EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The glow from Jerry Jones’ smile could have lit up the New Meadowlands Stadium.
Six days after Jones fired Wade Phillips as coach, the Dallas Cowboys showed the kind of emotion and precision that was missing as they lost seven of their first eight games. They beat the NFC East-leading New York Giants, 33-20, Sunday in Jason Garrett’s debut as Phillips’ replacement.
The Cowboys owner saw his offense come alive with repeated big plays, and the Dallas players were stoked from the beginning – a stark change from their five-game losing streak that got Phillips canned.
“It’s great to see the players in here with smiles on their faces and getting some confidence,” Jones said in a locker room devoid of the dire tones and defeatism of earlier weeks. “They deserved it today.
“Don’t make this bigger than it is, but this is a little step. I sure am happy the players and Jason have this to work off of. It’s sure better than the alternative.”
Jones has never made a coaching change in midseason. But Dallas’ lack of competitiveness in the previous two games forced his hand.
At some point, Jones believed Garrett, 44, would become an NFL head coach, quite possibly for the Cowboys. That timetable was moved way up, and Jones was impressed how Garrett handled it.
“Jason is himself and he knows to be himself,” Jones said before adding with another huge smile: “He didn’t have but three days to be what he could be. I’d say this is a good start. Certainly, our team was prepared.”
Prepared to make big plays on offense and defense. That included a team-record 101-yard interception return for a TD by rookie Bryan McCann; a 71-yard TD jaunt with a screen pass by Felix Jones; receptions of 46 yards by Dez Bryant, 44 by Miles Austin and 32 by Martellus Bennett.
“I hope it’s a good feeling for our fans,” Jones said. “It’s not a consolation for how we stunk it up this season, but it’s a step in the right direction.”