So much for a final evaluation. At least for Jason Garrett.
Sunday's finale at Philly is now so muddled and diluted as to be virtually worthless as an assessment tool. The Eagles, by virtue of their shocking home loss to the Vikings Tuesday night, now have nothing to gain or lose against the Cowboys. Closed out of earning a first round bye, Andy Reid will likely treat this game like a bye. Key starters, including Michael Vick, will be rested and game plans will be simplified.
In short, this game is a broken barometer for the Cowboys. Beating the self-grounded Eagles can't do much to advance JG's cause for 2011. But losing, especially losing ugly, could prove fatal.
For whatever reason, Jerry Jones seems to have given Garrett a pass for last week's loss to the lowly Cardinals. Jones appears to consider those two early pick sixes as flukes. I don't agree. Even without the slip by Miles Austin, Kitna should not have thrown that ball in the first place. It was a bad decision. The second one was a bad throw, although Roy Williams was complicit. Hard for me to understand why Jones appears to have just written those plays off.
He then points to the injury to Kitna, and the necessity to ride the rest of the game with Stephen McGee, as a mitigating circumstance, along with the critical missed PAT by David Buehler.
So that makes losing to the Cardinals okay? That lets Garrett off the hook?
Bottom line: Jones apparently will use Garrett's first six games as interim coach, which produced a 4-2 record, as his baseline evaluation.
This one is neither clear nor certain. Garrett has injected a dose of structure and discipline. But that Christmas night debacle in the desert, along with JG's rambling rationalizations after the loss, seemed eerily Phillips-esque.
"If it weren't for....." "If you take away....." Your point, Jason?
So Jones will hitch up his interview caravan. He says his list of interviewees will be shorter than the ten candidates he spoke with the last time the head coaching job was open. Jones will have to find a way to comply with the Rooney Rule, meaning Ray Sherman will likely be placed in an awkward position. Although well-intentioned, the Rooney Rule all too often smacks of tokenism.
My current impressions: Garrett remains the single most likely choice, although I might take "the field" over JG. Jason benefits from being the path of least resistance, a kind of face-saving default position for his boss. The NFL's looming labor tempest works in his favor as well.
Cowher? I tend to doubt it. The Chin is not gonna work for the Anti-Rooney.
Gruden? Interesting. The Cowboys wealth of offensive skill position personnel has to tempt Chuckie. But I don't know if Jones would be willing to share the klieglights with the charismatic and media-hot Gruden.
Which brings me to...
Jeff Fisher. Jeff Fisher, who may either have worn out his welcome with his senile boss, or may now himself have had enough of his senile boss.
Fisher. Respected. Technically and organizationally sound. Knows the league as well as anyone. Tougher than boot leather, but still glitzy enough for America's Team.
Given the opportunity, Jerry, do it.