After 32 games played under the Jason Garrett regime, the Dallas Cowboys have posted a 16-16 record. According to my math and logic, that is exactly a mini-microcosm of the Jerry Jones regime for the last 16 years. But it's also the opposite of everything Garrett is supposed to stand for when he took over this team from Wade Phillips halfway through the 2010 season.
Where is the team that won improbable games with John Kitna against the Giants and Colts? Where is the team that is supposed to outwork everybody by being overly prepared and gritty? Where is the team that learns from mistakes and is working on "fixing" their weekly shortcomings? What about all those processes you keep talking about Jason?
What's more disturbing is that the Cowboys have now lost nine of their last 13 games and they continue to be a model of inconsistency, a team of mental lapses and a franchise that is allergic to success. At the halfway mark of the season, Jason Garrett's offense continues to be a roller-coaster ride with an unlimited amount of tickets to distribute.
Against the Atlanta Falcons, his offense only managed one touchdown, which was out of sheer urgency to score. I actually give Tony Romo more credit on that drive than I would Garrett because of his ability to successfully orchestrate the no-huddle offense. I still, for the life of me, can't understand why the Cowboys refuse to implement the no-huddle into the foundation of their offense.
So now Garrett enters the proverbial hot seat zone and understandably so. Coaches are judged on results and there is no bigger platform than coaching for Jerry Jones' Cowboys. Even in a production-driven league, sometimes it's not always about a specific number of wins, but rather the direction or the trend of the team itself.
At 16-16, which direction is this franchise going and at what point does the debate ensue about whether Garrett should stay or go? The fan base already has formulated a rather passionate opinion about the state of affairs, but then again, who would be happy with a 3-5 record when the owner is still delusional enough to think that the team is a contender.
For Garrett, the issue surrounding any debate for his grounds to stay versus his departure goes beyond the hot seat or results. From a pure directional standpoint of this franchise, let's strip it down for a second and dissect the pieces structurally.
Offensively, you have a quarterback that is regressing either due to skill, scheme or a plateau in terms of growth. The running back position is built around a player who has had injury issues and a former first-round pick who can't realize his potential. Another potential building block in Dez Bryant has yet to unlock his full potential, become a complete player or appear to take direction well.
Bryant's talent is undeniable, but so is the chance that he can become the next Antonio Bryant. Jason Witten is old-reliable, but he can't continue to will this team anymore than what he's doing right now. The offensive line is inconsistent but has improved enough to show signs of encouragement. The offense as an entire unit is a complete enigma and Garrett is at the center of that universe.
In one breath the offense can be viewed as dangerous and in the other, it can be looked at as turnover- prone, predictable and flawed. Garrett, as a play-caller, has been quite mystifying, and while Jerry Jones knew what he was buying, it appears that some of those calls have cost this franchise some valuable wins.
From clock management, to icing his own kicker, to deciding that Phillip Tanner should be trusted to convert a 3rd-and-1 in a must-win game, Garrett is starting to get downright scary in his thought pattern. If that doesn't scare you, how about the 3rd-and-1 against the Giants, under a minute and Garrett calling two pass plays? These scenarios are presenting themselves too frequently and ever so visible.
Jason Garrett has also done some good things for this franchise and that was never more apparent than when he was thrust into a tough situation after taking over for Phillips. He went on to finish 5-3 in his eight-game job audition and that was no easy task. He brought a positive change, a workman-like approach and hope for the future.
It can't be easy working for Jerry Jones, especially when Garrett had to assist in the task of assessing this roster and upgrading the talent. For that I commend him, but when you look at what the 49ers have done and what the Colts are doing this year, it also serves as a reminder that change can happen quickly.
In the last 24 hours, it appears that Jerry Jones might be able to use the escape hatch when it comes to Garrett. With reports earlier Sunday that Sean Payton's multi-year contract extension was voided by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, suddenly Jerry's mindset might void back to normal as well, depending on the outcome of the season.
The thought of Payton coming to Dallas shouldn't be dismissed. In fact, throwing Payton into the discussion should only intensify as the weeks progress. Regardless of this new development, Garrett's job security should officially be skittish and the fact the Jones continues to endorse his coach is meaningless.
The Cowboys, as an organization, need to understand that the feeling right now among the fan base grows more cynical with every dropped pass, missed tackle, interception and wasted opportunity. The time for excuses and fixing things is over. This is a community thirsty for wins and intolerant to Jerry's used car salesman lingo.
The debate is here whether Garrett likes it or not and it's not going away. Maybe seven out of the next eight wins would make that disappear but it doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon. Is Garrett aware of the chatter? The pressure? The sentiment among the fans? Probably and he should be.
But right now Garrett, at 16-16, has this franchise going in reverse. Time has shown that Jones does have a high degree of loyalty to Garrett, which is commendable, but what about the commitment to winning with tangible results and having the arrow pointing upward?
The Cowboys need a miraculous second half of the season to salvage any chance of accomplishing what their GM feels is attainable. Should the Cowboys miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons, I can't even begin to imagine the apocalypse that will unfold and how Jones will try to spin it.
You can't dismiss Garrett from the problem when he's had two full seasons as head coach, but that's for Jerry Jones to decide. A conclusion he must draw is if Garrett seems part of the solution or the root of that problem. The debate whether to stick with Garrett or show him the door can easily be answered if the season were to end today. The answer would be to go and it's that simple.
Maybe Garrett needs to approach these last eight games as he did when he first took the job to ultimately save it. It's a tall task, but even a 5-3 record leaves this team at 8-8 and back to square one.
What type of direction is that?
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