It’s important to point out that Landry also never worked for the kind of owner that Garrett now does, the same one who fired Landry entering the 1989 calendar year. While owner and general manager Jerry Jones was probably wise to move on from Landry in favor of former head coach Jimmy Johnson, it’s clear that the way he did so was as classless as one can imagine and also presented a first look at the personality that still rules all things Dallas Cowboys.
In fact, it’s Jones who wants Garrett to become a synonym for Landry more than anybody else. Dallas fans could care less who’s coaching so long as the Cowboys are a true contender and are winning games. For this fan base, football simply has to be played well beyond Christmas and New Year’s Day—expectations that Landry created.
Without getting into a sermon on Jones’ deficiencies as a GM or person, I’ll simply say that the Cowboys are run by an owner who’s focus is much more on himself and on making yet more money than it is winning trophies named after Lombardi. If this wasn’t true, Landry wouldn’t have been handled the way he was following a 3-13 regular season in 1988, Jimmy Johnson wouldn’t have been shown the door following back-to-back Super Bowl championships in 1994 and Cowboys fans would certainly have a credible, successful and proven head coach in place.
Instead, there’s Garrett, who’s nothing more than a career backup quarterback who never played a whole lot of football as a professional, possibly the driving force behind his desire to be a head coach. The playing career of Garrett meant absolutely nothing outside of a memorable Thanksgiving Day victory for Dallas over Green Bay back in 1994.
No, you don’t have to have been a successful starting quarterback, or player for that matter, to be a successful coach.
On the contrary, it does help tremendously if you have been a head coach somewhere before trying your hand at that role in the NFL—and especially in Dallas.
Only Jones would bestow his illusion of Garrett as some kind of prodigious “chosen one” that can bring balance back to the trophy cabinet at Valley Ranch, like he’s Luke Skywalker, on the largest fan base in the league. If that wasn’t true, Jones wouldn’t be hanging on to Garrett at all costs despite the fact that his padawan learner has trouble with play-calling, clock management, understanding offensive balance and obviously leadership.
Landry was born with character qualities, some of which were certainly expanded while serving as a B-17 Flying Fortress co-pilot during WWII, that would serve him well no matter what he did in his life. Landry chose his love of football and that certainly paid off in ways that even he probably couldn’t imagine. Leadership was probably his most prized asset, even if it didn’t seem that obvious given his stoic demeanor.
In fact, Garrett has called on folks more similar to Landry to do the leading and inspiring for him. Remember the invitations accepted by United States Army General David Rodriguez and former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs to speak to Cowboys players? There was also a visit to the United States Phil Bucklew Naval Special Warfare Center near San Diego so Cowboys players, along with their head coach, could learn about discipline and sacrifice.
Following the SEALs visit, Garrett made the following comments which have stuck with me for well over a year now:
I’m very quick to point out for our football team that what they do is very different from what we do.They’re in life and death situations, we’re trying to win football games. But I’d be hard-pressed to think that we can’t learn something from them, about how they go about their job every day, how they build their teams and how they lead their teams, and the trust they have in each other.
Notice the word “we” near the end, clearly an indication that Garrett is also learning how to both lead and get his message, whatever that might be, across to his players.
I’m not sure about the SEALs, as individuals, but I’m positive that both General Rodriguez, a former defensive end at West Point, and Gibbs, a three-time Super Bowl winning head coach, know plenty about running the ball. One knew it had to be stopped and the other knew it had to be successful, you can figure out who’s who.
Garrett’s tenure in Dallas as offensive coordinator and head coach clearly illustrate a disconnect on those two fundamentals, and in a big way.
Nothing against the general, the head coach or the SEALs who were gracious enough to take the time to talk to football players. It just doesn’t seem like a strong head coach, like Landry, Johnson, Bill Parcells or even Gibbs needed outside help from anybody in order to boost their own message.
Garrett, as he admits, is still learning the ropes, but when an intern, rookie or novice professional is charged with responsibilities that likely fall beyond their capabilities, what happens?
In Garrett’s case, you end up surrounded by other colleagues that are more qualified, accomplished and experienced than yourself. I’m talking about current assistant coaches like Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli, Bill Callahan and, most recently, Scott Linehan.
Three of those names just mentioned have also been a head coach in the NFL, although with not too much success on their own—remember that Callahan led an Oakland Raiders team built by Jon Gruden to a Super Bowl, much like Barry Switzer took Johnson’s collection of talent to the same peak.
So there sits Garrett, one year removed from an “uncomfortable offseason” which was highlighted by numerous changes and additions to the coaching staff. Today, the trend continues as his boss proceeds to try or allow anything he can to make Garrett something he’s never proven to be, even entering his eighth season with the franchise.
This is why Garrett will never be Landry—or likely anything close.