Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones must go back on his word to save the team's 2019 campaign. The Cowboys are a teetering mess and succumbed to the Chicago Bears' Thursday night onslaught—yes, the same Bears team that was a mess less than three weeks ago.
It's time to stop tap-dancing around the organization's biggest question mark and simply move on. Head coach Jason Garrett should be dismissed as soon as possible. Not after the season. Not after another week or two. Right now.
The team didn't respond during the 31-24 loss—which places Jones in an uncomfortable spot.
A week ago, Jones told reporters: "I'm just not going to make a coaching change. It's not impossible for us to do more than just show up in the playoffs."
The previous statement came with a caveat, though.
"I'm looking ahead at winning four or five straight and helping write a story they will talk about, how it looks like you're down and out," Jones continued. "And I mean that. That's the way that I'm operating. Every decision that I make over the next month will be with an eye in mind to get us in the Super Bowl now."
There is some wiggle room within Jones' earlier declarative statement. He essentially placed the onus on the team to win games.
But he doubled-down on keeping the coaching staff intact after the team's latest loss.
The Cowboys have now lost three straight contests after a 6-4 start.
Dallas remains in the playoff hunt because the NFC East is abysmal. A 6-7 squad shouldn't be rewarded. But here the Cowboys are with a half-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles, who face the woeful New York Giants this weekend. Even if the Eagles win, they'll still find themselves behind the Cowboys in the standings, because Dallas holds a superior division record and the head-to-head edge.
What Jones should ask himself is this: Is it better to stick with his current coach and possibly back into the postseason or try to make a legitimate run with a few regular-season games remaining?
Garrett is doing the least with the most among any coach in the league. No one questions the quality of the roster. Yet, Thursday's loss feeds into a common and correct narrative from recent years. Garrett doesn't consistently place his team in a position to succeed. Usually, he struggles to make the right decisions and adjustments.
Dallas' in-game adjustments aren't the absolute worst, but they're close. The Cowboys opened the contest with an impressive and time-consuming 17-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Beyond that, the offense did little until very late in the game when the Bears already had everything in hand.
A sign of good coaching often involves how a team reacts once things aren't scripted. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers are down to their third-string quarterback. They didn't have their top receiver or running back on the field Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, yet they still managed a 20-13 victory after falling behind 10-0 to start the game.
A Steelers player told ESPN's Dianna Russini after the game Tomlin "straight-up went high school football coach and drew up how they were going to defend Cleveland" since the Browns confused Pittsburgh with an early look. "He saved the game."
Garrett's record tracks in the opposite direction, as Sharp Football's Warren Sharp noted:
Warren Sharp @SharpFootball
Can Garrett make halftime adjustments? No. The last 5 yrs Dallas has won just 4 games they trailed at halftime. That ranks 30th in halftime deficits turned to wins (only the Browns & Lions have less). They are 1 of 5 teams who have been unable to overcome a deficit of >7 pts.
The numbers speak for themselves. Garrett is a mediocre coach who struggles when placed in high-pressure situations. He's benefited from the front office's player evaluations. It shouldn't be too hard to consistently win games with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Nick Martin, La'el Collins, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vender Esch and Byron Jones on the roster. Injuries do occur, but difference-makers can be found at every level of Dallas' roster.
Yet, the Cowboys have never made it beyond the divisional round of the playoffs under Garrett's supervision. Even worse, they might not make it to the postseason this year despite playing in the NFL's worst division.
"I'm going to look for ways to improve the situation," Jones said. "I'm still glad that when I get up in the morning, I can look for ways to help our team. One of them is not a coaching change."
Or, is it?
An injection of enthusiasm and accountability is needed in the worst way. Garrett doesn't provide either. Defensive backs coach/pass-game coordinator/de facto defensive coordinator Kris Richard does. He's the logical choice as an interim head coach.
"I wouldn't make a change and give us a chance to do what I want to dream about doing," Jones told reporters last week. "I wouldn't do that for love nor money. I'd give us zero chance if we did that."
Circumstances change, and Jones must do what's best for his team despite what he's previously said.
Richard isn't a typical interim possibility, either. He's not a retread veteran coach looking for one last chance to lead a team. He's also not someone the owner decides to throw a bone to after years of loyalty. Richard was one of the hottest head-coaching candidates entering this season.
"When he talks to you and you listen to his words, you understand this guy is going to be destined for greatness," cornerback Byron Jones said in January, per ESPN's Todd Archer.
The assistant interviewed with three teams—the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers—this past offseason, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Dallas entered Thursday's contest with the league's eighth-best defense. More importantly, players respond to Richard.
"First day I met him, you could tell there was something different about him," linebacker Jaylon Smith said, per Archer. "The tenacity he brings. The love for the game. The love for his men that he's teaching. Getting a chance to learn a lot from him, much more beyond football. He definitely has a purpose within athletics but beyond athletics as well."
The potential move also makes sense on two levels.
First, the Cowboys already have Rod Marinelli in place as defensive coordinator, and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore should continue to concentrate on the offense for now based on his overall lack of experience. Second, Richard would get a short tryout to earn a long-term job. Not many teams have the luxury of possibly firing a head coach with one of the better head coaching options already on staff.
If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. The Cowboys are already fading. If it's clear Richard isn't the best long-term choice, Jones can wipe the slate clean this offseason and start a full-court press for the biggest and most desirable name among coaching circles, Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley.
Garrett hasn't gotten the job done. Jones knows this. A decision to move now or later comes down to the owner's stubbornness, because there is no good reason to keep the status quo. The Cowboys' best move is to make a change sooner rather than later despite the owner's public comments.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.