Fun Fact: Nick Saban was so impressed with Jason Garrett with the Miami Dolphins that he wanted to take him to Alabama in 2007 to be part of his coaching staff.

The Case for Keeping Garrett

Back when I first became a contributor The Landry Hat back in February, I spoke with a content coordinator at a Cowboys message board about posting some Landry Hat articles on the message board. He told me that he had in the past, but that some members found the content to be too negative.

Too negative? That was in reference to 2011 articles. I wonder what he would think about the current articles you can find here in 2012.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to mute any pessimistic opinions about these Dallas Cowboys or even shout it down. To be real, it’s all warranted. At 5-6, with the prospect of missing the playoffs for the third straight year, there’s a lot of frustration with this team. And I know some of my fellow writers will churn it out, but I want to inject a little Fairness Doctrine here and provide a countering viewpoint, or an “angel’s advocate” since it’s something positive.

The Dallas Cowboys should retain Jason Garrett as head coach.

From an emotional standpoint, I’m so sick of seeing us go through head coach after head coach without any tangible results. Since Barry Switzer’s third year, mediocrity has been the status quo here in Dallas. From dark horses like Chan Gailey to big names like Bill Parcells, it’s been the same story every season: penalties galore, December collapses, and never sniffing the conference championship game. We’re on our fifth head coach and it’s still the same old story. Why keep burning through coaches when we only had one head coach for our first 29 years?

No, I want to talk about that. Do you realize that Tom Landry didn’t have a non-losing season until 1965 when he led the Cowboys to a 7-7 record? Naturally, he had to deal with not having a 1960 draft class, aged veterans, and other complications of building an expansion franchise. But once he got his system in place, it took twenty years and Clint Murchison’s wild living to derail it.

Look at Bill Belichick in Cleveland. He was trying to put a winning system in place. Initially, he had three consecutive 6-10/7-9 seasons before finally getting over the hump in 1994 with an 11-5 season coupled with a wild card playoff win. Sadly, the whole dismantling of the Cleveland Browns and moving them to Baltimore changed all of that, but the system he’s put in place in New England is what would have worked in a more stable environment.

Coaches need time.

Gary Kubiak is another good example. Do you know how long he toiled in Houston without a playoff berth before finally putting all the pieces together? Five seasons. Five seasons of 6-10, 8-8, 8-8, 9-7, and 6-10 before finishing 10-6 and getting their first playoff win. Can you imagine the freak out if Kubiak were a Cowboys coach having gone 6-10 after that optimistic 9-7 peak?

Constant change is bad for an organization. Coaches have different expectations for what they want in a player, and this is communicated to the scouting director, which, for the Cowboys, is Tom Ciskowski. If you throw out Garrett and his system and put in a new coach’s system, it will take a couple of years for it to finally take. The scouting department hasn’t had consistency on what’s a good player since Jimmy Johnson, and who know how many of those original scouts remain in Dallas.

Looking at retread coaches isn’t the answer. It rarely is, and it never is in Dallas. Here’s a list of the record for Super Bowl winning coaches who have been two years and a half into their second stint:


Tom Flores: 11-31
Joe Gibbs: 19-23
Mike Ditka: 14-28
Bill Parcells: 19-23 (Patriots), 25-17 (Jets), 23-19 (Cowboys)
George Seifert: 16-26
Jimmy Johnson: 23-19
Mike Holmgren: 20-22
Dick Vermeil: 23-19


Aside from Bill Parcells and Mike Holmgren, none of those coaches ever got their team to the postseason in their first season as head coach elsewhere, and even Parcells wasn’t able to do that with the Jets and Patriots. It’s also worth mentioning that Holmgren and Parcells are the only coaches to have taken their second teams to the conference championships (which, by the way, Parcells didn’t even win a playoff game with us).

The reality is it takes time to put a system in place. Even with Mike Holmgren, after getting the playoffs in his first season in 1999 with the Seahawks, he regressed to 6-10, 9-7, and 7-9 with no playoff appearances before leading them to a string of five straight seasons with a postseason appearance. I know the Turkey Neck and his Legion of Doom on KESN-FM would stir up their audience into believing the Holmgren experiment was a failure if we went 6-10 after an initial playoff appearance.

Sean Payton is another good example for how Cowboys fans and the media have zero patience. After a conference championship game appearance in his first season in 2006, he went 7-9 and 8-8 before finally putting his system in place to win a Super Bowl and then winning a minimum of 11 games before Bounty Gate. What do you think would happen after the 8-8 season there?

Here’s a stat: of the past seven Super Bowl winning coaches, only one of them had been with his team for less than four year. That’s Mike Tomlin, and the championship system in Pittsburgh was waiting on him.

