It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Jerry Jones is biding his time deciding whether to retain Jason Garrett as coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Jones has always done things his way, on his watch, according to his plan. No NFL team operates the way the Cowboys do.
Of course, no team with the resources and cultural dynamic of the Cowboys, America’s Team, if you will, has ever failed to be successful over such a long period of time. And that is Jones’ fault.
As an owner, he has no match. His vision and aspirational personality has turned the business of the Cowboys into a $5 billion bonanza. But as a general manager, he has been a colossal failure.
On Thursday, citing sources close to the Cowboys organization, ESPN reported Jones and his son, executive vice president Stephen Jones, had decided to fire Garrett, his coach for the last nine years.
But we have not heard from the boss.
The story featured an interesting twist, a reference to the “abundance of care and respect” the organization has for Garrett. And we do not doubt that. It has become clear over the last 12 years that Garrett and the Jones family have bonded in a way the organization hasn’t done before with a coach.
We’d go so far to say Jones likely considers Garrett another son. So this decision to let him go must be vexing. And maybe that’s why, after two postseason organizational meetings certainly laid bare the problems Garrett could not or did not address, that Jones hasn’t been able to actually say the words himself.
But its something Jones must do. Coaches have been fired for much less than what happened to the Cowboys this season. Dallas broke from the gate 3-0 and then lost eight of their last 13 games to finish in second place in an NFC East that should have been wrapped by the middle of December.
There is an interesting theory floating around. In talking about the Redskins hiring of Ron Rivera this week, we found it strange how a coach who lost favor in an organization he’d worked for so long could be thought to be so attractive by another they didn’t even bother interviewing other candidates.
Could the Cowboys be worried the Giants are waiting to pounce on Garrett to replace Pat Shurmur? Has the thought of Garrett coaching against the Cowboys twice a year for the next few years given Jones pause, a reason to double-clutch?
Something is giving Jones second thoughts. Maybe it’s the memories of naming Garrett offensive coordinator in 2007 after he’d served just two years as a quarterbacks coach with the Miami Dolphins. This was before Wade Phillips, the man he’d eventually replace in 2010 – after the Cowboys started the season 1-7 – had even been hired to replace Bill Parcells.
As it stands, Garrett has only 11 more days on his Cowboys contract. Its due to expire on Jan. 14. If not the Giants, there are a bunch of teams in the NFL looking for head coaches and offensive coordinators and those in the know suspect Garrett will remain unemployed for only as long as it takes him to fly into another city and sign another contract.
But that shouldn’t concern Jones. The Cowboys missed the playoffs and finished 8-8 for the fourth time in Garrett’s nine seasons. And the call for his firing has come from various corners.
Just the other day, Jimmy Johnson, who coached the Cowboys to multiple Super Bowl championships for Jones, laid it out pretty clearly.
“I don’t think so,” Johnson said of Garrett returning to the Cowboys in his role as a Fox NFL analyst. “I think even if they win the division and even if they’re in the playoffs — I don’t see them winning a playoff game — and I think the negativity in Dallas and around the Cowboys right now, it would be miserable if he continued to be the head coach.
“Nobody would be happy if he continued to be the head coach a year from now.”
Remember, Jones fired Tom Landry without hardly batting an eye. Why should moving on from Garrett be such a sticking point? Let’s just cut the losses, say Garrett finishes his career as the second-winningest coach in team history, but one who won just two playoff games and never moved his team beyond the divisional round.
He will finish as the second-longest-tenured and second-winningest coach in team history with a record of 85-67. But despite having just one losing season (2015), he had just four winning seasons. And this was with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Zeke Elliott, Jason Whitten, Dak Prescott and some of the top offensive linemen in the game.
It’s time to move in another direction in Dallas. Start a new with Lincoln Riley, Urban Meyer or some other bright light among league assistants.
All that’s left is for Jones to admit it and say it.