Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones sends clear message to players: ‘We got to win, this is the Dallas Cowboys’

FRISCO, Texas —  The scene at the Dallas Cowboys locker room cleanout day on Monday was similar to Sunday’s postgame at AT&T Stadium: quiet and solemn.

Most of the players that were present were walking quickly in and out, speed-walking away from the disappointment that comes with the second-seeded Cowboys losing in the opening round of the NFL playoffs, 48-32, against the seventh-seeded Green Bay Packers, which snapped a 16-game home winning streak at AT&T Stadium and ended their 2023 season. 

“It hasn’t been 24 hours yet, and I’m still in shock,” Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis said Monday when asked to describe the feeling surrounding the game a day later. “More shock than anything.” 

Dallas has at least 12 wins for three seasons in a row under head coach Mike McCarthy after going 12-5 every year since 2021. This stretch marks the second time in franchise history for that to occur, joining the Cowboys’ 1990s dynasty run from 1992-1995 in which they won three Super Bowls in four seasons. McCarthy is the first Cowboys head coach to accomplish this feat. 

However, McCarthy’s Cowboys also became the first team to win 12 games in three straight seasons and fail to make the conference championship in any of them.That left everyone at The Star, the team’s headquarters, with unresolved feelings of grief and anger.  

“It’s always frustrating,” Lewis said of the team’s regular season success not translating to the postseason. “The end goal for any team is go to the Super Bowl. So for most teams like us, we always want to go to the Super Bowl. It’s disappointing.” 

“It’s a messed up feeling,” Cowboys wide receiver and returner KaVontae Turpin said Monday. “Everybody around here is frustrated because we weren’t supposed to lose, but that’s just the National Football League. Green Bay came in hot and spicy and they just stayed with it. We couldn’t stop them.” 

McCarthy addressed the 2023 iteration of the Cowboys for the final time Monday morning, sharing a message of compassion and regret. 

“He felt for us,” Lewis said relaying McCarthy’s message to the team today. “He wanted it really bad for us given the caliber of guys we are all together. We wanted it.”

Team owner and general manager Jerry Jones also addressed the squad, airing out his annoyance and distress regarding the Cowboys early postseason exit. 

“We got to win,” Lewis said when relaying Jones’ message in a meeting with the players on Monday. “This is the Dallas Cowboys, we had everything to win. We can’t let this feeling keep going on. I just feel like he (Jones) wants to win right now. The urgency is now. It was always that, and we always had that on our shoulders, but he made that clear. That was his point.”

Turpin said Jones, 81-years-old, emphasized the ticking clock of Father Time.

“Jerry talked about how he doesn’t have too many years left in this business,” Turpin said. “He just wants it bad. He wants a ring bad.”

Lewis, a Cowboys third round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, is one of 16 of Dallas’ pending unrestricted free agents, and potentially seeing his career his the team that drafted him end this is painful for the 28-year-old defensive back. 

“I just wanted to help the team win,” Lewis said. “We’ve been here together, all of us, for three years now, and I just wanted to finish it the right way. It hurt that we didn’t get the chance to do that. It’s life. It hurts that we lost like that. I might not be a part of this next year, so it kind of hurts.”

With their head coach’s job status up in the air, both Lewis and Turpin went to bat for him. McCarthy’s career record in four seasons as the Cowboys’ head coach is 42-25 (62.7% win percentage), giving him the highest career win percentage of any coach in team history. That’s something Lewis pointed to in comparison to the up and down tenure of Jason Garrett in which the team went 86-67 in 10 seasons (55.9% win percentage). McCarthy’s postseason record is 1-3 with the sole win coming in last year’s wild card round against 45-year-old Tom Brady and the NFC South champion Buccaneers in Tampa. That’s why he is currently on the hot seat. 

“This is one of the hardest jobs in America, quarterback and the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys,” Lewis said when asked about McCarthy’s tenure as the team’s head coach. “I feel like he’s done a tremendous job all things in consideration. It’s hard, all things considered. A lot of media, a lot of people against you, all the outside noise and we just made sure that we stuck our arms around each other and stayed together. I think we did a really good job. He helped me a lot with my career, and I feel like I learned a lot with him. … Look what he did in comparison to what happened when he wasn’t here,” Lewis said. “We were struggling to be over .500. He had three straight 12-win seasons. So yeah, I hope so (McCarthy returns).”

Turpin’s gratitude to McCarthy is immeasurable given he and Jones paved the way for him to have an NFL career. He is tied for the most combined kickoff and punt return touchdowns in TCU history (six), but he was let go from the Horned Frogs football program after domestic violence charges that were eventually pled down to disorderly conduct. In October of 2021, he was arrested for misdemeanor assault against the same girlfriend, and Turpin officially issued a guilty plea for the charge of assault causing bodily injury. 

He completed two years of deferred adjudication probation and completed a 27-week Partner Abuse Intervention Program where the charges were filed in Tarrant County. The Cowboys took a chance on Turpin after he earned USFL MVP accolades as a wide receiver and kick returner. He was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2022 thanks to averaging 24.2 yards per kickoff return on 24 returns while ranking fifth in the entire league with 10.4 yards per punt return on 29 punts returns. Turpin is the only Cowboys player all-time to be named to the Pro Bowl as a designated returner. 

“Mike McCarthy, that’s my guy man,” Turpin said. “He gave me an opportunity, especially coming this year on the offensive end,”  Turpin said Monday. I just got mad respect for Mike man. Whatever he do, he got my blessing.”

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