OXNARD, Calif. -- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones opened training camp last year proclaiming it was not a do-or-die year for coach Jason Garrett.
And while Garrett followed with his third straight 8-8 season, giving him a 29-27 overall slate to extend a four-year streak without a playoff appearance, Jones was singing a similar tune about his coach to open the 2014 camp, just with different wording.
"This is not a make-or-break year," Jones said. "I'm not going to use that word you just used just because I'm superstitious. No, this is not. In terms of the record of this team, this is not a make-or-break situation. We both know where our expectations are and when it's looking good and when it's looking dire. And I don't expect it to be the latter."
Jones said the latest 8-8 season was not like the first. He sees Garrett as a coach on the come because of the experience he gained the past three years, his learning curve of a young coach and the continuity of being in his eighth season with the Cowboys.
Garrett is entering in the final year of his contract.
"The things that make the record will be the primary consideration (regarding Garrett's future), but not the record. That's been case," Jones said. "Did the record of 8-8, 8-8, 8-8 (cost him his job)? Was that the factor? No. Principally it was other things that I'm proud of that creates quite an asset for us. In my mind, he is more of an asset after this last 8-8 season than he was before the first 8-8 season we had three years ago.
"I know where he is. I know how he has evolved. ... I think all of us are either going or coming as far as that era is concerned. So I think I know from where he's been in the past, so I'm excited."
As the son of former coach who was a long-time scout and as a long-time player himself, Garrett knows not to take anything granted.
He said he is concerned only with the team's success, not his contract status.
"We have so much to focus on as coaches to try to build this football team the way we want to build it, so that's where our focus is," Garrett said. "That's been my focus since Day 1."
Garrett believes the Cowboys can better in 2014 because of a dynamic offense behind quarterback Tony Romo, wide receiver Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten and running back DeMarco Murray and an overhaul on defense with younger and healthier players. Gone are defensive ends DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher. The defense will be led up front by former Chicago Bears Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton and rookie second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence at end.
"We're not going to have those marquee players we've had in the past," Garrett said. "Some of the pickups in free agency are talented guys. We're better on the back end, in the secondary. It's a combination of young guys, guys chomping at the bit and coaching."
Jones believes the Cowboys made moves to compete for a playoff spot in 2014. And if they don't compete right now?
"Well, I'm not anticipating doing that," Jones deadpanned. "You say, can you stomach it? I don't want to have to stomach it. Let's put it like that. You're talking about something that I don't want to spend a lot of time on, and that's what happens after the season's over on any basis."