ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys will have plenty of time to ponder what went wrong if their underachieving season ends Sunday against Washington.
Meantime, there’s still hope despite a 4-8 record since a 3-0 start that fueled plenty of hopeful preseason chatter. With a win over the Redskins and a Philadelphia loss to the Giants, the Cowboys (7-8) would qualify for the playoffs despite last week’s loss to the Eagles with the NFC East lead on the line.
“I’m not thinking of any should’ve, would’ve, could’ve right now,” Prescott said. “If we’re fortunate and we look up and we get in, we’ll be ready to go and we’ll make the most of it. But as of right now, we can’t focus on anything but the Redskins.”
The visit from Washington (3-12) could be the last game for embattled Dallas coach Jason Garrett, whose contract is expiring in what is shaping up as one of the most disappointing seasons in Jerry Jones’ 30 years as owner.
This also could be it for tight end Jason Witten, who broke the club record by coming back for a 16th season after spending a year in retirement as a broadcaster.
“I haven’t looked at it that way,” said Witten, who is one receiving touchdown shy of Dez Bryant’s club career record of 73. “Now is not the time. The focus is on getting a win, see if we can’t get lucky a little bit and get in the playoffs.”
The Cowboys have never made the playoffs in a season with two losing streaks of at least three games. They had that chance in Philadelphia, but the 17-9 loss was the second this season without a touchdown for the NFL’s No. 1 offense.
“You’re for sure disappointed, you’re frustrated,” said Prescott, who is expected to play despite a right shoulder injury for the second consecutive week. “But you can’t come in, have a hangover. You can’t feel sorry for yourself.”
CALLAHAN’S LAST STAND?
This is Bill Callahan’s last game as Redskins interim coach. It remains to be seen whether he gets a serious look as the full-time replacement for Jay Gruden, who was fired in October after an 0-5 start.
Callahan, an NFL head coach for the first time since 2002-03 with Oakland, said he “absolutely would” like to continue in that role. He’s a favorite of Bruce Allen, but Washington’s team president isn’t guaranteed to be back.
Callahan, Garrett’s offensive coordinator in Dallas from 2012-14, doesn’t want to jump to conclusions about running the show moving forward.
“I think that’s premature,” said Callahan, who led the Raiders to the Super Bowl during the 2002 season. “I think that’s offseason business for a different time and place.”
SEASONS CUT SHORT
Dallas linebacker Leighton Vander Esch won’t play again this season after the decision was made for surgery to treat a neck injury sustained two months ago against Philadelphia. Vander Esch ended up missing seven of the final nine games coming off a Pro Bowl season as a rookie.
The Cowboys are on their third option at left guard after Xavier Su’a-Filo broke his left ankle last week against the Eagles. Joe Looney replaced Su’a-Filo during the game. Starter Connor Williams tore a knee ligament on Thanksgiving against Buffalo.
ON THE CASE
The Redskins shut down rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins with a sprained left ankle and will turn to Case Keenum, with former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy backing up. Keenum hasn’t started since getting a concussion Oct. 24 at Minnesota because Haskins got the reins as the starter. Now Keenum looks to make his case to the rest of the league for a job next season.
Keenum’s next organization will be his sixth, something not lost on the 31-year-old with a dry sense of humor. Earlier this season, he said, “I’ve played long enough to where I feel like if I keep going like I’m going, I might play against my old team every week.”
In the equivalent of his first full season for Dallas, Amari Cooper looked like the No. 1 receiver the Cowboys hoped they were getting when sending a first-round pick to Oakland in a midseason trade last year. But the past six games have raised concerns with Dallas trying to decide whether to sign him to a long-term contract that could approach $20 million per season.
Cooper has just 22 catches for 249 yards and one TD in a stretch that included his first catch-less game, a 13-9 loss at New England. He also had a one-catch game in a win over the Los Angeles Rams before getting four grabs for 24 yards last week against the Eagles. He wasn’t on the field for the fourth-down play that ended up being Dallas’ last chance to tie the score.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
A year after going 9-3 in one-score games in the regular season on the way to a third NFC East title in five seasons, the Cowboys are 1-6 in those games this year.
“The teams that are able to play at the end of the year in the playoffs are the ones that win those games,” Garrett said. “We did a really good job last year winning those games. We haven’t done as good a job. I don’t think there’s one thing that, ‘Boy, if we just do this better we’ll have won all those.’ I think it’s been different things.”