Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett prior to the game against the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

When Should the Dallas Cowboys End the Jason Garrett Experiment?

As much as I like to look forward and focus on the future of the Dallas Cowboys, I often look to the past for answers. Today, I would like to look at teams that won the Super Bowl and compare them to the Dallas Cowboys.

Jerry Jones has publicly acknowledged the closing of our “window of opportunity”. The unspoken fear is that the careers of our franchise players like tight end Jason Witten, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and Romo will end without a championship. The three players I mentioned are 30 years old and over. It would be disgraceful if their careers ended without being a part of a championship team.

Romo became a starter in 2006 and soon to be Hall of Famer Bill Parcells was our head coach. That was the year of the infamous mishandled snap against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card playoff game. Since then, it may be fair to say that our head coaches have been underwhelming and lacking in experience.

Starting in 2007, Wade Phillips became head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Only counting the years Phillips coached a full 16 game season, he had 5 years of head coaching experience. He acquired another three full years of coaching with the Cowboys.

Our current head coach, Jason Garrett replaced Wade Phillips eight games into the 2010 season. Only counting 16 game seasons, Garrett has a total of 2 years of head coaching experience. Garrett did not have any prior head coaching experience. While he played for a variety of NFL teams, in a coaching capacity, he served as the Miami Dolphins quarterback coach under Nick Saban and as offensive coordinator under Wade Phillips.

Was choosing Garrett the right choice? Should Jones have selected an experienced head coach? Should Jones have found someone from a proven coaching tree? I’m not a fan of Garrett, but it is still early in his coaching career. Maybe the day will come when the anti-Garrett segment of Cowboy Nation will be proven wrong. Hopefully Jerry Jones didn’t sabotage the careers of Romo, Witten and Ware by choosing Phillips and Garrett as head coaches.

Since 2007, five different coaches have led their teams to Super Bowl titles with Tom Coughlin winning twice. When Coughlin, head coach of the New York Giants, won his first Super Bowl in 2007, it was his 12th year as an NFL head coach. His second title came during his 16th year. From 1984 to 1990, Coughlin served under head coaches: Marion Campbell, Forrest Gregg and Bill Parcells.

Looking at the other coaches that won the Super Bowl in recent years, it seems experience isn’t the only deciding factor.

John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens, won a Super Bowl in his 5th year as a head coach. While Harbaugh lacked prior head coaching experience, he served under Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid from 1998 — 2008.

Mike McCarthy, coach of the Green Bay Packers, won a Super Bowl in his 5th year as a head. From 1993 — 2005, McCarthy coached under Marty Schottenheimer, Ray Rhodes, Jim Haslett and Mike Nolan.

Sean Payton, coach of the New Orleans Saints, won a Super Bowl in his 4th year as a head coach. From 1997 — 2005, Payton served under Ray Rhodes, Jim Fassel and Bill Parcells. Payton should’ve been head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, but that’s another situation Jerry Jones mishandled.

Perhaps the quickest to win the Lombardi trophy is Mike Tomlin, coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tomlin won a Super Bowl in his 2nd year and reached the Super Bowl again in his 4th year. From 2001 — 2006, Tomlin served under Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Brad Childress.

Interesting note — While Tomlin is the only “young” coach to not serve under Ray Rhodes, it turns out that Jon Gruden, who mentored Tomlin, did. That leaves me to another interesting note which I’ll mention soon.

What can we conclude from this? Jason Garrett is entering his 3rd full year as coach of the Dallas Cowboys. If young, inexperienced coaches are winning Super Bowl titles in their 4th and 5th years as head coach, Cowboy Nation will have to be patient as Garrett navigates the learning curve. Unfortunately, there are two factors working against Garrett.

The first is time. It is doubtful players like Romo, Ware and Witten will be able to perform at a high level over the next three years. Owner and General Manager, Jerry Jones hasn’t proven to be the most patient tool in the shed either. Jason Garrett must accelerate his learning curve to help the Cowboys capture a Lombardi trophy.

The second is Garrett’s lack of coaching lineage. With the exception of Tom Coughlin, every Super Bowl winning coach since 2007 has been connected in some way to Ray Rhodes.

Don’t worry Cowboy Nation, I do have some good news. Remember that interesting note I mentioned? Well, there is one prominent coach on the Dallas Cowboys’ staff that did serve under Ray Rhodes. This coach also served under Jon Gruden and has reached a Super Bowl as head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2002. That coach would be play caller and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan.

If the chain of coaches connected to Ray Rhodes continues to win Super Bowls, this could be the Cowboys’ year. If not, then how long do we continue with the Jason Garrett experiment?

