Sep 8, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett watches the game action from the sidelines during the game against the New York Giants at AT

Cowboys Black Monday: In Defense Of Redball


 

In his first three years as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Barry Switzer posted a 39-16 record, including five playoff wins and a Superbowl ring. Franchise icon Tom Landry was 9-28 his first three seasons, on his way to posting five straight losing records.

The Black Monday bottom-liners are screaming for Jason Garrett’s head. Winning is all that matters in the NFL, they say, and at 24-24 his first three full seasons, Garrett has shown he simply can’t win. For the bottom-liners, there’s no need to look beyond the win-loss record in judging a coach’s worth.

Does anyone reading this believe Barry Switzer was a better NFL coach than Tom Landry? Any bottom-liners out there care to make that argument, based on the won-loss records their first three seasons?

Most observers acknowledge that Switzer’s stellar record and Landry’s dismal one are largely the result of circumstances. Landry took over an expansion franchise; Switzer inherited a reigning Superbowl champion.

The point isn’t to compare Switzer to Landry (silly), or Garrett to either of them. The point is simply to assert that circumstances matter. A coach’s worth can’t be smartly measured solely by wins and losses his first three seasons.

Now consider what Garrett inherited when he took over the Cowboys at midseason in 2010.

Garrett took the helm of a 1-7 team that was not competitive. The Cowboys had just been blown out 45-7 in Green Bay on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, a sign of having quit on their season and the genial head coach who led them. Garrett inherited an aging roster rife with entitlement and bereft of accountability.

Along with a roster in dire need of rebuilding, Garrett inherited a man widely believed to be the worst GM in all of football, and the reality that the owner would never fire him.

Yet despite the size of the task and the apparent obstacles, Garrett’s teams have competed for the division crown in Week 17 each his first three seasons.

Even as he worked to gut the old organizational culture of entitlement and replace it with one firmly rooted in competition and accountability.

Even as he remade an aging roster with younger, faster “right kind of guys.”

Even as he performed the delicate task of influencing his boss to become a smarter GM – and make no mistake, Jerry is a better GM today than he was when he hired the red head.

It’s anyone’s guess how Garrett and his staff were able to coax Sunday’s prideful, gutsy performance out of a battered group led by a backup quarterback who hadn’t taken a meaningful snap in two years.

The Eagles were averaging nearly 30 points per game and had put up 84 points the past two weeks – no one was stopping them. Every analyst agreed that Jerry’s roster was outmatched, talent-wise. But they were intense. They were physical. They were tough. They were relentless. The competed the right way.

The stage was huge, and even though they lost, it was clear to all they had showed up for it. It was a team performance every Cowboys fan could be proud of. They did right by the star.

It’s not all about wins and losses. Circumstances matter. How did Garrett get the most out of his men on Sunday? During his Monday presser, he laid it out for a skeptical group of reporters:

“I think our players believe in our program. I think when you watch us play you see that they believe in our program and what we’re trying to get accomplished. That’s a big part of the identity of a football team that you’re trying to establish. Now, we haven’t gotten the job done. So we have to live with that reality. But how you do things matters. Bottom line matters, but how you do things, how you play, matters. We have to continue to build on that and believe that you’re going to break through in the other areas to take the next step.”

The circumstances of Jason Garrett’s first three full seasons as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys suggest his 24-24 mark is a promising start to a long, successful career as an NFL head coach. Here’s hoping he has that success in Dallas, and not somewhere else.

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  • Old Frog

    I like Garrett. I hope you’re right about a long and successful career.

    • MercWithaMouth

      I too, like Garrett… Although he does seem to make way to many agonizingly painful “rookie” mistakes, I don’t follow other teams close enough to know what their coaches are like. I wish Garrett the best of luck in this upcoming season and hopefully he is able to turn it around.

  • Realistfan

    Well written!
    Imagine him going elsewhere, and winning a SB. Oh, the agony…

    • Old Frog

      It could happen….

  • fukgarrett

    what a bunch of bullshit..garrett has shown absolutely nothing to keep him..you do know there are coachjes out there that DONT need on the job training and are already competent..and to mention ginger in the same breath as Landry is heresy totally different circumstances

    • John

      Hiring an experienced “competent” coach is what got the ‘Boys in this mess to begin with. The Wade Phillips era set this franchise back a decade. Garrett’s initial damage control in snuffing that grease fire and subsequent rebuild, although sabotaged by freakish injury numbers, has been nothing short of stellar. Jerry’s talent has overachieved these past three years at 8-8 – Garrett’s a big reason why.

