Dateline Thanksgiving Day, 1994 – The Dallas Cowboys staggered into the holiday match-up with the Green Bay Packers – a team they had owned throughout the ’90s – battered and beaten.
A worried Cowboys nation nervously gnawed Turkey legs and anxiously awaited the afternoon kickoff, sure this would not go well. After all, Cowboys hall of fame-bound quarterback Troy Aikman was injured and would not play. To make matters worse, the more-than-capable backup QB Rodney Peete was hurt, as well.
The Cowboys were down to their third string quarterback, a redhead named Jason Garrett. Everyone knew Garrett had the grey matter to play the position. We also knew he lacked the natural physical gifts of a frontline quarterback. With Favre leading his Packers into Texas stadium, it figured to be a long day for the silver and blue.
What it figured to be and what it was turned out to be were two very different things.
The game started just as one would expect. The Cowboys stumbled out of the gate with Garrett at the helm. By halftime, the Packers had established a pretty comfortable 17-6 lead over a team that didn’t look like they were up for putting up much of a second half fight. Just get it over with and get to the turkey and dressing.
But Jason Garrett had other ideas.
Garrett connected on a 45-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Harper. Then, he threw a 36-yard TD to Michael Irvin. Later, he hit Emmitt Smith, who turned the pass into a 63 yard gain that led to another touchdown.
The Cowboys scored on their first five second half drives. Garrett out-dueled the great Brett Favre, passing for 311 yards and two TDs. And the Cowboys won what would become a classic Thanksgiving Day game, 42 – 31.
That game changed the perception of the ruddy redhead with the big brain and the somewhat slight frame. He became a folk hero, a fan favorite. Then, years later, as the Cowboys offensive coordinator, in the 2007 season, he became the hottest commodity in the NFL, after helping to guide the Cowboys to a 13-3 record with his high-powered offense.
My, how times have changed. The genius tag has been pulled and replaced by the “What the @#$%! is he thinking” tag.
Jason Garrett changed the perception of a team and their fan base once upon a Thanksgiving. Can he do it again? The table is set. The turkey has come all the way from the west coast, freshly plucked, gutted, ready to baste and bake.
Come on, Jason. Light that oven. Cook this turkey’s goose. Be our Thanksgiving hero again.