It was a 45-7 drubbing by the hands of the Green Bay Packers on national television that ultimately cost Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips his job (although the 1-6 record before that fateful Sunday night wasn't a good start). With Phillips gone, in stepped then-offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, a veteran Cowboys assistant coach who many thought was tagged as the heir apparent by owner Jerry Jones.
Assigned with the task of steering an embarrassment of a season into the realm of respectability, Garrett has rallied his football team and it shows on the field. Last week, Dallas went into Indianapolis and forced four Peyton Manning interceptions on their way to a 38-35 overtime victory.
Dallas has won three of Garrett's first four games as head coach, something he attributes to hard work in the classroom.
"I think the most important thing for any football team is just to come to work today and work hard in their preparation both in the meeting room and on the practice field," Garrett said. "Hopefully that preparation carries to the game."
At 4-8, the Cowboys are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, and yet they appear to be playing their best football of the season. Garrett has tried since his promotion to instill a sense of pride in Dallas, and his players seem to have bought into the message. As opposed to the deflated team the world watched in Green Bay in early November, these Cowboys are playing hard and for a purpose.
"We're just very fortunate to play and coach in the National Football League," Garrett said. "What we try to do is put our best foot forward every day to be the best players and coaches we can be and the best team we can be. It's a great opportunity for us to come to work and try to do that."
Their next opportunity will come Sunday night against the Eagles. Having been with Dallas since 2007, Garrett has faced the Eagles a number of times and knows exactly what kind of game to expect.
"Well we have great respect for the Eagles," Garrett said. "Anybody who's ever gone against them understands the challenges that they present. We've been fortunate to compete against them a lot through the years, and they're really a well-coached football team. They play the right way, they play hard, and they have a lot of good football players.
"We'll have challenges every time we break the huddle and take a snap."
Andy Reid's first game against the Dallas Cowboys as head coach in Philadelphia was also his first Eagles win, a thrilling 13-10 victory at Veterans Stadium in 1999. Jason Garrett's first matchup in this storied rivalry comes Sunday night in Arlington.
-- Posted by Josh Goldman, 9:00 p.m., December 11