Head Coach Jason Garrett Fails to Change Culture of Dallas Cowboys

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Head Coach Jason Garrett Fails to Change Culture of Dallas Cowboys
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Dallas head coach Jason Garrett.

As recently as mid-November of 2012, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was being bombarded with questions about future head coaching prospects like Sean Payton and Mike Holmgren.

In the days following Dallas’ first victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia, Jones refused to fan the flames of any rumors surrounding a pending change of head coach at Valley Ranch—and apparently because Jones’ candle burns for his current coach Jason Garrett.

But following a span of six games in which Dallas lost only once, Jones chose to admit that he could not say for sure whether Garrett’s promotion following the midseason ousting of Wade Phillips just over two years ago had made much difference.

It might be the most honest thing we’ve heard out of Jones’ mouth this season.

The Cowboys failed for a third time in just five seasons in a win-and-you’re-in regular-season finale against a division rival on the road. All three NFC East rivals have claimed victory, most recently the Washington Redskins on Sunday night.

Washington head coach Mike Shanahan knew exactly how to handle the Cowboys as his league-leading rushing attack scored four touchdowns while amassing a staggering 274 yards rushing in a 28-18 victory at FedExField.

What this means is that veteran head coaches Shanahan and the Seattle Seahawks’ Pete Carroll will bring rookie quarterbacks into a first-round wild-card playoff game next weekend in Washington, D.C.

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Washington head coach Mike Shanahan.

In stark contrast, Garrett can’t get Dallas into the playoffs with his franchise’s all-time leading passer.

Say all you want about the three interceptions tossed by quarterback Tony Romo. Just remember that somewhat-overused saying about quarterbacks getting too much credit when things go right but also taking too much blame when things go wrong.

Romo’s third interception with the entire season and a division championship on the line was probably the worst he has ever thrown, and he will undoubtedly be crucified for throwing such a high-risk pass where he did. Even if placed properly, that throw likely would not have gotten much in the way of yardage.

Perhaps already forgotten is the defensive stand that followed in a game that the Cowboys trailed 21-18 late in the fourth quarter.

On 3rd-and-goal following the pick, the Dallas defense brought heavy pressure which forced Robert Griffin III to throw quickly down the middle of the field incomplete. This should have forced a field-goal attempt and a likely 24-18 deficit with roughly a minute remaining.

But defensive end Jason Hatcher forgot that this was football as opposed to boxing, and his left hook to the head of RGIII didn’t go over well with the officials. The personal foul gave Washington a new 1st-and-goal.

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Without Hatcher’s penalty, Romo and the Dallas offense get another shot. But this doesn’t mean that we blame Hatcher for losing the game any more than we can Romo. Responsibility for this loss and failed season goes straight to the top.

Having turned 70 years old earlier this season, Jones wants to see the Cowboys win more championships. There are other head coaching candidates out there that have credentials and experience to possibly do that.

Look at Shanahan and Carroll. The former has two Super Bowl wins with the Denver Broncos, while the latter has two national championships in the college ranks with the USC Trojans.

There was a reason that names like Payton and Holmgren were mentioned so often as being possibly connected to a future in Dallas.

Payton may be off the list, but Holmgren is still out there, and there are still other names.

Jones has to ask himself what exactly has Garrett, a guy who came to the Cowboys with very little coaching experience of any kind, done to better America’s team?

I recall that he demanded that the players wear suits on team flights to road games upon being elevated to interim head coach following Phillips’ dismissal in 2010. I can’t think of anything else.

I get that Jones has an emotional attachment to Garrett and his family. Garrett even won Super Bowls as a backup quarterback on a team that he virtually never played for.

But he has not changed the culture of the Dallas Cowboys in three seasons occupying the top spot. His longer volume of work as offensive coordinator and play-caller is just as suspect.

Jones actually encouraged then-Cowboys offensive assistant Payton to take the head coaching position in New Orleans prior to the 2006 regular season. Former head coach Bill Parcells would retire following that same season, and perhaps Jones felt that the Tuna would stay at least one more year.

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New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton.

It seems that Jones suddenly had an inner regret about letting Payton get away so close to the departure of Parcells. It certainly didn’t help that Payton’s huge win over the Cowboys in 2006 helped him land NFL Coach of the Year honors in his rookie season.   

Jones’ previous relationship with the Garrett family, combined with Garrett’s time spent with Payton while the two were in New York with the Giants, painted a blurry picture for Jones. Payton was quarterbacks coach and/or offensive coordinator for the Giants during three of Garrett’s four seasons as New York’s backup quarterback.

Jones may have overestimated the benefit of this exposure, and this might be coming into light. Garrett’s offensive philosophy may or may not be completely shaped by the influence of Payton, but I think the whole discussion is overrated.

All that matters is that the Cowboys are not winning enough games to be considered a contender under Garrett. Only Jones knows if he believes that Garrett can take the Cowboys where he wants them to go.

So far, the answer is clearly no.    

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