At least Dallas Cowboys Coach Dave Campo and running back Emmitt Smith can take comfort in knowing that their tenuous situations likely will be resolved soon. The possibility that neither would return next season has dominated headlines in Dallas in recent weeks and served as a distracting backdrop to yesterday's 20-14 loss to the Washington Redskins.
Afterward Campo did not directly address questions about his future, but said he is looking forward to closure.
"I don't have much relief right now because we lost the game," Campo said. "Maybe there will be some relief to stop the bleeding here soon, but not right now."
The two probably could not have imagined a worse ending to their tenures in Dallas.
Campo, who has been referring to his days with the Cowboys in the past tense, saw his perfect record in five games against the Redskins come to an unremarkable conclusion. And Smith, who after the game said he was uncertain whether he would be back for a 14th season in Dallas, was held to 13 yards rushing on 18 carries and finished 25 yards short of extending his own NFL record for consecutive seasons with 1,000 yards to 12.
"I'm disappointed that we had the season we had," said Campo, who has a 15-33 record in three seasons. "It's a crying shame that we didn't block any better than we did because I wanted to get Emmitt the 38 yards. I gave him every opportunity, and it wasn't his fault."
Campo again indicated he has not been officially notified by Dallas owner Jerry Jones that he would be fired, but published reports had him clearing out his office at Valley Ranch on Thursday. And twice in recent days, Jones has met with former NFL coach Bill Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants and took the New England Patriots to another, to discuss the possibility of Parcells taking over the Cowboys.
"It would be inappropriate for me to talk about that, any aspect of change or any aspect of as to where we're going with our future," Jones said. "I'm going to wait over the next couple of days, but not tonight."
Smith, whose 0.7 yards per carry average was the second worst performance of his career (he was held to six yards on 15 carries by New Orleans on Dec. 6, 1998), echoed the sentiments of his team's coach and owner. Asked where this season ranks in his career, Smith said: "Dead last."
"My future is what it is," the NFL's all-time leading rusher added. "One thing I do know for certain is I do want to play next year, I just want to play football. I don't care if it's in a Dallas Cowboys uniform or anywhere else."
Smith also dished out some rare criticism of his teammates.
"The perception is . . . he's 33 years old and who wants to have a 33-year-old running back?" Smith said. "The way I see it is you've got a 33-year-old running back that's effective behind whatever he has to be effective with. He doesn't have a problem. There's a bigger problem in the way we performed, collectively as a ballclub."
Smith also said the team was bothered by reporters' incessant questioning about whether he and Campo were about to participate in their final game with the Cowboys.
"It was a huge distraction," Smith said. " . . . players want to know what's going on. Guys think I have all of the answers, but I don't."
Although Jones said it would be hard for him to imagine Smith playing in another uniform, there are many potential obstacles blocking his return. Smith is due to count $9.8 million against the salary cap, and with the coaching situation uncertain, there's no guarantee a new coach would want him.
Smith said he planned to spend the next two weeks vacationing with his family in Virginia before returning to Dallas to begin preparing for next season.
"Everybody wants to write a storybook ending just like John Elway's," Smith said. "Will mine be that way? I don't know. But whatever it is, I'm going to enjoy that time. I didn't plan on today being my last ballgame, and I don't know when my last ballgame will be."
Special correspondent Gene Wang contributed to this report.