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PHILADELPHIA — The world wanted Jerry Jones to talk. And Jerry, in a telling twist, didn’t want to.
So after two minutes and four seconds of talking, outside another defeated locker room, this time after a 17-9 Cowboys loss to the Eagles, he bolted left. Past cameras, flanked by his bodyguard, protected by a barrier in the bowels of Lincoln Financial Field. His voice had been hushed. He’d used the phrase “very disappointing” several times. He hadn’t planned on answering questions. He’d entertained one, then turned his back on a second.
But when he reached the end of the hallway and hung a right, he was ambushed. Reporters had followed. They stuck recorders in his face. He pressed on. One smartphone poked him in the cheek. He kept walking. Three journalists shouted questions over one another anyway.
They did because this, of all times, was not the time for Jerry Jones to go silent. This, of all postgames, was not the one to leave questions unanswered. Not in Dallas’ mind. Because this was the final straw, the afternoon on which Jones’ envisioned “fairy tale” had depended.
But when his dreams of a late-season turnaround evaporated without a touchdown, there was no sense in talking about hope. No way to put a positive spin on disappointment. So Jones kept walking. He stopped, for about 30 seconds, to placate his unwanted entourage. But there was “not a lot to say about it,” he said of the game. No real answer to a question about the “fairy tale.”
“We’re just a little numb that we didn’t come up here and beat ‘em,” Jones said.
And then he kept walking. Assured that his team “played hard.” Kept walking. And finally, 10 feet from his black SUV, he escaped.
Cowboys nation wanted explanations for the wreckage, and Jones realized he had none, so he gave up. Realized no words could turn 7-8 into a rosy story. Realized self-defense was futile.
“You can all assess for yourself,” he told the assembled media.
And his reticence was as useful an explanation as any words would have been.
Inside the locker room, most Cowboys players were similarly quiet. Questions weren’t ignored, but deflected with brevity or clichés.
Any explanations for the week-to-week inconsistency?
“No. Can’t pinpoint it,” Ezekiel Elliott said.
“I wish I could pinpoint it,” Robert Quinn told Yahoo Sports. “I don’t know. Just too up-and-down.”
And the emotions?
“Just pissed,” Elliott said. “Pissed we didn’t go out there and get it done.”
“Frustrated,” Dak Prescott said.
“I’ve sat here after every game, pretty much – win or lose – and said, ‘The good part about it is, we control our own destiny.’ That’s gone,” Prescott continued. “That’s out of our hands now. That’s unfortunate.”
All there’s left to do now is fly home and go back to work, for the 16th time this season, but for the first time with no guarantees that the work will matter. Unless they win and the Eagles lose next week, the season is over. But before the Cowboys could, as if their night wasn’t already bad enough, they were temporarily stranded at Lincoln Financial Field, their plane “inoperable,” according to an official on the scene, their buses motionless. Once the flight did take off, Prescott likely queued up Sunday’s film, digesting it. And as he predicted at the podium, he’d “probably be frustrated for three hours.”
Because at this point, there is not much else to do. Not much else to say. Multiple players were asked questions that weren’t really questions but rather statements, about how inconsistent or underwhelming they’ve been. “There’s not too many people who don’t believe you guys are the better football team in this building right now,” one reporter told Amari Cooper.
To which Cooper responded: “It’s not what people believe, it’s about what actually happens.”
Sunday felt like the culmination of that disconnect, that dichotomy between expectations and reality, between talent and performance. Jones, in the past, has sided with the former. He has backed the talent. Believed that it could turn around performance and change results. So he’d talk about it, sometimes for over 20 minutes, or at least for 10, as he did two weeks ago after a loss in Chicago.
On Sunday, he no longer had interest in doing that. No longer had interest in talking about hope, because there barely is any. No longer had interest in digging up satisfactory explanations for underperformance, because there are none.
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