Cowboys finish 4-12, worst season since Jones’ 1st as owner

ARLINGTON TX, JANUARY 3: Washington cornerback Will Blackmon (41), left, causes a 4th quarter fumble on Dallas running back Darren McFadden (20) , right, into the end zone and out of bounds resulting in a touchback during the Washington Redskins defeat of the Dallas Cowboys 34- 23 in Arlington TX, January 3, 2016. (Photo by John McDonnell / The Washington Post)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys are distinctly average again after their worst season since Jerry Jones’ first year as owner.

A year after winning 12 games and the NFC East, the Cowboys wrapped up a 4-12 record Sunday with a 34-23 loss to the division champion Washington Redskins.

After the biggest decrease in wins from one season to the next in franchise history, Dallas now has a .500 record overall (152-152) in regular-season games since the start of 1997 — a break-even stretch spanning 19 seasons. That began soon after winning three Super Bowls in a four-year span (1992, ’93, ’95) with Hall of Fame players Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith.

The Cowboys played most of this season without quarterback Tony Romo, who broke his left collarbone twice, and big-play receiver Dez Bryant was never fully healthy while missing seven games, including the last two.

- FWBP Digital Partners -

“I’m well aware of all of the contributing circumstances this year, and we’ve got some good things. They’re not as many as you would like for there to be,” Jones said. “I don’t want to be trite, but we know that it really limited us to not have Romo this year. … We’d like to not have to replace him next year.”

As for coach Jason Garrett, Jones made it clear that he is “not interested in any change, or thinking about any change there.”

Jones said a priority this offseason will be getting backups at several key positions, including quarterback.

Kellen Moore, the fourth-year pro who had never taken an NFL snap before last month, will likely be in that mix after completing 33 of 48 passes for 435 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in the finale.

- Advertisement -

Kirk Cousins hit 12 of 15 passes for 176 yards, with three touchdowns in the first quarter for the Redskins (9-7). Washington led 24-0 before lefty Moore had three scoring passes, two to Cole Beasley and another to tight end Jason Witten. Terrance Williams had career highs with eight catches for 173 yards for the Cowboys.

Dallas finished with its fewest wins since going 1-15 in 1989, after Jones bought the team and fired legendary coach Tom Landry. The only time the Cowboys failed to win a game was their inaugural 1960 season (0-11-1).

“The season sucked. That’s my whole statement on that,” defensive end Greg Hardy. “It was no good. You’ve gotta win to be relevant, and we didn’t win enough. I’m not a fan of being not relevant. Especially because (the Cowboys) took a last chance on me, and I would love to repay that debt.”

Hardy missed the first four games because of his NFL suspension stemming from a domestic violence case that limited him to one game last season for Carolina. He is a free agent after his incentive-filled one-year deal with the Cowboys, and six sacks in his 12 games.

- Advertisement -

“As it turns out, he is the football player that we though he was,” Jones said, but not saying if the Cowboys would seek to re-sign Hardy.

Garrett is 46-44 overall with Dallas, but 40-40 in his five full regular seasons that included three consecutive 8-8 records from 2011-13. He was 5-3 after replacing the fired Wade Phillips midway through 2010, when he had the interim coach tag before being named the full-time head coach after that season, and is 1-1 in playoff games.

NOTES: LB Sean Lee, the Cowboys’ leading tackler, was a late scratch with a hamstring issue. … Witten reached the ball over the goal line before going out of bounds on the sideline on a 4-yard TD, a play reversed after replay, for his 60th career TD. It was Witten’s first score since having two TDs Sept. 13 in the opener of his 13th NFL season. … No. 2 Alabama has more wins this season at AT&T Stadium than the Cowboys have in their $1.2 billion showplace. The Crimson Tide won their season opener over Wisconsin there, and on New Year’s Eve against No. 3 Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, a College Football playoff semifinal. … Dallas lost its last seven home games after rallying for a 27-26 victory over the New York Giants in the regular-season opener Sept. 13. The Cowboys are 27-29 in regular-season games since moving in there in 2009.