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  • melman

    Jon Gruden Didn’t Coach The 2002 Raiders To A Super Bowl. He Coached The Bucs To Their First Appearance And Only Win In The Super Bowl Against His Former Team, The Raiders,In His First Season Coaching In Tampa.

    • Robert H. Carroll

      I think you misread the sentence – “This coach also served under Jon Gruden and has reached a Super Bowl as head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2002.”
      It does not say that Gruden coached the 2002 Raiders to the Super Bowl.

  • billy

    we have already suffered through what should be garretts worst two years. he should be better now especially since callahan is calling the plays. he seems to be a good judge of talent and the players play hard for him. i say lets keep him for awhile and let him get more experience. tom landry started out as a new head coach without any prior experience and lasted 29 yrs. lots of fans were calling for his head too but murchison gave him a 10 year contract so that quietened the haters a lot. i think jason will get better as time passes

    • Robert H. Carroll

      I’ll say that “hopefully” we have suffered thru his worst two years. I hope he gets better, for the sake of the Cowboys! If Witten, Ware & Romo want a championship, we may not be able to afford giving Garrett much experience.

      If Jones announced a 10 year contract for Garrett, Cowboy Nation would march down city streets in peaceful protest. With Callahan controlling the offense and Kiffin on the defense, Garrett reminds me of Dick Vermeil with the 1999 St. Louis Rams.

      Mike Martz ran the offense and Peter Giunta ran the defense. Vermeil seemed to be enjoying the ride and reaping the benefits. It doesn’t fit exactly, because of his time with the Eagles, Vermeil was a respected head coach. Jason Garrett would be viewed as more of a “figurehead”.

      What do you think?

      • Pounda

        Garrett is a lame duck. He’ll be banished as offensive coordinator to some distant outpost next year, like Arizona or Cleveland. Maybe there he can learn how to be less predictable with his playcalling.

        • Robert H. Carroll

          If this team isn’t handed to Callahan, I can wait until after Garrett’s fifth year to let him go. Hopefully he can learn things from his experienced assistant coaches. If the switch to the 4-3 doesn’t hamper us.. I think we have enough firepower at the skill positions to reach the playoffs.

          • frank

            If you were to see this team perform last year, especially the offense. The players were just running thru the motions, no excitement, like they did not believe on the plays being called against New Orleans, they fell behind like the whole season. Once Romo took over, totally different team on the field, the players were playing to win. Just makes you wonder if we had a decent coach, how good can this team be, because this short passes here and there, make it easy on a team to get an interception if the receiver is not there when Romo throws the ball or Romo were to throw a bad pass, it is either a catch or interception and that is where the problem lies within the offense. This guy needs to be creative if the line stinks and all he has to offer are the same plays when he played with the Cowboys. The Cowboys back then had a balance attack in all areas.

  • cuppcheck

    what a crap article.

    • Robert H. Carroll

      I guess you knew that 4 of the last 5 Super Bowl winning coaches were connected to Ray Rhodes (thus Bill Walsh). I’m trying to point out why Callahan could be the key to a championship in Dallas. Oh well, I can’t please everybody. Thanks for posting.

      • Lee Turner

        Your article was fine. The person you are replying to is a Garrett shill.

  • Adam

    What was Landry’s record the first 3 years? 9-28-3. Took him 6 years to have a .500 record, then didn’t have another losing season for 20 years. IF you have the right guy you stick with him.

    • Robert H. Carroll

      That’s true, but in the beginning the Dallas Cowboys were an expansion team. Any coach being hired then (and now) for an expansion team, would need time to develop a program. As for having the right guy, Landry invented the 4-3 and helped the Giants be one of the best defenses in the league before being picked to coach the Cowboys.

      Garrett’s background can’t touch Landry’s or any of the other recent Super Bowl winners. If you were Jerry Jones, would you sign Garrett to a contract making him our head coach for the next 6 years? It’s not like Garrett inherited an expansion team.

      • billy

        winning football is more about the players than the coaches. remember barry switzer? jerry isnt going to hire any coach who demands a lot of authority over the team. jerry is going to have that for himself. i say jason has about as good a balance between jerry and the players as we are likely to get until jerry dies. who thinks jerry would hire anyone better if he fired jason? we are never going to get another tom landry as long as jerry draws breath. jason will grow and get better in spite of jerrys manipulations. bringing in another of jerrys weak sister hires wont help

        • Robert H. Carroll

          I may be alone, but the “Jerry has power over the team” is over-rated – SOMETIMES. I mean, until I see Jerry on the sidelines or in the owner’s box with a headset on, I think he’s hands-off during the games. So it’s Jason’s team. Blank of the Falcons, visits the sidelines during games & nobody bats an eyelash. Good point with Switzer tho, coaches can call the best play in the world, but the players still have to execute.

