The Washington Redskins (5-6) on Monday play the Dallas Cowboys (3-8) in 2015 Week 13 action at FedExField.*
On Thursday, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and tight end Jason Witten spoke to the Washington, D.C., media about their upcoming matchup against the Redskins.
Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett
On if this game against the Redskins is an opportunity to right their season:
"One of the things we always talk about is being our best regardless of circumstances. That's one of the things that's a foundation of what we try to do. Obviously we've had some difference circumstances this year and we challenge our guys to come to work every day and be their best and prepare the right way to play our best on Sundays or on this case on Monday night. We really do try to focus on ourselves, focus on our preparation, focus on one play at time and one game at time and all of those kind of things. I do think at times you have to provide your team with some perspective about where we are. We don't like to spend a lot of time looking at what other people are doing or what the standings are. You know, sometimes you have to have a reality check and say, 'OK, we've played 11, here's where we are and here's where we are in terms of trying to reach our goals to win the division.' But ultimately it comes back to one game at a time and preparing the right way to play our best."
On if knowing Redskins Offensive Line Coach Bill Callahan's tendencies will help in preparation:"You know, that's one of those things that always kind of cuts both ways. Often times, you'll have coaches on your staff who go elsewhere or maybe you have a guy added to your staff who's been somewhere and you're playing that team. First and foremost, evaluations come from watching the tape. Sometimes because you've been with someone, maybe you have a better understanding of what they're doing after you've watched them on tape. Again I think that cuts both ways."
On TE Jason Witten:"Well, I've been a player and a coach in the NFL for a number of years and he's arguably as good a player and as good an example as I've ever been around. That goes right against a number of Hall of Fame players that I've had the good fortune to play with or coach. He's just a rare individual. He's certainly a talented guy. He's six-feet-five, he's 260 pounds, he's got athletic ability and a great feel for the game. But his personal character and his football character are really like nothing I've ever seen. His commitment day-to-day to do things the right way, everything, every part of his game, is just remarkable. The standard that he has for himself and for those around him is as high as anybody I've ever been around. His willingness to work to be his best at all parts of his game to help our team is as good as anybody. His commitment to team is as good as anybody I've been around. Doing what's necessary to help our team win. It's not about him catching balls, it's never been about that. Though often times him catching balls and scoring touchdowns has helped us win games, he is equally willing to do all the dirty work. He's an on-the-line blocker in the running game, he's an on-the-line blocker in the pass game. We move him all over the formation to do a lot of different jobs and he embraces every one of them. If you could get everybody on your team to prepare like he does mentally, physically and emotionally and then play the way that he does both in practice and in games, you're going to have a really, really good football team. So many of the things that we try to preach to our team, try to instill in our team, young guys and old guys alike, he represents. So when you have an example like that to reaffirm what you guys are trying to accomplish, it really means a lot to your program. He's been to the Pro Bowl 10 times. I believe he's a Hall of Fame tight end. He's the best tight end of his generation because of all the different things that he does. When you have a guy like that who goes about it like that, he's great to have on your team for so many different reasons."
A look back at some of the top images in games between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys.
On Redskins QB Kirk Cousins:**"Well, we really liked him coming out of school. He was one of those guys that was maybe a little bit under the radar at the combine and throughout the whole draft process. I think a lot of teams liked him. Washington did a great thing. They drafted RGIII [Robert Griffin III] and then they turned around and in the fourth round they draft him. He's a good football player at a really important position. I think what impresses everybody the most about him is that whenever he's gotten opportunities really throughout his career he seems like he's prepared and takes advantage of them. He's had his ups and downs like everybody does but he's a smart football player. You can tell he's talented. He can throw the ball, he can move around and he plays the game the right way. He's certainly done a good job for them this year."
On if QB Tony Romo's absence has affected the locker room:"Well, we have great character guys on our team. Sometimes, what happens is you have 99 percent of your guys doing things the right way 100 percent of the time or maybe it's 100 percent of your guys doing things the right way 99 percent of the time and that's just the way it is. One of the things that I've been so impressed by from our football team is the leadership of the entire group. We've, obviously, lost a lot of games over the last couple months. The way our team comes to work in practices, the way our team plays… We've lost eight games. Six of them have been really, really close, right down to the wire. The fight that we have, the relentless spirit that we have, the competitive nature that our team plays with is a real tribute to the guys and to the leadership on our team, so sometimes you have some incidents that happen with a player or two and they become magnified in the world that we live in right now. But, the culture that we have on our football team is outstanding. I think it's manifested by how we practice and the competitive spirit with which we play. We want to build on that. We address the issues when they come up. We solve them. We move on. That's what we've done in the past. We'll continue to do that."
