IRVING, Texas -- It has been so long since the Cowboys were of Super Bowl quality, it's a scramble to grab a piece of credit for the last time it happened.
Jerry Jones told NBC's "Sunday Night Football" last week that he built it.
Jimmy Johnson laughed and said, yeah right.
Jones said he was the GM then, just like now.
Troy Aikman said it was mostly Jimmy.
It's a way more interesting discussion in Dallas right now than wondering about what the Cowboys are going to do when they match their 3-5 record against the Philadelphia Eagles and their 3-5 record on Sunday.
It's a matchup of two teams that are going nowhere fast, and it will leave one of them going nowhere faster.
And maybe looking for a coach.
Jason Garrett, who was around for the days when the Cowboys were Super Bowl quality, is only 16-16 in his first 32 games as their head coach.
His teams have committed 51 turnovers in those 32 games. This year, they are second in the NFL with 19 turnovers. They are the third-most penalized team in the league. They're averaging 18.8 points. They have lost nine of their last 13.
No wonder everybody wants credit for something that happened nearly 20 years ago.
"There's a lot of attention on the NFL, a lot of attention on the Dallas Cowboys, and that's what makes this thing great," said Garrett, who woke up to news on game day last Sunday in Atlanta that Sean Payton of the Saints just might be a free agent and ripe for the picking as the new coach of the Cowboys.
"When things go well, usually the attention is positive, and when they don't go well, it can be negative, whether it's directed at individual people and certainly at our football team," Garrett said.
That is the way most weeks go at Valley Ranch.
Jerry Jones talks up the personnel. Garrett and the team have to back it up.
And as they approach the game against the Eagles on Sunday in Philadelphia, the Cowboys -- who sank $50.1 million in free agent cornerback Brandon Carr, another $30 million in two guards and traded up to draft the best defensive player in the draft -- haven't backed up much of their owner/general manager/president's talk.
"We need to win a game," Jones said Tuesday on one of his two weekly radio shows. "I looked for an uptick when Jason took over. I look for that now."
Garrett actually doesn't have to worry too much about his job. He would have to lose six of eight or seven of eight, and lose the confidence of Jones and the fans on top of that, to be in serious jeopardy. With a softer schedule over the final eight weeks -- and a three-game homestand covering Thanksgiving starting after the Philadelphia game -- the Cowboys shouldn't sink that far. They are going to stay in playoff contention into December again.
"Do we think we're close? Absolutely," Garrett said. "But that's the nature of this league. There are a lot of teams that are close. You've got to finish the job. You got to win the game."
The Cowboys just aren't doing much to win the game. The defense has forced only eight turnovers. The special teams has allowed a blocked punt return for a touchdown (by Seattle) and a kickoff return for a touchdown (Baltimore).
Last week, Atlanta converted three third downs in a late drive that left the Cowboys with only 17 seconds to go 80 yards to win the game.
"Yeah, you're dug in a hole," defensive end Jason Hatcher said. "Now, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to get out of it? Or are you going to tuck your tail and run like a punk? Right now, I'm checking myself. I'm not giving up."
Problems are everywhere. But the main problem, a lack of offense, can be traced right to Garrett.
He and quarterback Tony Romo are in their fifth year together in Dallas, going back to when Garrett came in as offensive coordinator following the infamous Romo "hold" playoff game in Seattle.
Romo has had a quarterback rating over 90 every year he's been the full-time quarterback. But not this year. He's thrown 13 interceptions, putting him on a pace for the most in his career.
He isn't helped as he tries to work with a pair of inconsistent receivers -- Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree -- and another, Miles Austin, who must watch out constantly for another hamstring blowout. Not to mention a running game gone absentee without DeMarco Murray, who's missed two games with a sprained foot and started the week by sitting out practice.
But it hasn't made Jones lose faith in his quarterback. Last week, the Cowboys approached Romo, heading into a free-agent year next season, about an extension, but Romo decided he wanted to wait to talk about it until after the season.
Jones is all in on Romo. He has spent years trying to make the offense "Romo friendly," trading for a past-his-prime Roy Williams in 2008, agreeing reluctantly in 2009 to release the divisive Terrell Owens, bringing Garrett as an assistant in even before he had hired a head coach, and this year, trying to beef up the middle of the offensive line for the sake of keeping Romo on his feet.
For all his trouble, Jones has gotten a 3-5 record. And potentially, another year ticks by on the career not only of Romo, but also of 100-sack linebacker DeMarcus Ware, all-time franchise receptions leader Jason Witten and nose tackle Jay Ratliff.
"We have talent," Jones said. "We don't have time to have a bad time, not in their careers."
So last week's post-game scene in Atlanta -- with Jones giving the closed locker room door a hard thump to let him in, because he had been inadvertently locked out during the "cooling-off period" following the Cowboys' 19-13 loss -- looks like a symbol of the Cowboys' season.
Jones is knocking. The door to the playoffs won't open.