Jason Garrett: NFL Draft Picks and Other Offseason Moves for Cowboys Head Coach
Jason Garrett is the new head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and this time there's no "interim" tag at the beginning of that title.
Garrett long has been thought to be the intended replacement for Wade Phillips once he left, but Phillips hung around longer than anyone originally thought, and much longer than he should have.
The Cowboys came out of the gates of the 2010 season looking anything like the championship team they were supposed to be. The Cowboys gave hints of what was to come during the preseason, but those hints were dismissed.
However, the horribly inconsistent and often lackluster play that plagued the preseason from even the starters carried over into the regular season, and by November the season was beyond over, Phillips was fired and Garrett got his chance.
A completely different-looking team took the field after Garrett took over, and the positive changes he's made have been rewarded with the job on a permanent basis, in whatever sense permanent means in the NFL.
Here's a look at some of the changes Cowboys fans can expect in the offseason.
1. More Energy
Let's face it—under Wade Phillips, the Cowboys looked like they were sleepwalking at times.
Once Garrett came in, there was a fresh spring in everyone's step, and that energy he brought was channeled into the players and showed up on the field on game day.
The Cowboys needed that shot of adrenaline, and owner Jerry Jones recognized just how much of a difference it made in his team.
2. A Tony Romo That Wins Big Games
Tony Romo had a lot of questions entering this season from his critics about his true ability to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, especially as a quarterback who hadn't had much success in the postseason.
Romo is 1-3 in the playoffs, and his 80.8 QB rating in those four games is nothing to write home about.
Romo will be 31 when the 2011 season starts, so the Cowboys are running out of time to develop this guy any further.
Romo's 2010 season was shaping up to be his best season as a professional when he got injured, so 2011 will end up being a "make or break" year for Romo.
If Garrett can't get an elite year out of Romo, you can bet the Cowboys will begin searching for their next quarterback.
3. A Defense That Works
The Cowboys were 31st in the league in points allowed, 23rd in yards allowed and had the 26th-ranked pass defense.
That's bad, and Garrett and Jones now have the offseason task of improving a defense Wade Phillips couldn't do anything with despite being the new defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans.
There are some major personnel upgrades needed to complete this equation, but Garrett can only do so much on that front.
What he needs to do is make sure the Cowboys stop giving up 25 to 30 points a game. It's hard to win games when you have to keep scoring touchdowns just to stay ahead of the curve.
4. Cowboys Will Need a New Cornerback
Michael Jenkins' play this year varied between "bad" and "offensive." There were times when you could point to Jenkins and say, "That guy is the reason the Cowboys are losing."
Look for the Cowboys to draft a cornerback in the first round. Along with the other problems in the secondary, you can't shut down the passing game if your best cornerback needs his head surgically removed from his posterior.
Garrett will probably target the best corner available. If he's lucky, it'll be Patrick Peterson. If not, the Cowboys probably still will be able to get Prince Amukamara based on the current draft board projections.
5. Garrett Has to Get the Running Game Going
Felix Jones is okay, but there's nothing about him that says he'll be the next great running back.
Tashard Choice and Marion Barber both are decent backs, but again, how far can the Cowboys go with this backfield?
Expect Garrett to make some changes, expect an improvement in the running game and don't be surprised if a running back comes off the board sometime in the middle rounds.
Garrett was the offensive coordinator before he was the head coach, so a lot of the Cowboys' failures in that department do rest with Garrett, but this is an opportunity for Garrett to correct his mistakes and put a more balanced attack on the field next year.
6. Keep Developing the Wide Receivers
Dez Bryant impressed everybody this season with his athleticism and ability to make big catches and big plays.
The only criticism Bryant took was his inability to keep up with some very complex defensive schemes in the NFL, something not every rookie is able to get his first year.
Bryant complained about not getting the ball enough in a few games, but with the pass-heavy offense the Cowboys will presumably continue to employ, Bryant should do okay.
Garrett has to keep on Bryant to get him into the film room and break down those schemes that were confusing to the point where Bryant can recognize them coming off the line.
7. Garrett Needs to Have a Role in Coaching Up the Offensive Line
The offensive line obviously failed Romo this year, and Jon Kitna got injured as well, so the Cowboys need to upgrade that line if they expect to make a playoff run.
Garrett needs to harness his knowledge of offense, hire a great line coach and work on keeping that pocket intact.
Romo's blind side must be protected, and that can be improved through free agency or the draft.
This will be as important a move as any the Cowboys make this offseason.
8. Garrett Has to Do Self-Evaluation
Garrett can't rest on his laurels this offseason. He not only has to look at what worked this year for him once he took over; he also has to look at why it worked.
Without the self-evaluation, any changes he made will be moot points. Change for change's sake doesn't always work, and when it does, it usually only works for so long unless there's direction.
9. Jerry Jones Has to Stay on Top of Garrett
Jerry Jones is one of the most hands-on owners in the league, and he helped win the Cowboys three Super Bowls in the '90s.
However, Garrett was a part of the problem when Phillips was here; that can't be overlooked. Jones has to be aware of what happened in 2010 and make sure the corrections are made.
10. Do It the Cowboy Way
Jason Garrett said in his press conference that he wanted to do things "the Cowboy Way." That phrase meant nothing but good things in the past.
If Jones and Garrett put together a strong core, work the fundamentals and fix the problems, there's no reason the Cowboys can't make the playoffs next year.
The Redskins are two or three years away from being contenders at this point, barring something unforeseen, and both the Eagles and Giants have shown they can be taken down by the right schemes.
The future is now in Dallas, and Cowboys fans are hoping Garrett is the man to lead this team to its next Super Bowl.