On how he helps the team avoid feeling 'snake-bit':"I think the thing that you try to do is you try to demonstrate to your team why we weren't able to make these plays and what the plan is going forward to make them. The games are so close — the games that we played, literally within one score, a couple overtime losses, last-drive-of-the-game losses, those kind of things. Last year, we made a lot of those plays and that's why we had the success we did winning 12 games. This year, we haven't done that so it's our job as coaches to kind of flesh through the whole thing and say, 'OK, we won the game. We lost the game. Well, what was good about this game? What was not-so-good about this game? What were the factors that contributed to this victory? Or what were the factors that contributed to this defeat?' You try to as best you can, take the emotion out of it and teach so everybody can learn and learn from the experiences so they don't happen again. When you get in those situations again, you can take advantage of them and do the right things. The league is so competitive. The games every week are so close. It really comes down to one play here, one play there. Sometimes those plays happen early, a lot of the plays in our games have happened late, the very last drive of the game. One of the things you have to do as a coaching staff is make sure our players understand, you know, the things that contribute to winning and losing and hopefully learn from those experiences."
On if the process becomes as important as the results:"Oh yeah, absolutely. That's a word that we talk about a lot. We talk a lot about process and culture down here and making sure you do it right independent of what the results are. Because, sometimes, you can be caught up in things when you lose a game. 'Everything is terrible.' That's not the case. When you win a game, you think everything is right. That's certainly not the case. So you're always trying to do things the right way. You're trying to coach them the right way, trying to get everybody to play the right way in all the different circumstances, and if you're constantly focused on improving, that's when you're going to have a team that you're going to be proud of."
Dallas Cowboys Tight End Jason Witten*
On working with different quarterbacks:
"Unfortunately, we've had to do that quite a bit this year with Tony's [Tony Romo's] injury. I think we're comfortable with Matt [Cassel]. We've played a lot of football with Matt. He's done a great job of coming in here when he got traded to us and just learning our system. He's a great communicator. He's a guy that has played a lot of football in this league and had success and so I think that adjustment has been pretty good. I mean, I don't want to say, 'easy' but he's made a great transition kind of getting into our world and our system. We've played a lot of football with him. We have confidence in him. So we try to move forward as quickly and as best we can."
On if he notices the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry when he is on the field:
"Yeah, I mean, I think any division game especially in this division, it seems like that rivalry. It always seems like those games are bigger and bigger. Even last year, they came down here and beat us. It's always one of those games, regardless of the record, it's always a fight and not just for the fans, I think for the players as well. You can tell and feel the energy when these two opponents go against each other."
On if they still use similar formations and blocking schemes used during Redskins Offensive Line Coach Bill Callahan's tenure in Dallas:
"Yeah. [Cowboys Offensive Line Coach] Frank [Pollack], who was Bill's assistant there last year has taken over for us — Coach Pollack. A lot of that system has stayed the same, and so he's a guy we have a lot of respect for. He really did a great job for our offense in the first year as a play-caller and then last year with the offensive line and our run game, so we see a lot of carry over in what Washington does now, but us too, very similar in the way we approach it in the run game."
On if the Redskins' defensive line will gain an advantage from facing Callahan's line in practice daily:
"I mean, I don't know that that's an advantage. I think both of us are pretty familiar with each other's systems. I think any time you get to this point in the season with the film, we all have a style and identity with which you want to play. For both of us, I think a lot of that has to do with our run game and building it around our offensive line. I don't know that it's an advantage but for sure things that we've both seen and we've ran for a long time."
On how he became a leader in the Cowboys' locker room:
"Well, I think it's something that's been sought after. I think any young player who's wanting to become an elite player, you want to show it in how you play, how you practice and how you go about it day in and day out, but then also setting the standard as a leader. I think every team has that and guys that create a standard and said, 'Hey, this is how we want to do things and how we want to approach it.' It's not always perfect and it never is. But I think that's when good programs are built when you have a core group of guys that approach it that way and that's something that I tried to do early on in my career and just continue to do that now. It's something that it starts with how you play, how you prepare but then others kind of gravitate to that and see that. I've been fortunate that it's never been just me. It's always been other guys along the way — the core group that try to create that. I think that's how you create a winning environment. You have to have that nucleus that kind of shows it day in and day out."