After a crushing 24-21 loss to the Vikings, the Dallas Cowboys' chances of playing postseason football have been slimmed even further.
Now at 1-4, the season may potentially be over, and with that also comes the official end of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's prospective head coaching career.
Back in January of 2008, Garrett was one of the hottest head coaching candidates in the NFL. The 13-3 Dallas Cowboys were coming off a monstrous regular season offensively, ranking second in the league in total points and touchdowns and finishing in the top five in total yards per game and passing yards.
After finishing second interviews for the head coaching vacancies in Baltimore and Atlanta, Garrett decided against both positions and chose to remain with the Cowboys. Of course, it didn't hurt that Dallas made him the highest paid assistant coach in the NFL with a salary around $3 million per year, which was very close to head coach Wade Philips's salary at the time.
The 2008 Cowboys missed the playoffs at 9-7 and took a big step back offensively, finishing just 18th in the NFL in points, tied for 10th in touchdowns, 13th in total yards per game and ninth in passing yards. However, it is important to note that quarterback Tony Romo missed three games that season in which the Cowboys went 1-2 behind aging veteran Brad Johnson.
In January of 2009, Garrett withdrew his name from consideration for the Detroit Lions head coaching job, which ultimately went to Jim Schwartz. Garrett did not withdraw his name from consideration to coach the Broncos and Rams, however, and he was passed over for Josh McDaniels in Denver and Steve Spagnuolo in St. Louis.
It is imperative for assistant coaches to be opportunistic when they are the trendy name for a head coaching position. After losing star Tom Brady for the 2008 season, McDaniels ran a Patriots offense, which was quarterbacked by Matt Cassel, to a ranking of fifth in the league in total yards per game, 12th in passing yards, eighth in total points and tied for 10th in touchdowns.
Although the Patriots didn't really miss McDaniels after having a stellar 2009 season offensively, the opposite can be said for Spagnuolo and the Giants.
The 2008 Giants finished fifth in total defense, fifth in points surrendered and sixth in sacks. Without Spagnuolo, Big Blue's 2009 defense ranked 13th in total defense, 30th in points surrendered and tied for 18th in sacks. Spagnuolo's replacement, Bill Sheridan, was fired after this dismal season that saw New York give up 40 points on five different occasions, a franchise record.
While it is unknown if the Giants play significantly better defense if Spagnuolo stays, it is evident that it was still a risk for him to stay to find out. This is the risk that Jason Garrett took in January of 2008, and it could possibly end up burning him forever.
The Cowboys bounced back somewhat in 2009, winning the NFC East with an 11-5 record and finishing second in the league in total yards per game and sixth in passing yards. However, they were still in the middle of the pack from a scoring standpoint, as they ranked just 14th in total points and 13th in touchdowns with a healthy Tony Romo under center all season.
After being a name at the top of many teams' wish lists a short while ago, Garrett did not garner much head coaching buzz in January of 2010, and he no longer seems like a sure interview for any team.
Dallas, who hosts the Giants next week, is now facing a potential 1-5 start. The only media attention surrounding Garrett is that which criticizes him for his unbalanced, pass-heavy play-calling.
Unless they completely turn the 2010 season around, Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett will be fired. For Garrett, this means that the head coaching door that was wide open almost three years ago will be closed for a very long time.