ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cowboys’ first home loss this season dropped the team to 3-5 this season and head coach Jason Garrett to 70-58 (.546) in his nine seasons at Dallas’ helm.
Would owner Jerry Jones consider firing Garrett — who’s made just three playoff games since 2010 and won one — before season’s end?
“No,” Jones told reporters after the Cowboys’ 28-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Monday night.
“I didn’t say that,” Jones said. “I just gave a big old ‘no.'”
Coming off a 15-day bye, the Cowboys looked energized early with two defensive takeaways and an Amari Cooper touchdown in the first quarter.
Then Dallas went on to convert just five of 11 third downs and one of four red-zone opportunities.
“It looked like we were tired,” Jones said of his team that last played a game Oct. 21. “Throughout the game, actually tired. I don’t know if that’s the case at all, physically. But that’s what it looked like.
“This is quite a, if you will, it’s a step back for us.”
And yet, Jones insisted that step back was collective. He didn’t single out coaches or players and anticipates no midseason firings beyond offensive line coach Paul Alexander, whom Dallas parted ways with last week.
MNF SETBACK: Cowboys stumped in loss to Titans
CELEBRATING ON THE STAR: Titans’ Byard channels T.O. after interception
BROUGHT TO TEARS: Witten gets emotional during pregame tribute
Sure, quarterback Dak Prescott threw one end-zone interception and lost another fumble, his 10th game the last two seasons with multiple turnovers. Prescott is now tied for the worst mark in the league during that time. The quarterback himself said he needs to “quit trying to take over the game and do too much at that point.”
But “tonight’s game did not — did not, I emphasize — impact my future look at Dak Prescott,” Jones said. He said he’s seen Prescott play turnover-free ball, including a rookie season when the fourth-rounder replaced Tony Romo to throw 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions en route to an NFC-best 13-3 record for Dallas.
That year, Dallas was 7-1 at midseason.
This year, the Cowboys haven’t won four.
“After eight games, when you’ve won three, that’s cause for concern,” Jones said. “And so you’ve got to recognize reality.
“We want to play better than we played tonight, so I certainly think each individual and coach and front office is going to have to do better, including me.”
Again, Jones declined to discuss the job security of Garrett, who opened his press conference after the loss by saying he “thought we did some good things in this game, really in all three phases of our team” though it “was certainly not enough.”
The even-keeled response, even if typical of Garrett, stood in contrast to what Jones called a “surprise” and a “setback.”
The Cowboys needed more energy Monday on defense, when they allowed the Titans to convert on 11-of-14 third downs and 4-of-5 trips to the red zone. They needed to extend drives longer, using Ezekiel Elliott and the run game to bleed the clock as they did in 2016. Instead, the Titans maintained possession for 34:26 to Dallas’ 25:34.
The offense didn’t find a magical fix in its first game since the addition of Amari Cooper. Cooper, whom Dallas traded its first-round pick for, led Cowboys receivers with 58 receiving yards on five catches and one of Dallas’ two scores. (Allen Hurns scored the second.)
Jones, Garrett and teammates all lauded Cooper’s energy and skills, Jones touting Cooper as a “go-to guy that really opened things up,” at times, with the juice Dallas’ offense so needs.
Jones backed Cooper, one could say.
But did he also back Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, whose offense failed to score 20 points for the fifth time this season?
“I’m not in the business of backing anybody,” Jones said. “They’re my head coach and they’re my coordinator. So I just don’t not back them publicly.
“I don’t want go down the list. I’m not anticipating any more coaching changes.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
If you love talking football, we have the perfect spot for you. Join our new Facebook Group, The Ruling Off the Field, to engage in friendly debate and conversation with fellow football fans and our NFL insiders.