There was a time I genuinely believed he had a chance to one day become president of the United States. Instead he merely rose to head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
Classic underachiever, that Jason Garrett.
I first met Garrett in the early 90s, when he quarterbacked the San Antonio Riders of the World League of Professional Football. He was Jason then to me, a Riders' broadcaster and JG's elder. Even then, Garrett radiated intelligence, and not simply because the education line on his resume read "Princeton." The young JG was an impossibly quick study, a popular and respected teammate, and a much funnier and more engaging interview than you might now suspect. Young Jason would tell you what was on his mind, with an open smile, while still always displaying a professional restraint. He was conversant on virtually any topic, intellectually curious, openly patriotic and clearly devoted to and proud of his football-steeped family.
While I never got a clue about his political orientation, he was obviously well versed in history and social studies, and possessed the ability to speak in neatly packaged, compelling, meaningful 12-second sound bites. Smooth, yet boyish. Charismatic, but always under control, and never too small for the moment or occasion.
In short, the future President Garrett, merely awaiting the arrival of his Constitutionally mandated 35th birthday.
Instead, the football thing got in the way, or never got out of the way. My recollections of Garrett as a player are that he made quick decisions, possessed efficient mechanics, had what I call "functional mobility" in the pocket, rarely misread coverages, and could hold up under far more punishment than his slight body seemed prepared to withstand. Nor was his arm "big." I was always fascinated that he threw so many completions into tight spaces using essentially my right arm. Owning my right arm is not generally considered a career asset for a professional quarterback, but Garret never claimed it as a liability. He was a "no excuses" player.
And it's that "no excuses" approach that I think will prove his biggest virtue as the eighth coach in Dallas Cowboys history. Don't let the red hair, the freckles and the youthful smile fool you. No one, including Jerry Jones, will run over Jason Garrett. To use a baseball analogy, players. coaches and front office personnel will never "take the extra base" on JG.
President Garrett will have to wait. For now, he is the most Tom Landry-like Cowboys head coach since Tom Landry. Easy, friends. I'm not assuming 29 years of Landry-esque excellence in his new job. But there are undeniable similarities. Absurdly smart. Mentally tough and impossible to knock off-task. Capable of quiet intimidation when necessary. A pretty good--but limited-- former player who retains a much wider and deeper competitive mean streak than his demeanor would imply.
Jason Garrett will never mail it in. Nor will he allow those in his charge to do so.