A look inside the Cowboys’ warning flags leading up to Michael Bennett’s locker room outburst – The Dallas Morning News

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A look inside the Cowboys’ warning flags leading up to Michael Bennett’s locker room outburst – The Dallas Morning News

An inordinate amount of time has been spent trying to analyze and discern the words of Jerry Jones as it applies to Jason Garrett’s future.

We take a break from this exhausting endeavor to focus on a few comments by the players.

While the Cowboys owner speaks to the status of the head coach, Michael Bennett, Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott speak to the team’s frame of mind and provide a glimpse into why it finds itself in this 6-6 quandary.

Let’s go back a few weeks. In the days after a loss to Minnesota dropped Dallas to 5-4, Elliott and others acknowledged that they needed to play better. But Elliott took it one step further, saying the Cowboys didn’t want to peak too early.

Prescott came back the next day and not only echoed that statement but challenged the idea that Dallas wasn’t playing good football.

“Who says we’re not?” Prescott responded. “You go back and look at it, we’re playing better, we just haven’t won those games. We’re continuing to get better.

“I second Zeke on that. You don’t want to peak too early. This is a confident group that knows we’re going to peak at the right time. We’ve got all the faith and trust that we’re going to get there and handle the things that we need to handle.”

The response raised a warning flag. Prescott is normally on target with his actions and comments. But this one seemed tone-deaf, detached from the reality of what was taking place on the field.

Confidence is essential. But this came across as arrogance born of entitlement rather than accomplishment. It smacked of drawing strength from what you should do later in the season than from what you had actually done to that stage.

Now, fast forward to the moments after the loss to Buffalo on Thanksgiving. Bennett could be heard yelling after everyone was assembled in the locker room.

Not all of what was said has come out. But Bennett did say this to reporters after the 26-15 loss:

“The enemy against greatness is the unwillingness to change,’’ he said. “We’ve got the ability to change some of the things that we’ve been doing to demand more from ourselves and become the people we want to be.

“The champions are the people that get remembered. They don’t remember who got the biggest contract. A whole bunch of great players got great contracts, but they don’t get remembered as champions. Champions are the ones who get the gold plates and the jackets, and they understand what it takes to win.”

Contrast those comments with what Elliott and Prescott said just two weeks earlier.

Bennett hasn’t been part of this team long. It’s difficult to imagine his words will resonate emotionally with his peers in any meaningful fashion. It’s unlikely to have much of an impact.

That doesn’t mean he’s wrong. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t spark some self-examination.

Sometimes, people who have been on the outside see things more clearly than those who have been in the midst of battle.

“I don’t want to get into too much detail,” Garrett said of who spoke and what was said Thursday evening. “Michael is someone we have a great amount of respect for. He’s done some really good things for our team. He’s a well-respected player and guy on our football team.”

In recent weeks the Cowboys have referred to the way they finished last season, rebounding from a 3-5 start to win the division. The implication is they can turn it on late again.

But this isn’t last season. There will be no trade for a player the caliber of Amari Cooper to transform the offense.

The one addition has been Bennett. He’s helped, but this defense limps along without forcing a turnover in its last four games.

The difference in the second half of last season and this one has been the sense of urgency. The Cowboys were chasing first place in the NFC East in 2018. The first few weeks of that chase were about survival.

This season, Dallas maintains a spot atop the division despite its deteriorating performance. Regardless of what Philadelphia does Sunday, the Cowboys will continue to lead the division based on their Oct. 20 win over the Eagles. The dynamics and motivation are different.

Garrett disagrees with this premise.

“I guess the short answer is no,” he said. “We have a tremendous amount of urgency every day. Our sense of urgency is high to play our best football.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten it done.”

Time is running out to get it done.

And not just for Garrett.

Catch David Moore and Robert Wilonsky as they co-host Intentional Grounding on The Ticket (KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM) every Wednesday night from 7-8 p.m. through the Super Bowl.

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