Dallas’ Playoff Hopes and Off-Season Hurdles

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Jerry Jones has dazzled fans (and the media) alike since 1996 into thinking the Dallas Cowboys have enough talent to compete for a championship nearly every season. This constant hype has masked the rotgut in the entire organization.

The Dallas Cowboys Football Club is sick. There is a malaise that permeates that entire organization, and I am not talking necessarily about football operations. For anyone who watches Dallas Cowboys preseason games produced by Blue Star Media, a subsidiary of the Dallas Cowboys, one notices onscreen gaffes and errors from the folks who are supposed to be behind the scenes. Doesn’t that bear striking resemblance to the Dallas Cowboys’ stalling out in the red zone or getting a false start on 3rd and 1?

Well, these kinds of things have been happening for 14 years at a minimum. Whether it is spiritual or mental, there is a funk at Valley Ranch that curtails talented people. Take a look at how well Sean Payton and Rob Ryan have done since leaving. If they performed at the level they’re at with the Saints while still in Dallas, they would still be in Dallas.

Hiring the hottest, biggest coaching fad won’t solve it. The Dallas Cowboys’ biggest problem since Jerry Jones ousted Jimmy Johnson is stability. Since 1994, Dallas averages a head coach every three years. That is second-worst in the league. The only team with a worse coaching tenure average is Oakland with a coach every two years.

Take a look at the recent Super Bowl winners’ average coaching tenures:

  • Baltimore: 6 years
  • NY Giants: 7 years
  • Green Bay: 5 years
  • New Orleans: 5 years
  • Pittsburgh: 10 years
  • Indianapolis: 4 years
  • New England: 7 years
  • Tampa Bay: 4 years

In order to build a successful franchise, a head coach has to stay at least four years. And all of the playoff drought franchises you can think of average three to four years per coaching hire. Changing leadership so frequently upsets the groove needed for sustained winning.

The problem is Jerry Jones, and not that he meddles or any of the other canards from when Newt Gingrich had political clout. It is that he annually builds up the Dallas Cowboys into this team that is always a piece away from a championship. And the fans believe it, even if they vehemently despise Jerry Jones. Nonetheless, they are thinking like the very man they loathe when they want to swap coaches at the soonest sign of a lost coaches challenge. They believe they’re a Mike Holgren or Jon Gruden away from success, but the problem is much deeper, much grittier, and much more complex than those guys want to deal with.

Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett tosses the football prior to a game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

To me, that is why Jason Garrett is very integral to the Dallas Cowboys’ continued success. Unquestionably, the talent acquisition under Garrett has improved. No one’s job is virtually guaranteed anymore; there is a strong competitive atmosphere. His actual coaching still remains to be seen, but he has done a good job bringing in men who work hard and seek to improve, not rest on their future laurels. It is this kind of ethos that has to permeate the Dallas Cowboys to undo the rotgut of the mid to late ’90s Cowboys.

This is why I say, even if the Cowboys fail in these last six games, they have to stay with Jason Garrett and let him coach out his contract. It won’t be the pseudo-intellectual’s version of “insanity” either. Letting a coach build his system is something Jerry Jones hasn’t done since Jimmy Johnson.

There are vast historical precedents for it too. The Pittsburgh Steelers went through head coaches like a yenta through half-truths from 1950-68. In 1969, the Rooneys hired Chuck Noll and left him alone. Four Super Bowls later, the rest is history.

More people can quote inaugural Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach John McKay’s remarks about his team’s execution than they can remember his seven-year stint in Tampa Bay. After losing 26-straight games to commence Buccaneers history, management left him alone. 36 games later, McKay had them playing in the 1979 NFC Championship game, their first of three playoff appearances during his time in Tampa Bay.

