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.