At the press conference announcing Jason Garrett as the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Garrett was asked a question about his authority to make coaching staff decisions. Before he could respond, Jerry Jones leapt to his feet and took the podium to field the question.
Cowboy fans, already concerned about how much power Garrett will have, must have been thinking that it was going to be the same old story with Jones. But what followed the awkward interruption was something totally unexpected.
Jones stated, “Jason will have the final say on any person that leaves the coaching staff or comes to the coaching staff. There won’t be a player on this team that Jason doesn’t want on the team.”
It would be easy to attribute what Jones said to the lip service that is known for, but there was something in the way that he said it that made it seem different than his usual sales pitch. Although I was initially in favor of locking up a high-profile coach and cleaning house entirely, the press conference has changed my mind.
When Jerry bought the team and hired Jimmy Johnson, it was all about starting fresh. They were a good pairing, but not a great one because both of them craved the spotlight.
Barry Switzer, on the other hand, seemed to be thrilled to get back into coaching, and was more than willing to let Jerry take center stage.
And though he won a Super Bowl with the team that he inherited, the image that comes to mind when his name comes up is Switzer eating a hot dog on the sidelines while coaching in the Pro Bowl, and the buffoonery that took place at the press conference announcing him as the head coach.
The Chan Gailey hiring after Switzer resigned came as a shock to everyone, since he was never one of the rumored coaching candidates. For some reason, Gailey never seemed to be a good fit. Aside from his tension with Troy Aikman, he wasn’t one of “Jerry’s guys.” Because he was a first-time head coach, and kind of reserved, Gailey didn’t seek out the spotlight.
After Gailey’s firing, Jerry returned to his comfort zone, and brought in the very familiar and very safe, Dave Campo. Unfortunately for Campo, he was never seen as anything other than Jerry’s puppet.
Three consecutive 5-11 seasons with Campo at the helm left Jones no choice but to swing for the fences with his next hire. The winning tradition of the Cowboys was on the line. And more importantly, Jones needed to make a splash so that he would get the necessary support of the taxpayers to build his new stadium.
Jones swallowed hard and made the call to Bill Parcells. Desperate Cowboy fans instantly jumped on the Parcells bandwagon. And since Parcells cast such a big shadow, Jones had no choice but to fade into the background a bit. Quite frankly, Parcells would stand for nothing less.
Everyone knows how much Parcells likes to do the “grocery shopping.” And for the first time since Jimmy Johnson’s departure, Jones had to contend with an ego that matched his own. The two co-existed for a while, but eventually, Jones' desire for the spotlight could not be contained. When Jerry signed Terrell Owens, the writing was on the wall for Parcells.
The stadium was already approved, so Jones no longer needed to share the spotlight with a high-profile coach once Parcells left.
Enter Wade Phillips, perhaps the most non-threatening head coach in the history of professional sports. Phillips is not the type of personality that even desires the spotlight. He seemed more than happy to let Jones take the wheel with his “aw shucks” attitude. Phillips was never thought of as anything more than Jones' puppet, and rightfully so.
Jason Garrett was actually hired as the offensive coordinator before Phillips was hired as the head coach. This was a bold move even for Jones. In the past, he would just try and push the existing staff on the new coach.
Jones hired Garrett as the offensive coordinator, with a chance that he could be elevated to head coach if no other suitable head coaching candidates were found.
It was no secret that Jerry thought that Garrett would someday be the head coach of the Cowboys. The only reason that Phillips ever got the job was because of his previous success with the 3-4 defense.
It was also no secret that being the head coach of the Cowboys was the job that Jason Garrett always dreamed of having, based on the fact that he turned down some very good head coaching opportunities with other teams.
Every previous head coach was either too bold or too weak. None of the head coaches hired by Jerry carried themselves with an heir of authority and a willingness to let Jerry be Jerry.
Jason Garrett may not be the best head coaching candidate out there, but he may be the only one that can turn this organization around because of his unique makeup.
Not to give Jones too much credit, but he did see something in Garrett while he was playing for the Cowboys, and tried to get him into coaching many years ago. But at the time, Garrett wasn’t ready to stop playing in the NFL.
The Cowboys are a family-run organization. Jones may not make the greatest decisions all of the time, but the one thing that he cannot be accused of is disloyalty to family. Some may call it nepotism, but the involvement that his sons have in the team seems to run deeper than that.
Jones values family and loyalty. Jason Garrett’s father, Jim, was a longtime scout for the Cowboys, and both of his brothers currently work for the Cowboys. John Garrett is the tight ends coach, and Judd Garrett works in the Cowboys front office. Needless to say, Jones is extremely comfortable with the Garrett family.
The press conference to announce Garrett as the head coach was rather mundane. It wasn’t as exciting as when Bill Parcells came to the Cowboys, and Jones shed no tears of desperation as he did when Wade Phillips came to the Cowboys. It was all kind of matter-of-fact.
It’s possible that because the element of surprise was all but removed many weeks ago, the press conference was an anticlimactic end to the coaching search. However, the tenor of the press conference is what was most intriguing.
Jones seemed very relaxed, like a man who had finally found peace after years of torment. He said something very telling in the press conference that showed that he does not have a desire to change coaches again in the foreseeable future.
“We are totally aligned in the vision that I can see in the future, and years to come with what we might get going here with Jason Garrett as head coach,” Jones sincerely stated. He went on to say that “you can dream about a long-term look.”
Jones admitted to being naïve in his thinking when he first entered the NFL. He thought that Jimmy Johnson could have matched Tom Landry’s tenure by coaching the Cowboys for the next 29 years.
He concluded by saying, “You can dream and put things in place long- term with Jason because of his age and because of his background and experience growing up in NFL football.“
There was something about this press conference that made it feel like Jones has always envisioned Jason Garrett as the Cowboys long-term head coach, but he had to wait until the timing was right. The admiration and affection that Jones has for Garrett seems to be as much paternal as it is an owner trying to get everyone excited about his new coach.
Perhaps Jones has taken a step back and realized that the teams that contend for the playoffs nearly every season are the ones who aren’t constantly making coaching changes.
Based on Jones' remarks at the press conference, it seems that the one thing that has eluded him since joining the NFL is the chance to build the team around one head coach.
By all accounts, Jason Garrett might just be that guy. If he is, then Cowboy fans may get the chance to cheer for a perennial winner instead of hoping every four years that the new coach will be the one to get the team back to the Super Bowl.