions about the Philadelphia fiasco.
"I'm tired of talking about last week already," Parcells said. "I'm trying to get on to more important things if I can."
Soon after, Parcells was told that Newman stood by his postgame comments two hours earlier. That prompted a long pause, followed by, "What do you want me to say?"
While Parcells acknowledged his team isn't roaring into the playoffs, but he figures that with one game left -- at home Sunday against Detroit, which can likely secure the No. 1 overall pick by losing -- there is still time to work out the kinks. And there is a chance the Cowboys could still win the division; they have to beat the Lions and have Atlanta win at Philadelphia.
"It's not that I'm not alarmed," Parcells said. "I'm concerned, but I'm not going to come out here with the final game of the season going into a tournament, a chance to play in the championship, and looking like 100 miles of bad road. I'm not going to do that. I just know we can play better. And if we do, we'll be a factor. If we don't, we won't."
Newman's message was that everyone needs to be accountable.
"People need to just start playing and stop talking so much," he said. "It's a show-me league and talking is not going to do anything."
Newman declined to say who he was talking about, but tight end Jason Witten guessed his initials are "T.O."
"I think that Terrell is a very outgoing person and he always says those things," Witten said. "Me personally, that doesn't bother me. But whenever you lose it's easy to get under people's skin and I think that's what happened."