  • Barry Sterling

    I Think Jason needed more experience before becoming head coach. Jerry Jones has an issue with a coach being more popular and /or having more control over his team. (Jimmy Johnson). Other than Bill Parcells there was no other coach under Jerry Jones ownership that had the stay away from my players approach. all the coaches that were mentioned has the full support of the owner this is why they were successful. Although Jerry says he support his coaches i just don’t believe he does, he wants to do too much..

    • Robert H. Carroll

      I would have preferred someone with both – more head coaching experience AND more time serving as an understudy to successful coaches. There seems to be a slight disconnect between playing for a coach and being an assistant for a coach with Garrett.

      Perhaps Garrett will be helped by studying Callahan who has the coaching tree lineage from Ray Rhodes and Jon Gruden, that Garrett is missing.

      There’s a championship formula being passed down the Ray Rhodes branch that he learned while studying under Bill Walsh, George Seifert and Mike Holmgren.

  • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

    Staying consistent is a major factor in developing a stable team. Thanks to JJ the Cowboys have played musical chairs with just about every aspect of their organization and is a major reason for their mediocrity.

    • Robert H. Carroll

      The Cowboys walk a fine line. If you want to win now, then you make quick decisions & changes. If you accept winning later, then you attempt to win by building a team thru the draft. I give Jerry credit. If there was a single player that he thinks will help us win a title, that player would have a star on his helmet. Jerry isn’t shy about writing those checks.

  • ‘mericas_team2013

    Ive disliked Garrett since he returned as a coach. I prayed that Baltimore or Detroit would lure the guy away when he was the next big thing… That said I do like the way things are being handled right now. Regardless of him being “along for the ride” with Marinelli and Callahan like you say, he is the head coach and he has definitely changed the direction this team was going compared to the recent past. Obviously there are “what ifs” but, what if Garrett had left for Baltimore like Payton left for New Orleans and had went on to success there? Would you all be saying the same thing about him? No you would all be crying because JJ’s an idiot and let Garrett go just like he did Payton. The thing about Cowboys fans is that most do live in the past, and very few are ever happy with anything Jerrah does. Again, “what if” he had hired Cower or Gruden like so many of you wanted and we got the same exact results? Neither of those guys were terribly impressive during their coaching careers. You all continue to try comparing coaches to GREATS like Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson and think that proven guys like Cower or Gruden can come in and do the same as they did, well the honest truth is they CANT! When Cowboys fans wake up and realize that Coaches like them come once every great while maybe, just maybe we can stop being so judgmental on these guys. How long did it take for the Harbaugh’s to come about? Both of them have yet to have a losing season and miss the playoffs(and the Ravens wanted Garrett over John!). How long did it take for Belichick to be able to find the right place? Even your “great” Sean Payton just returned from a years suspension because of his coaches bounty scandal, and don’t try to tell me he knew nothing about it. Much like QBs not every head coach is going to come out and have immediate success, time has to be given to some to earn their due and make a name for themselves. I for one am tired of constant change and like what Garrett has done so far and hope it continues and we see improvements to go along with it.

  • Old Frog

    I like JG. Always have. I was enamored of the idea that he could be the head coach someday while he was carrying a clipboard for Aikman. JJ and perhaps more importantly for the future, SJ apparently value his potential, style, or whatever. They know him a lot better than we do. I predict he will be with the team at least as long as Tony Romo.

  • Juanito Juanito

    to me garret is ok like head coach, just not the play caller or control the clock, cowboys now are better team coming from the draft than wade phillips cowboys

    • frank

      If you can’t play call or control the clock, then what good are you as a head coach. He took over an offense that was above average and it keeps getting worse every year. This guy really has to go already. His play calling is below average (how many games did we lead at half time last year), his short passes don’t help the team at all or the defense (which may have caused most of the injuries because the team could not move the chains), and if I know what play they are running, can you imagine a defensive coordinator that does this for a living. Nuff said.

  • John

    Jerry has hired 3 strong head coaches in is 24-year tenure: Jimmy, Parcells and Jason Garrett. He won with the other two. He’s about to win with Garrett. Gonna be sweet to watch the haters eat their words this year…

  • oswald

    Jason Garret is the worst clock manager ever. why the hell did he call all his time outs in a span of 30 seconds over a minute before the 2 min warning. WHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!