Is Jason Garrett Coaching for His Job in 2013?
Many of us have asked the very question above the last two offseasons, with the final digit in the year changing from "1" to "2" to "3." Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has managed to survive the wrath of Jerry Jones and the Dallas front office despite the fact the 'Boys have failed to make the playoffs in each of the three seasons he's coached them, but don't be surprised if he keeps his job as long as the team doesn't take a significant step backward in 2013.
In the NFC East, Tom Coughlin has a lifetime membership within the New York Giants' coaching staff, Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins isn't going anywhere soon with such a young, talented roster in place, and Chip Kelly will get at least a couple years to turn around the Philadelphia Eagles.
That means Garrett is probably the only head coach in the division whose seat is remotely hot.
But if Garrett was able to survive this long despite the fact the team has fallen short of expectations throughout his time in Dallas, maybe he possesses—and, believe it or not, this is intended as a compliment—cockroach-like properties.
In his weekend mailbag, ESPN NFC East blogger Dan Graziano wouldn't rule out the possibility that Garrett keeps his job even if the Cowboys are kept out of the postseason again in 2013.
The Cowboys are trying to build something long-term and sustainable for the future, and Jones has made it very clear he considers Garrett to be a part of that plan. He wants him to be there and to succeed. Now, Jones is a mercurial billionaire who could obviously change his mind, and if things bottom out and the Cowboys have a terrible year, all bets are off. But another season where they contend until the final game and still don't make it? I don't know if we can say for sure that's enough to get Garrett fired. Especially in the absence of a clear upgrade.
And in the "straight from the horse's mouth" department, Jones told NFL Network (via ESPNDallas.com) at the NFL's spring meetings in Boston last week that Garrett isn't coaching for his job:
"Well, no, no he's not...to the last question: Is Jason coaching for his job? No," he said. "What we're doing is taking the assets that we have, and Jason being right at the top and certainly our premier asset, and we're using them to the best of our ability."
That, of course, doesn't mean a whole lot right now. Jones has been known to react to disappointing developments in knee-jerk fashion and springtime endorsements can usually be categorized as useless in NFL terms. But it's another indication that Jones feels strongly about Garrett, even if nobody else does.
If the 2013 season is a disaster in Dallas, things will likely change. But if the Cowboys once again compete for a playoff spot and stay alive for 17 weeks, it's entirely possible that Jones could bring Garrett back.
Because while he has a reputation for being erratic, he also has a tendency to be stubborn and is extremely prideful. Now that he's thrown his support behind Garrett so overwhelmingly, he might have trouble parting ways so long as the team is competitive.
Jones held onto Dave Campo through three 5-11 seasons early in the decade, and Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips both got more than three years each.
Remember: When we review Garrett's body of work, 2010 should be viewed positively, not negatively. He was only an interim head coach that year, going 5-3 with a team that Phillips had driven into the ground earlier in the season.
When he first got his hands on the team as a head coach in 2011, virtually the entire offseason was lost due to the lockout and the Cowboys were stuck trying to implement a complicated new defense in an impossibly small period of time.
The team still managed to improve that year.
And in 2012, Garrett's talented roster was ravaged by injuries. More Dallas starters missed games due to injury than all but two other NFL teams, according to the Dallas Morning News. The season appeared lost when Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Barry Church and Jay Ratliff had all gone down, but Garrett's guys rallied in a big way.
How many games does Jason Garrett have to win to keep his job?
The fact that this team has gone 16-16 the last two years despite those circumstances is actually very impressive. Throw in the 5-3 run he had in relief of Phillips in 2010 and you can begin to understand why Jones might be reluctant to throw his head coach overboard.
While he wasn't winning more actual games, Garrett did seem to gain some victories within the locker room last year. Dez Bryant has become a star on the field and it appears that has allowed him to turn over a new leaf.
Garrett also had to find a way to get his team to keep pushing after defensive tackle Josh Brent was slapped with intoxication manslaughter charges following a car accident that killed teammate Jerry Brown. But by all indications, he and the team handled that ugly situation superbly.
Garrett might never be a Coughlin or a Shanahan, and he might not possess the football genius label we've affixed to Kelly. He's the least sexy head coach in the NFL's sexiest division, but dig a little deeper and you begin to wonder if he's still short of the eleventh hour.
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