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Ahh, nothing like a nice, tall glass of Kool-Aid to quench the thirst. You see after starting 1-7 and firing marshmallow head coach Wade Phillips, the Dallas Cowboys were looking for a refreshment.
They have found one in intern head coach Jason Garrett — and the media is drinking the Cowboy Kool-Aid once again after just one game.
Head Coach in Waiting
For the few who do not know the story, a quick refresher. Garrett comes from a family of coaches, and his father Jim was a scout for the Cowboys. Garrett played backup quarterback in the league for 12 seasons. Always a student of the game, Garrett often watched from the sidelines, essentially training for a gig in coaching. He got in in 2005, when the Miami Dolphins hired him as the quarterbacks coach in Garrett’s first year not playing in the NFL.
He was hired by Dallas as offensive coordinator in 2007, and replaced Phillips midway through the 2010 season.
The Cowboys are the NFL’s laughing stock for the second time in three years. (2008 was another "Super Bowl or bust season, in which Dallas missed the playoffs altogether) Sitting at 1-7 and going into week ten, Dallas had the second-worst record in the league behind only Buffalo. The knock on Dallas was simple — they were an undisciplined team with little attention to detail, who made mistakes and could not play a complete 60-minute ball game. Many questions arose in Dallas, but talent was rarely one of them.
Sure the offensive line is a bit slow and old, but so is Pittsburgh’s. You don’t see the Steelers sitting in the basement. The middle linebackers and safeties for Dallas are a bit below average in their coverage abilities. So are the Chiefs who are sitting at a very respectable 5-4. Point is, many teams around the league have done more with less talent than Dallas did in 2010 under the helm of Phillips.
Change of Culture
Garrett has initiated a change of attitude and culture in Dallas. Attention to detail and the approach to practice has been altered so far under Garrett. With talent not being a burden, (Dallas arguably has three top-five players at their position in Demarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and Jason Witten. Garrett must both motivate prepare a mistake-ridden club that has little to play for in 2010. Oh yeah, besides their jobs. Players on Dallas knew that Phillips would be fired before they would, and their performance on the field did little to say they wanted anything but Phillips out of Dallas.
Garrett brings with him a sense of uncertainty. Uncertainty in that, if you do not perform, changes will be made. A phrase that former head coach Bill Parcells used quite frequently was "churning" the roster. It basically meant if you’re not doing your job, you will be replaced. Wade Phillips brought with him a "family" mentality, which sounds great, but the NFL is a business, not a family affair.
The playoffs are out of the question for Dallas. They had their share at the beginning of the season, along with 32 other teams. Instead of doing what needed to be done, they proceeded to start 1-7 before Garrett finally brought a prepared team to the New Meadowlands and defeated the New York Giants 33-20.
Even without Tony Romo for the remainder of the season, under Jason Garrett the Dallas Cowboys have an opportunity to continue to improve and build off of their second win of the season. With attention to detail and a stricter attitude enforced, look for Dallas to end 2010 on quite a high note. Focus and enthusiasm are the two main elements that will best improve this Dallas squad, and Jason Garrett is the man for the job.
Another reason? Football is a young man’s game. In following with Bill Simmons Speed Limit Corollary if head coaches over the age of 55 typically do not have the success that younger coaches do. Why? Because they’re old, and being the head coach in the NFL is a very time-consuming and high-stress job. Phillips was 63. Garrett is 44.
While the Cowboys still have to face teams such as the Colts, Saints, and the Eagles twice, they will at least remain competitive in the remainder of their games. Garrett finally has the team focused and buying into a system of structure and discipline.
So go ahead and drink the Cowboy flavored Kool-Aid for the remainder of the year. Just know that the remainder of this season is just the pre-game. The real party and after party will be the 2011 season when Garrett has an entire off-season and training camp to implement his ways.
But for now Garrett has Dallas fans reaching for another glass of Kool-Aid, which is a needed refreshment in the disaster that is the 2010 season.