Many have clamored for Jason Garrett’s termination; I have not.
Some have noted a dearth of Jason Garrett criticism in my writing. While I have called Wade Phillips everything, but something good to eat and have been vocal on the notion that he is not the type of head coach this team (or any team with an eye toward the ultimate prize) needs, I have been less inclined to cram an editorial boot up the proverbial arse of the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator.
The reason for this apparent discrepancy is simple: I believe that Wade Phillips’ body of work as a head coach is sufficient to deem him unsuitable to take a team to an elite status and keep it there for any length of time. He has shown that his leadership skills are as wanting as his defensive schemes skills are effective.
He has managed to post a better-than-average regular season record (79-54), but has never won a single playoff game as a head coach.
Jason Garrett, on the other hand, is still young and relatively new to the position of offensive coordinator. Phillips is past 60 and set in his ways. He is what he is and that is what he is going to be. Garrett is 43 and still growing and developing as a coordinator.
Sure, there have been misfires. At times, it has appeared that Garrett lacked the ability to adjust on the fly. Sometimes, he has appeared to get stuck in one mode or another or he has worked too hard to shoehorn one player or another into the game plan.
Of course, the position of armchair offensive coordinator is quite easy. Any informed football fan can fill it. When you have the benefit of hindsight and the knowledge of how a play,a drive, or a game plan actually worked or failed to work, it is not difficult to draw up a better scheme in your mind.
But let’s not overlook the positive impact he has had on Tony Romo and the Cowboys’ offense.
Remember, it was just a season ago that Garrett was the hottest head coach prospect in the NFL. He was courted by the Baltimore Ravens and the Atlanta Falcons and it was reported he could have taken either of those jobs. The prospects of losing Garrett prompted Jones to make him the highest paid assistant coach in the NFL (and in the history of the league, for that matter). Phillips promoted Garrett, naming him assistant head coach.
Though it was denied, many assumed at the time that Jones and Garrett had some sort of gentleman’s agreement that made the highly-regarded coordinator the de facto head coach-in-waiting for the Dallas Cowboys.
Unfortunately Garrett’s freshman season, which saw him mold, guide, and direct one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses and help the Cowboys to a 13-3 regular season record, was followed by a sophomore flop. The 2008 edition of the Cowboys collapsed and crumbled at season’s end, closing out the season with humiliating losses to the Ravens and the Eagles.
They finished the season 9-7 and missed the playoffs entirely. Furthermore, after being ranked second in the NFL in points per game and third in yardage in 2007, the Cowboys fell to 18th and 13th respectively in ’08.
Suddenly, Jason Garrett’s rising star was seen more as a plummeting, gaseous meteorite, crashing into the Cowboys’ shiny new home. Crash and burn; yesterday’s hero became today’s goat.
”Get rid of the bum,” has been the cry of many.
Never mind that Tony Romo’s play has continued to improve and impress. The oft-maligned quarterback has now gone four consecutive games without throwing a pick for the first time in his career.
Never mind that an undrafted free agent wide receiver,Miles Austin,has begun to establish himself as one of the league’s best. Never mind that the running game has appeared formidable at times and unstoppable at others.
Never mind that the offense is currently ranked third in the NFL in yards gained. Never mind that we have never seen a team run a better draw play.
Never mind that every week Garrett shows a new wrinkle. Remember that play on the goal line against the Chargers, where they faked a screen pass on each side and then hit a wide open Patrick Crayton in the end zone?
It is true that the offense has stalled in the red zone more than a time or two. It is true that more than a few drives have ended with a deflating missed field goal by former kicker Nick Folk. It is true that the team’s point production does not jibe with the massive amounts of yardage they have racked up.
It is also true that patience is a virtue. It was not that many years ago that Sean Payton, the current offensive genius in the league, was being stripped of his play-calling duties in New York. Think anyone thought then that he would be what is he now?
Like Payton, Garrett has shown himself to possess an innovative offensive mind. Like Payton, Garrett appears to be a steadying influence on the sideline. Like Payton, Garrett has had to fight his way through the on the job learning curve.
I believe that, like Payton, Garrett will soon prove himself to be the winner we all believed he was in 2007. In fact, I am not entirely convinced that he is not the right man to take the helm in Dallas when Jerry finally says goodbye to Phillips. How is that for a minority opinion? The Republicans will get more say on health care than I will get supporters on that one, I am sure.
I know that after 13 years of frustration, Cowboys fans are not inclined to patience. That particular virtue is wearing thin. But, where Jason Garrett is concerned, it will pay off.