It takes time.

Be careful for what you wish. Firing Jason Garrett won’t fix any problems. It will start whole new ones. And if the fan base doesn’t have the patience to wait for Garrett to install his system, change the culture, and build a winner, then they won’t have the patience for a retread whatsoever.

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Tags: Dallas Cowboys Jason Garrett Mike Holmgren Sean Payton The Landry Hat

  • Staubachc

    I would keep JG. We need a few years of stability and I like his principles. Talent on the O-Line will solve a lot of “his failures”. The O-Line is a deck of cards that have caused most of our problems. From lack of running, to Romo having time, to loss of fluid play. Cannot get in a groove with this joke of an O-Line.

    I might consider a new defensive coordinator and hiring Bill Polian as GM but I would keep JG. Everyone thought Doc Rivers of the Celtics was a bad coach but look what happened when he had some talent.

    Most of our draft picks, at least rounds 1-3, should be O-Line

    • Terry Wilson

      Garret is a horrible play caller!. Everyone knows what we are going to do from the slow HB draws to the dumb TE screen play he is predictable. If our o-line is terrible we should not be calling so many draw plays. We should be using screen plays to stop DE’s from pinning their ears back and getting romo…. He need to stop calling 15 yrd & 20 yrd wr routes for dez and miles the o-line cant protect romo long enough for our wr’s to complete the route. Tony Romo is great in the no huddle so why dont we run no huddle like the PATS, Broncos and etc?? He waits till we get down 28pts to use the no huddle we are good at obviously so lets run it consistently. Our offensive line suck so he needs to play call like it, lets run quick slants,flags and etc. If the defense cheats up sneak some fly routes in but we cant continue doing what we been doing the last 4-6yrs. We have the same problems when had that got wade fired. We are one of the most penalized teams in the NFL that’s coaching need to discipline our players. Same underachieving offense because its the same play caller for the past 4-6 yrs JG is trying to make players fit his system when he should be building a system that fits his players and talent, maybe he can stay as a HC but he needs to lose all offensive coordinating duties ASAP

      • cowboys4life

        He just needs to go period!

  • The Dude

    Good article, but you didn’t mention how he’s been the O coordinator for almost 5-6 years now.

    • Gary Hermenau

      yeah, and he wasn’t any good there either.

  • SoCal

    Jimmy Johnson said this: Draft/Trade for SMART players. I believe they currently have 4-5 really smart guy’s, then Dez. The smarter the head coach, the smarter the players need to be. The elaborate plays and changes continue to become more elaborate and more difficult for dumb players to comprehend.

    • Artie C

      I agree

  • jrcowboy49

    Time for Dallas to hire Sean Peyton! Both Garret and Ryan need to be replaced.

  • SoVa

    Mark Lane makes several bad assumptions. The major one is he assumes all coaches are equal and that given enough time they will all be great. NOT SO. Garrett has shown no indication that he grasps the most obvious and elementary aspects of the game. His offensive genius wore out about three years ago.

  • ‘mericas_team2012

    I agree that we should keep Garrett around longer but regardless of record there has been no improvement at all. Still inconsistent, to many penalties and dumb plays I would be happy with a 5-6 record if i could at least see a team who can come out and play a solid game from start to finish without the drive killing mistakes by players and coaches. I mean there are 2 examples of poor coaching just from the Skins game: 1st down QB sneak and the spotting challenge on 3rd down where RR had to get on JG to challenge the play. Those are both mistakes that a coach should not be making on a regular basis as JG is…

  • Fan4Life

    Most intelligent article on the subject. I’m a life-long fan of the Cowboys, and I am so sick of people calling themselves fans & expecting a Super Bowl win from a new coach 1-2 years into his program. To me, they all sound completely ignorant on the NFL.

    • Gary Hermenau

      If you think Garret is any good; you’re the one who is ignorant.

  • Roger

    The Coryelle-based offensive scheme simply doesn’t produce with Garrett running it. There is no way to argue that–it’s a fact backed up by several years of declining production.

    Stability only works if you have a coaching staff that has a winning system for today’s players. NE has a system and staff that works, same with GB, same with NO and NY. These teams put up points. None of them fails to produce, even when their running game is weak. Why? Their systems and their coordinators work.

    We are wasting the last of Romo’s career by saddling him with an outdated system and a coach who has no feel for game day play calling and game management. Garrett appears calm on the outside, but he is clearly too nervous on game day to think clearly and track all the variables needed to win games.

    Romo’s drop off this year can be attributed to him realizing that he doesn’t play for a winning organization. They couldn’t put together a line to protect him, they can’t call plays that keep him in rhythm and they can’t manage the clock. He is so frustrated this year and I can’t blame him.

