In the mainstream media, there seems to be widespread speculation regarding the prospects of interim head coach Jason Garrett being named the permanent head coach of the Dallas Cowboys following the 2010 regular season. The basis for this chatter seems to be centered on the fact that this team has played better than they did the first nine weeks of the season under former head coach Wade Phillips.
Before I get into examining Garrett up close, let’s remember most importantly that the Cowboys started off 1-7 in 2010. The first month of the regular season had not ended yet before Cowboys fans knew that this team would need a dramatic turnaround in order to reach the Super Bowl. By Halloween, it was all over.
Along the way, Garrett was right there calling the offensive plays in the most offensive fashion. I hate to kick dead horses, but how can we forget the miserably immature decision to run whatever that was just prior to halftime in the season opener at Washington? That was a disaster if I ever saw one at the professional level of football.
You know the plays that have left you scratching your head, or better put, cussing your television out as you watched another Sunday, Monday or Saturday evening completely wasted because this guy refuses to run the ball. Let’s not forget a fun Thursday in there on Thanksgiving this year as the Cowboys fell short against a New Orleans Saints team it just dominated a year ago.
Yes, there have been good games with Garrett involved in the offense. Dallas generally beats middle of the pack to bottom feeder teams based on sheer talent alone.
Last year’s playoff win aside, only three statement games can I think of that Garrett has been involved in as a coach during a regular season game. The Cowboys beat a real contender in the Green Bay game in 2007 and also the New Orleans game in 2009. We have to include last year’s playoff clinching win over Philadelphia as well. Can you think of any others?
On the flip side, how many games can we all think of that were lost because of turnovers, penalties or just plain poor strategy, like passing the ball 40-plus times in a game? If the players are really to blame for this mess than Garrett and/or Phillips had plenty of time to realize that personnel needed to change. And how about the huge blowout losses to end seasons the last two years?
In early 2007, a few eyebrows raised when Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones hired Garrett as his first-time offensive coordinator and assistant head coach before even hiring a head coach to replace the suddenly departed Bill Parcells. After all, Garrett had only been retired from football as a career backup quarterback since 2004 and had served just two years as a quarterback coach with the Miami Dolphins.
See, Garrett’s father, Jim, served as a scout for the Cowboys from 1987 to 2004. Just two years after starting that post with the Cowboys, Jason left Princeton and would sign with the New Orleans Saints as an un-drafted free agent in 1989. By 1991 Jason had begun a tw- year stint playing in the World League of American Football and the Canadian Football League before landing a backup gig with, guess who, the defending world champion Dallas Cowboys.
Realize that Garrett was not Super Bowl XXVII MVP Troy Aikman’s backup quarterback but rather the third quarterback. Hugh Millen had been acquired from New England as insurance for Aikman since he had undergone offseason surgery on his back and it was feared he could miss up to 12 weeks.
Later that season, the Cowboys jumped on the opportunity to acquire Bernie Kosar following his release from Cleveland. Apparently the presence of Garrett and Millen were not enough to give then head coach Jimmy Johnson too much confidence in how far the team would go without Aikman since 1991 backup quarterback hero Steve Beuerlein was no longer in the mix.
So why exactly was Garrett there in the first place? Remember that his father was well into his tenure as a scout for the Cowboys. This is no big deal but just hear me out here.
Garrett actually bounced around in college too. After starting off at Princeton, he transferred to Columbia in 1985 to play for Jim, who had become head coach of the Lions. Brothers Jon and Judd also made the leap. Well, Columbia went 0-10 that year and Jim resigned as head coach. Jason and his brothers went right back to Princeton and completed their college ball there.
Is it just me or does it seem like things have been a little too cozy for Jason Calvin Garrett, at least in the football world? I understand that family will often try to work together in certain situations and in many cases they do. But if this is going to happen then things really need to be successful. Anything less starts to look kind of rigged. Go check out who the Dallas tight end coach is right now. How’s Jason Witten looked this year? Just saying.
I realize that Jason Garrett might have a bright future as an NFL head coach or executive. My main issue is that he’s really a lousy play caller. But whatever he is right now, it will not work for the future.
Did you happen to notice the empty seats at Cowboys Stadium during the Washington game last Sunday? The attendance was officially listed at 86,904 but it didn’t even look like that. How about Jason Garrett himself actually putting his cheerleader hat on during a key 3rd-and-long for the Redskins in the third quarter? Garrett was actually waving his arms up and down trying to generate some crowd noise just before Washington converted a first down on the way to scoring another touchdown.
So much for that idea.
The Dallas fanbase is the biggest in the NFL. It’s also the most fickle. I get that Jones likes Jason a lot and there is obviously a loyalty there that nobody really realized until 2007. But sometimes you have to look at the facts with no emotional attachment, exactly Jones’ problem as GM.
While the Cowboys have played closer to where they were last year since the firing of Phillips over a month ago, they are well short of that level of play and the idea that Phillips should be fired and Garrett should stay long term is something only cronyism would allow. Jones has a history of this as well. Jimmy Johnson. Barry Switzer. The Garrett Bunch apparently.
So this is exactly the why Garrett will not be named permanent head coach in a little over a week heading into the 2011 offseason, at least not if Jones is as smart as I still think he is.
If Garrett is hired long term, Jones loses money and fans in ways he does not care to entertain. Remember that Cowboys Stadium wasn’t free and carries a rather heavy balance at the moment. Dallas is just 8-8 at home since the building opened. Not going to work.
If he hires another coach, be it Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick, Jim Harbaugh or anybody else, the fans stay interested and are re-energized as a result. The latter is the only choice Jones can make. If not, being the risk taker he admittedly is, Jones violates his own parameters for risk taking to begin with. According to Jones, you take risks when the potential reward significantly outweighs the potential loss. Garrett’s previous performance and experience level do not fit this formula.