Though I’m sure the allegations of how mean Jerry Jones treated Tom Landry and his surviving relatives makes for splashier history on par with the protocols of Rupert Murdoch and William Randolph Hearst, The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry should have an account of Tom Landry’s ten-year contract extension. No, owner Clint Murchison did not award it to the old Coach after a Super Bowl berth or two, but after the 1963 season when Landry was a combined 13-38-3. Dallasites wanted Landry gone, but Murchison awarded Coach Landry a ten-year extension. Three seasons later, Dallas played Green Bay in the Cotton Bowl for a World Championship. If that isn’t in Mark Ribowsky’s book, then that’s all anyone needs to know about his grasp of Dallas Cowboys history.

If Dallas runs Garrett off, he will succeed elsewhere. He almost did in Baltimore. Remember: it was Garrett that turned down Ozzie Newsome, not the other way around. Why would Newsome want to hire Garrett if he’s such a straw man and a pushover?

Let Garrett go to the Giants after Coughlin retires, and they compete in the NFC Championship game. Allow him to stay in Dallas and restore the winning culture, and Dallas will compete for an NFC Championship in three years and many more thereafter.

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Tags: Dallas Cowboys Jason Garrett Jerry Jones The Landry Hat

  • SmartThinking

    I suppose, if you’re content with Garrett’s on-the-job-training snafu’s and lack of electricity these past two and a half seasons, then keeping him for the long haul makes some odd kind of sense.

    There are aspects of Garrett’s program that I very much agree with, in particular, his “the right kind of Cowboy,” philosophy and his ‘next man up approach.” But to accept those positives, then you also have to accept his continued rookie mistakes and errors in judgment. And I’m just not prepared to continue down that bumpy path. If Garrett even acted like he learned from last season’s errors, then this year’s errors wouldn’t possibly be so hard to swallow.

    But, it’s the same stuff again and again. Field goal attempts from the 54 yard line are more often bad than good and when they go foul set up the defenses to have to defend from continually worsening field position.

    The most glaring error, for me, is my perception that Garrett has lost control of and the respect of his players. Bryant’s rant a few weeks ago was painful to watch and embarrassing to try to explain. Regardless of Bryant’s rationale for acting so poorly, Garett should have put a stop to it at once. (Do you think Sean Payton would tolerate that kind of performance from one of his players?)

    I think Garrett is too lax, either because he want to be friends with his players or because it’s not in his temperament to be hard on his players and motivate them to find greatness.

    In any case, I just don’t see this team improving in any capacity under his leadership. For that reason, my reluctant vote goes to giving him until Chicago to get a couple of wins. If he does, then he stays until season’s end and a complete assessment. If he doesn’t, he’s gone after Chicago, along with Callahan.

    The last thing I want to continue seeing from this team is a coaching merry-go-round, but the situation right now is so acute, drastic measures are called for. And sending Garrett on his way just may be the first step along a long painful path back to a winning season.

    • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

      What if Garrett is fired and another coach does not do any better? Would you want to see him fired too? I don’t like to see coaches make mistakes either but if you have been paying attention they all do. And if Sean Payton was the coach I would be concerned that he might put a bounty on Bryant for acting the way he did. This article spells out exactly what the root of the Cowboy’s problems are………..Jerry Jones.

      • Jd

        You’re comparing a super bowl winning HC to a guy that’s 2 games over 500 during his tenure as Dallas head coach. & just saying that Jerry istthe problem, not getting it. Was he the problem when Dallas went to the playoffs under Phillips when Romo choked away a possible super bowl berth? Or was he the problem when they went to the playoffs under Phillips again and finally won a playoff game for the first time in forever?
        The bottom line is, yes, Jerry is a major problem, he’s not a real gm. But Garrett isn’t the answer here. I’ve always said that the hiring of Garrett was a knee-jerk reaction because the word around the NFL was Jerry needs to make a move and he can’t afford to lose him. So, he fired Phillips after a 1-7 start, Garrett goes 5-3 and everyone thought all was right in Cowboys land. The Cowboy were fgetting this innovative, creative, new style and brilliant offensive minded head coach. And that just wasn’t the truth. 8-8, 8-8, & probably another 8-8 season. And yes, Jerry hired him, bad move, like I said. But it’s time to move on and change the syste, nbring someone else in who actually knows how to coach. And definitely someonewwho won’t make the same mistakes he’s making in his 4th year that he was during his 1st year.

        • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

          If I recall the reason Dallas lost their chance to go to the Superbowl was because Patrick Crayton dropped a perfectly thrown pass from Romo that would have been a touchdown to put the game away. You posted this: “I’ve always said that the hiring of Garrett was a knee-jerk reaction because the word around the NFL was Jerry needs to make a move and he can’t afford to lose him.” And then you say Jerry isn’t the problem? My point is……….Jerry hired Garrett. Garrett did not hire Garrett. Unfortunately, Jerry’s mismanagement extends much further than the coach and writing about how the coach is the problem is short sighted. We won’t know if Garrett is the answer until the multitude of other problems are resolved.

          • Jimmy D

            Yes, he did drop the pass. I misspoke on another post about it. But I do believe Romo also threw the pick that ended that game.
            Now, as to the Jerry comments… One thing clear, I’m not a Jones for gm fan.
            But, Jones firing Phillips and hiring Garrett, whether he did it or not, it was a knee-jerk reaction. After the season was over, every single writer in America said Jerry would be stupid not to keep Garrett as HC. Every former NFL player doing shows and the radio shows, everyone was all over it. And if I recall correctly, I’m paraphrasing here… If Jones let’s Garrett go, it’ll be like the Payton situation all over again. So, how’s that work working out for us? And the fact of the matter is, Phillips took us to the playoffs twice in 3 years. And Jerry fired him because starting a season 1-7 is unacceptable. And again, whether or not it’s Jerry’s decision, it was still a knee-jerk reaction, anyway you look at it.
            And in the end, Garrett wasn’t and isn’t the coach for this team. Actually, he isn’t a head coach period.

          • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

            I agree. Hiring Garrett was most likely a knee jerk reaction just like all of Jerry’s other knee jerk reactions. The root cause of the Cowboy’s problems is Jerry Jones and until he is gone and a person with some football sense is hired in hist place, I will not be overly critical of any other aspect of the team. I can’t wait to see the blunders he makes next.

          • Jimmy D

            We’re in complete agreement about Jones getting the (bleep) out.
            I am so hoping he comes to his senses & just hires a real gm, someone who can run this team correctly.
            Funny thing is, I was hoping he’d step down & hire Jimmy Johnson as gm lol.
            I don’t think there’s a dumber more brilliant person alive. He steps down, gets a real gm in here, they start winning again, and he’ll make even more money than he already does. What an idiot lol.

      • SmartThinking

        Anyone who reads my rants knows I’m no fan of Jerry Jones, the football GM. I’m on record through most of these stories making a strong, sane argument for why Jones needs to hire a professional, veteran GM, give him the power and money, then stand back and shut the hell up!

        But, this story and my original response were about Jason Garrett and his coaching accomplishments, of which I am not a diehard fan.

        This team is no better because of Garrett. He’s brought nothing of value we can use to win with. And, for that paramount matter, he should be dismissed.

  • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

    Finally an article that hits the nail on the head. It always amazes me when fans want the coach fired as if they are the only piece of the puzzle necessary for success. The Cowboys have a multitude of problems least of which is coach Garrett. I think maybe fans should watch other NFL teams play so they will realize that all coaches make questionable game decisions. I can only guess they have not been fans for very long. Otherwise, they would recognize that poor management is the root of the present day problems with the Cowboys. I would be willing to bet 10 to 1 if Garrett is fired that the Cowboys will be no better off with another new coach.

  • jrcowboy49

    I am beginning to wonder if any Coach can win or play under Jerrah! His terrible reputation is known throughout the league and only a fool comes to Dallas. The Cowboys record of 134-134 since 1997 is the smoking gun and would be the head of any GM! Unacceptable!
    We need a GM who understands football, allows the Coaches to coach, and recognizes talent!
    Dallas is an average talented football team at best and the fans deserve