What does the future hold for Jason Garrett as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys? And is he one bad season away from a pink slip?
No one ever said it’s easy to be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s one of the most prestigious and high profile coaching jobs in the world. Yet, the Cowboys don’t always seem to be the ideal landing post for the top coaching prospects. Why? Jerry Jones.
The owner and defacto general manager of the Cowboys since 1989, Jones is seen by many as the real “coach” of the Cowboys, regardless of the man who may hold the actual title. It hasn’t always been that way.
When Jones originally purchased the team, one of the first moves he made was the firing of longtime head coach Tom Landry. In his place, the new owner hired a friend and old college teammate in Jimmy Johnson as Landry’s successor.
After winning two back-to-back Super Bowls in the early 1990’s, the massive egos of both men clashed and they parted ways. And for years, Jones hired head coaches who seemed to be more “yes” men rather than the more brash coaches like Johnson. That was until Jones finally broke down and hired legendary head coach Bill Parcells following three straight 5-11 disappointing seasons.
Parcells brought winning back to Dallas, adding key pieces like quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten and defensive end DeMarcus Ware under his watch. Eventually Parcells moved on, and that led to the hiring of Wade Phillips. And the son of Bum was soon replaced by his offensive coordinator and former Cowboys backup quarterback, Jason Garrett, midway through the 2010 regular season.
Garrett would lead the Cowboys to a 5-3 record as their interim head coach. In 2011, he was hired as the official head coach of America’s Team. Unfortunately, Dallas would spend the next three seasons in an 8-8 purgatory without a playoff berth.
On the verge of getting fired, a 12-4 record in 2014 saved Garrett in Dallas. In fact, the Cowboys opted to give him a five-year, $30 million extension that they likely soon regretted. The following season, Dallas regressed to a 4-12 record after being ill-prepared for the loss of their starting quarterback, Romo, to injury.
The draft capital gained from that down season allowed the Cowboys to draft running back Ezekiel Elliott, linebacker Jaylon Smith and quarterback Dak Prescott. The injection of rookie talent allowed Dallas to have a rebound 13-3 season in 2016. Garrett was awarded the NFL Coach of the Year award and everything seemed to work out for America’s Team.
Last year, a six-game suspension for Elliott spiked the Cowboys playoff hopes midseason, and the team finished the year at 9-7.
And here we sit. Garrett is entering his eighth season as the official head coach of the Cowboys. He has a career record of 62-50 in that span, with one playoff victory. His rollercoaster of a head coaching career after three initial seasons on mediocrity have had Cowboy fans begging for his departure for years.
For many, Garrett is just one in a long-line of puppet head coaches controlled by Jones. But the seven-year head coach has also built a relationship of trust and great communication within the organization. Ultimately, results are all that matters in the NFL. And by that standard, Garrett falls short.
"“Fans and analysts alike have trouble evaluating Garrett’s performance through seven and a half seasons as the Cowboys’ head coach,” wrote Elliot Harrison for NFL.com. “The perception is that owner/GM Jerry Jones has always pulled the strings, even seeping down into the manner in which Garrett coaches his team.”"
Harrison went on to wonder why Garrett couldn’t do more with Romo, a top-rated quarterback, under center for the majority of his time in Dallas.
Is Garrett one bad season away from being fired? I’m sure some fans hope so. But it’s also about options. Is there a better head coach available who is willing to work under Jones? They answer is usually no.
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess were Jason Garrett stands as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Clearly, the results have been lackluster. But Jerry Jones clearly believes in Garrett and has given him plenty of chances to prove himself. Every time it appears the former quarterback is in danger of losing his job, the Cowboys seem to exceed expectations. Will they follow that pattern and do so again in 2018?