IRVING, Texas - When Tony Romo put together his Christmas list, it's doubtful he asked for an epidural steroid injection. But that's what the quarterback received for the holiday season.
Merry medical procedure.
The Cowboys hold their breath and hope a herniated disk won't keep Romo from taking the field for Sunday's winner-take-all game against the Eagles. That remains unlikely.
But what could his absence mean to Jason Garrett's future? What if the Eagles win to drop the Cowboys to 8-8 for a third consecutive season, the NFL equivalent of a flat line?
Between a flurry of questions about Romo's health, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones managed to declare yet again that Garrett's job is not tied to the result of Sunday's game.
"That's just not right," Jones said Tuesday on a local radio station. "That's just not correct. I addressed that three or four weeks ago. He is not. That's all you need to say about it.
"I did it purposely several weeks back, said that certainly in terms of looking at the future, his future is bright in my eyes with the Cowboys."
A loss at home in the final game with a healthy Romo and an upright defense would be difficult for Jones to stomach. But it doesn't appear that either of those factors will be in place. That leads some to argue a loss to the Eagles won't be a fatal blow to Garrett.
It depends on the loss. If the Cowboys lose a close, competitive game, a belief will exist - justified or not - that the outcome would have been different with Romo. That will build even more good will with Jones, who is looking for reasons to keep Garrett, not fire him.
But what if the Eagles beat the Cowboys the way they did Chicago three days ago? What if the Cowboys endure a blowout loss for the third time in the final seven games?
The future won't be as bright if Jones looks at Garrett through that lens.
A third scenario deserves discussion. Say the Cowboys beat the Eagles without Romo to win their first division title under Garrett. His stock will soar.
The Cowboys can't beat the Eagles unless their marquee players come up big. This isn't to minimize their importance. But if the Cowboys upset Chip Kelly's Eagles, Garrett's stubborn resolve in the face of adversity, his preparation and strategic guidance will be crucial.
Think back to the win in Cincinnati last year, hours after the team learned that Jerry Brown had died with teammate and best friend Josh Brent at the wheel. That was arguably Garrett's most significant win until Sunday, when they beat Washington.
"Probably so, under the circumstances, where we are [in the standings] and how the game unfolded," tight end Jason Witten said. "We knew to lose three in a row down the stretch wouldn't have been good for anybody."
Especially for Garrett. Witten gave his head coach a big hug after the Cowboys came back from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
"It's just that him and I and a group of us have been through a lot together," Witten said. "There was a lot of emotion that entire game. We had a lot of dialogue with him and communication with him, and we just love him as a head coach.
"When you win a game like that, that's what it's all about - doing it together with other people and sharing those moments."
Jones wants to share more moments with Garrett as his head coach. But there is another game to play and another result to factor into the head coach's evaluation.
"You don't have anybody that doesn't have flaws," Jones said. "But the positives, if you go forward, the positives outweigh those.
"The other thing in Jason's case is at this time in his career he's learning by leaps and bounds and learning every day. I want our team to take advantage of that. There's been nothing in the time he's been the head coach and there's been nothing in the time he was the coordinator before that and a player before that, that shows that he does not have the ability to do everything required of a head coach in the NFL. He's got it.
"Let me be real clear. He's got it and he's shown that."