Jason Garrett will be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys to start the 2013 season, but stripping him of his play-calling duties—as owner and general manager Jerry Jones announced he was doing this week—makes the decision to retain Garrett a curious one.
According to Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jones is giving Bill Callahan the control over play calls, which will allow Garrett to become more of a "walk-around" and "overall picture" head coach.
Jones also made it clear that this wasn't a demotion for Garrett.
"It's not a step back for the Cowboys or a step back for him individually to change the way we basically are putting our game plan together or we're calling the plays on the offensive side of the ball. As you well know, differences of opinion, frankly, can be a step in a better direction."
However, stripping Garrett of play-calling duties is a demotion, and it leaves the head coach just a losing streak away from being out of a job next season.
By giving control of the offense to Callahan, and the defense to new coordinator Monte Kiffin, Garrett becomes a much easier head coach to replace midseason in 2013 if the Cowboys do not meet expectations.
Essentially, Jones has neutered his head coach.
Garrett has to know that reality. The players, too.
If the Cowboys start 2-4 or 3-5 next season, the calls for Garrett to be gone will come in fast and heavy. Jones can now push the fire button without the need to replace the play-caller and primary game-planner.
Both sides might have been better off just going their separate ways at the end of the 2012 season. In fact, some of Jones's comments made it sound like he was announcing a firing instead of a play-calling change.
"I'm basically assessing the fact that after two and a half seasons with Jason as head coach, we need to do some things differently. We are not, and I know our fans are not, I'm not, Jason is not, we're not at all satisfied with the fact that we've been 8-8 two seasons in a row when given a different set of circumstances, we might have done better."
Translation: The Cowboys have had back-to-back disappointing seasons, but those seasons could have ended differently if certain factors—like Garrett calling the plays—were changed. It's a stinging summary of Garrett's reign as the head coach in Dallas, whether Jones wanted it as such or not.
Now, Garrett enters the most critical season of his young head coaching career without much control over it.
Personnel decisions are made by Jones. The offense will be called by Callahan. Kiffin has the defense. The head coach still controls the management of the game and team, but his powers within the franchise have been effectively stripped bare.
As Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN Dallas wrote this week, onlookers will likely pile on praise for Callahan, Kiffin and Jones if the Cowboys rebound and make the playoffs in 2013-14. Garrett might receive something for simply getting out of the way.
But if the Cowboys fail, Garrett will be the first one to go. Right or wrong, any blame will likely be placed directly on his shoulders.
Such a situation is simply not fair to the head coach or conducive for winning football games.
Jones may think he is making this decision for the betterment of his team overall, but changes that extend this far probably should have included axing the head coach altogether. Garrett is already inching closer to that fate anyway.