    It’s time to clean house.

    • cowboys4life

      I Agree starting with Jason Garret, bring S.Payton.

    • Gary Hermenau

      I AGREE COMPLETELY! Romo only has about 2 to 4 years left, and they’re wasting them with Jason Garrett. Romo needs to step up and speak up.

  • cowboys4life

    hes the coach wowGarret was not a good offensive coordinator and definitely a poor coach. Look what Wade Phillips is doing with the Texans?Jerry should have never got rid of Wade Phillips he was a great coach, but had bad offensive coordinator guess who that was?Yes Jason garret now he’s the coach wow. He wanted that job from the start but it was given to the right man Wade PHILLIPS seeing what he’s doing with the TEXANS is 100% proof Jerry Jones made a mistake in letting him go, just like he did with Jimmy Johnson and boy boy boy did he blow that one big time Jerry also deserves credit for this season of problems and all the media thinks so as well. I would like to see S Payton as New Head coach 100%.

    • Dietz

      Wade Phillips has always been a good DC and a terrible HC… thats been the problem with the last few hires by Jerry…. He hires coordinators that are not ready to take total control and they cannot handle the job of head coach

    • Gary Hermenau

      Wades defense spent a lot of time on the field, thanks to Garretts offense. It was Garretts o-line that was to blame for Romo’s broken shoulder.

  • Dietz

    Very good article, you make some interesting points. The problem is when you used the records of the Super Bowl coaches, you failed to mention that those coaches took over horrible franchises. Most of the coaches took over after trainwreck seasons and were in rebuilding phases… The Cowboys are not in a rebuilding phase so Garrett’s winning percentage should be higher…
    We do need stability at the head coaching position, but you have to ask yourself if the Cowboys are headed in the right direction from when Garrett took over, or are they stagnant or going down… I would argue for the later…

    My problems with Garrett are too major to let him stay.

    1) The team has come out flat for 3 weeks in a row… At least if a team is competitive I can live with not winning, but when you start the game the way the Cowboys have recently, that falls on the coaching staff

    2) I will never forgive Garrett for icing his own kicker in the Arizona game last year… That is unacceptable and one of the main reasons I was ready to fire him last year.

    3) His offensive play calling is terrible. He is so predictable and unimaginative. It seems like the job of HC is too much for him and it is hurting his ability to make good decisions on what to run….

    • Gary Hermenau

      Right. You have to be completely incompetent to take so many good athletes in the wrong direction.

  • Gary Hermenau

    What a load of garbage. Dallas was in need of a top-notch HC, and they were given a sub-par OC. Would anyone, in their right mind, replace Tom Coughlin or Bill Belichick with a rookie???

  • Artie C

    I agree with the theory, Mark. The thing with Garrett is that Jerry elavated him too soon to the head coaching gig. It was a risk, and it isn’t working with the current group of players. A new head coach putting in his system does need time and I have referred to garrett as a great head coach – at some point in the future. I think you can change coaches and have success, but the list of coaches that can do it is short. Sean Payton may actually be the only one as pertains to the Cowboys. I also think if we keep Garrett and give him time, he will succeed – just not with Romo or Witten or D Ware, they doen’t have the time and in Romo’s case, I don’t think his skill set is a good fit in Garrett’s system.

  • Juanito Juanito

    garrett smart, who cares, he is short, cowboys need a coach smart, discipline, and motivated coach,with strong caracter, garrett just smart, no good

  • Cowgirlcas22

    the difference is the coaches you mentioned had 1 thing Garrett doesn’t and that’s a solid resume as a coach. I would feel much better sticking with a coach who served his time and earned the title head coach. Not a guy who was handed the title by an owner who wants a yes man.

    The other fact is you could see a change in culture under those coaches immediately. Parcells came to Dallas after 3 consecutive 5-11 seasons and took them to the playoffs his 1st season. All we have seen from Garrett is a team rapidly declining rather than improving. This is to include the time since he took over as offensive coordinator. The running game has been on a steady decline ever since.

    Another point is these other coaches didn’t inherit as much talent as Garrett did. Crap when Parcells came here they didn’t even have a QB. Look at the drafts under Garrett compared to under Parcells. If you name the best players on this team, they “ALL” came under Bill. Look at the game management under Parcells compared to Garrett. No my friend Garret is not the answer. Lets get a coach who is “QUALIFIED” for the job and give him time to bring the change we desire. This team will go nowhere under Garrett, He was a career backup in the NFL because of his inability to lead and/or manage games. Not because of his mechanics as a QB.