FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, to its credit, is in the midst of some soul-searching. At one high level, it's about the passing of one of their own, beloved assistant Markus Paul. At a different level, a football level, it's about a hub of winning or losing.
It’s probably similar,'' Cowboys offensive coordinator and play-caller Kellen Moore said in review of the 41-16 Thanksgiving loss to Washington, "to 'stages of grief.''
This introspective swerve away from CoachSpeak from Moore, 32, is refreshing coming from a world in which mistakes are often covered up or spackled over. Head coach Mike McCarthy engaged in some of the usual business right after Thursday's game, insisting that all in a series of controversial decisions were "solid calls.''
But Moore? He's offering raw and thoughtful heft to what really goes through a play-caller's mind, before, during and after. ... all in a morning-after response to the question, "Do you ever second-guess yourself?''
At one point he even said, "First of all, I feel like I didn’t call a good game in situational football.''
Which takes us to the real "Five Stages of Grief'' and how the Cowboys and Moore allow them to apply ...
1 Denial - Psychologists say that denial, the first stage of grief, is necessary to help you survive. You're initially in a state of shock ...
"You can never hit (the trick plays),'' McCarthy said in the immediacy of the postgame Thursday, "if you don’t call them. ... You don’t get anywhere if you think about the negatives all the time.''
These answers didn't serve as explanations. McCarthy was irritated by the outcome of the game and irritated by the prodding media.
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2 Anger - Psychologists say the next stage of grief, anger, comes because your life has been shattered ...
Moore: "There’s ... stages where you feel like, you know, that was a stupid play call, should’ve maybe gone to something else. ... The biggest challenge is not to re-live it 500 million times ...''
3 Bargaining - Psychologists say this is a form of false hope. It's a form of "negotiation" with yourself or with a higher power that serves as a way to try to avoid the grief.
"A lot of times,'' Moore said, "you’re looking at two calls that you’re trying to make a decision on rather quickly in a few seconds and sometimes you look at, 'OK, maybe we could’ve gone with the other one.' Maybe you think, 'Hey, it still gave us an opportunity, still had another down after it or whatever the circumstance may be.''
A lot of "maybe's'' there given that the final score was 41-16.
4 Depression - This is the phase where you accept that your attempts at avoidance and bargaining are futile. Reality begins to set in, and grief tends to enter your reality in a major way. ...
Here, we are in no way making light of clinical depression, simply making a tie to what is generally a fleeting feeling for a play-caller.
Said Moore: "I’ll drive myself crazy ... when things don’t go well.''
5 Acceptance - This should not be confused with everything suddenly being "all right." It's not about learning to like the new reality. It's about learning to live with this new norm. ...
"First of all,'' Moore said, "I feel like I didn’t call a good game in situational football.''
What a notable remark. Honest and real. And "accepting'' of reality. And then this ...
"You go through that process,'' Moore said, "and hopefully we can grow from it and find some opportunities to get better and improve. ... You hopefully find those moments of optimism and hopefully grow with those.''