It was not long ago that rumors of who was going to be the next Coach of the Dallas Cowboys surfaced daily. Names such as Sean Payton, Andy Reid and Mike Holmgren were high on the list of potential replacements. Don’t pack your bags yet fellas because I can tell you who is going to be the Head Coach of the Cowboys next year; its Jason Garrett, the current Head Coach.
How do I know this? It was all in his smile. There was something about the look Jerry Jones was wearing in his Owner’s box at the conclusion of the Pittsburgh Steelers game. His proud smile revealed his team had just won a hard fought overtime win but to me it also said a little more. The look of being exonerated for defending and sticking by his inexperienced Head Coach as the sharks circled around him many times this year.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been fooled by this Owner, Team and Coach a number of times before, but maybe just maybe; they collectively are starting to get it. The Cowboys have been playing with heart and determination, two qualities that have been lacking around this team for quite some time. They are now winners of five of their last six games and if they can win their remaining last two; they will find themselves in the unlikely role of NFC East Champions.
Jason Garrett, a former NFL backup quarterback himself, has finally figured out how to manage his sometimes mistake prone Quarterback, Tony Romo. Garrett seemed to be gun shy in his play calling to start games this year; his motive was limiting early turnovers. However, lately, Garrett is demonstrating that he is growing more and more confident in Romo’s game decisions. And why not, Romo has thrown for only 3 interceptions in his last 7 games versus 13 in the first seven.
Coach Garrett’s play calling mix is also improving. He kept the Steeler defense off balance by mixing in just enough of the run at the right times. While Cowboy Running Back, DeMarco Murray, only carried the ball 14 times he did gain 81 yards for a very effective 5.78 average per carry. With the emergence of Wide Receiver, Dez Bryant, the return of Demarco Murray, and Romo playing at such a high level, this Cowboy offense is starting to look potent once again.
A major criticism of Garrett and rightly so was his mismanagement of the time clock at critical junctures of games. The offense would inexplicably demonstrate an almost lackadaisical approach very late in fourth quarters with time expiring. Garrett also would not use his timeouts in an expeditious manner, even saving one past the end of a close game loss.
He also called some questionable deep wide receiver routes not taking into account how little time was left on the clock. His play calling would leave wide receivers way down field without accounting for the time necessary to get back to the line of scrimmage after a short completion. The Quarterback would then have to wait for the receivers down field to make it back to the line before spiking the ball to stop the clock. This wasted valuable time.
However, in this last Steeler game Garrett made all the right decisions, by forgoing the field goal attempt with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter and deciding to punt instead; he ended up giving his team the chance to win in overtime at home. Perhaps he has learned from his previous mistakes and now has a better feel for managing the clock. I really hope thats the case.
For all of the above reasons, I am smiling with Jerry. Garrett has earned at least one more year as Head Coach of the Cowboys in 2013.
On a personal note, this was a great win for the Cowboys and for me. I lived through the two difficult Super Bowl losses the Cowboys suffered at the hands of this very same Steeler organization in the 1970’s. Some thirty something years later, I am almost over those losses. I know I won’t be fully recovered unless I can utter the words, “those 70’s Steeler teams were simply better than those 70’s Cowboys.” I do feel I am almost ready for that admission, but not quite, this win definitely brings me closer though.