      • Old Frog

        Totally agree. I think Garrett’s future in the NFL is bright and Jerry is right about not wanting to give up on a coach he’s invested so much in training. If Garrett leaves Dallas he won’t be unemployed for long.

    • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

      Maybe you are right. Let’s grab one of the six coaches that have been fired. I don’t recall anybody saying they were receiving on the job training.

      • Old Frog

        Well said…

  • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

    Good article. Garrett has made some coaching mistakes but so do other coaches including the so callled “top coaches”. If fans think another coach would do better under the constraints imposed by Jerry Jones I think they are oblivious as to what the real problems are. History proves it doesn’t matter how great a coach you are, you got to have the talent and authority to make necessary changes in order to win. Vince Lombardi has been idolized as the best NFL coach ever. Although he certainly was a great coach, his Packers were also loaded with talent. After he left the Packers and coached the Washington Redskins his record was worse than it had been in ten years. Talent takes care of a lot of problems within any athletic organization.

    • John

      YES. Culture and leadership are important, but mean little without players who can execute. Great point about Lombardi – hailed as a genius with all those HOFers on the field; without ‘em, he’s just another guy…

      • MercWithaMouth

        Same could be said about Jimmy Johnson really… I mean what was he able to do after Dallas without a Pro-Bowl stacked roster?

  • Kenny

    Well written, John.

  • ctcowboy1968

    This is insane. JG is the worst coach in Cowboys history. Hands down. He personally has prevented the Cowboys from going to the playoffs the past three years. Here’s a list of Garrett blown games: 2013 – Detroit and Green Bay (two games he should have been running the clock out, but continued to pass), 2012 – Baltimore (stopped progressing the ball though he had a 1st down and left his kicker with a 50+ yard field goal), 2011 – Arizonia (iced his own kicker) and Detroit (again, continues to pass the ball allowing the Lions to get back into the game and win).
    Out coached every week. Clock mismanagement over and over. Never takes responsiblity for anything. Can’t make game adjustments. No offensive balance yet he preaches it. No emotion. Same empty “process” and “get better” speeches. His is an idiot. Anyone with a brain could do a better job.
    To think that when JG was hired to be HC, John Harbaugh was available. John makes his players perform and be accountable. Has won a SB. Intelligent coach. Fired up which is infectious to his players.

    • John

      Think the talent was there and Garrett blew it, huh? Well, give GM Jerry props for doing his job then – a GM’s chief organizational responsibility is talent. My hat’s off to you for having the stones to stand up for Jerry.

      • ctcowboy1968

        Not at all. JJ’s stupidity & ego has ruined this franchise. That does not change the facts that I wrote. Without JG this team is in the playoffs the past 3 years. Not talking about talent. Just the facts that JG lost games all on his own to keep this team out of the playoffs.

        • John

          Not sure I agree with your position that GM Jerry did a great job in putting together playoff-caliber rosters the past three seasons, but I got to admire the way you stand tall and defend him…

          • ctcowboy1968

            JJ has done nothing. This team wins inspite of him. With better coaching this team would be in the playoffs.

      • jayhwk01

        Jerry Jones is the problem in Dallas. GM job is the same as the coaches. To win. As long as Jerry continues to meddle in every part of football operations 8-8 is what you can expect regardless of who is playing or coaching. Doubt it? Ask yourself this. IF somebody other than JJ was GM the last 10 years and the results were the same would JJ retain that person? Well there you go……

  • Christian Blood

    Garrett’s future is about as bright as a lunar eclipse. Comparing his complete lack of experience with the likes of an offensive AND defensive innovator like Tom Landry makes no sense. One is a Hall of Fame coach with decades of success while the other is nothing more than an idea hatched in the head of Jerry Jones.

    I agree that Garrett is probably better at his job than Jones is at his, but there’s no denying that Garrett was over-billed as something that he sure hasn’t turned out to be. He’s no Landry, Bill Walsh … or even Chip Kelly, at least from an offensive standpoint.

    Year after year, Dallas suffers from the same weaknesses on offense and Garrett, brought in for his alleged offensive expertise (with no experience whatsoever), continues to bring the same one-dimensional attack to the NFL that figured this jig out long ago, at least as far back as 2008, or maybe late 2007.

    Jones needs to go and Garrett needs to head for the CFL … there he could work magic I’m sure. But the NFL is the “big boys league” and a guy who handed off to the greatest running back of all time should have some understanding or recollection of what a running game is, period. That basic “process” shouldn’t still be lost on a head coach who’s job is probably secure for the next decade, no matter what he actually accomplishes as the stand-around head coach that he is now.