Could Jerry Jones really be contemplating a coaching change?
Michael Silver writes about the NFL for Yahoo Sports. I've read a lot of his stuff, and he is usually pretty entertaining and informative. He gives the impression that he is pretty well on top of what is going on around the league.
So I was a little stunned to read his column that stated bluntly that the losing coach in Sundays New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys game was likely to be fired. (Thanks, by the way to stubabe for pointing this out to me in an e-mail before he put it in a comment.) Silver believes that Jerry Jones wants to hire Jeff Fisher if the Cowboys have a bit of a meltdown and wind up missing the playoffs.
My first reaction (shared by DIRE WOLF) was that the use of some illicit narcotics by Mr. Silver must be involved. But then I conducted some painstaking and exhaustive research (let's see, do I go Google or Bing?), and found another reference to Dallas going after Fisher in the National Football Post. And that led to a report from Jason La Canfora at NFL.com that teams have been in contact with Fisher, with Dallas on the list of those possibly pursuing him.
Well, crap. Is the Jason Garrett Cowboy Way about to become the shortest era in Dallas coaching history?
Parsing the reports after the jump.
Going by the old saying that where there is smoke there is fire, this bears some looking into. Silver lays out the case like this.
If things go poorly over the next four weeks, would Jones eat the final three years of that deal and give up on Garrett? I don't think it's that far-fetched that he would. Earlier this season, after a narrow defeat to the Patriots, Jones told me he thought Garrett hadn't coached aggressively enough. Though he resisted the temptation to make similar comments after last Sunday's defeat to the Cards, the owner surely was tempted.
Jones knows he has a talented team and believes he has a special quarterback in Tony Romo. If the Cowboys, who have been mistake-prone all season, let another opportunity slip away, I don't see him sitting back and reacting passively.
I don't know that there is anything that is clearly wrong in what he says. But there do appear to be some underlying assumptions there that I am not too sure about.
The whole argument is based on the idea that Jerry has no patience at this point and feels that Jason Garrett has not done a good enough job. Perhaps I am wrong (always a possibility), but that is just not how I see things. I think this is part of the difference in perspective between someone who looks at the whole NFL, and those of us who spend virtually all of our free time and a good bit of the time we should be devoting to distractions like family and careers obsessing about every tiny event having the least connection at all to the team that wears the Star. Silver sees impatience and a win now at all costs motivation. I don't think that is a characteristic of Jerry. As a matter of fact, I think he leans the other way. It is arguable that he held onto Wade Phillips well past the point where the cupcakes were burnt. A clue as to why he tends in that direction is his regret over pulling the trigger so fast on Chan Gailey. Chan came into a situation with an aging team and had a 10-6 and an 8-8 season. Jerry dumped him, feeling that there was more talent on the team than their actually was, and wound up with Dave Campo's three successive 5-11 seasons. Jerry seems determined to not make that mistake again.
The other part of it is the question of whether Garrett has improved the team. When you look at the 1-7 start the Cowboys had in 2010, it is hard to say that the team has not made some strides, even with the easy schedule they have had this year. Garrett has taken some huge steps in trying to rebuild the team, going younger on the offensive line with all the risks that entails. And the team still has the defense to work on, since the 2011 draft was so heavily weighted towards the offense.
And the team is 7-5, in first place in the NFC East, and has the "control of its own destiny" thing going on. There have certainly been rough spots, and the Cowboys have a disturbing tendency to play down to the level of opponents, but that is not such a bad place to be, especially after the impotence of the first half of last season.
A snap move to replace Garrett does not seem to be part of the current modus operandi for Jerry Jones. He has been moving more to long range, strategic thinking in the past few years, and certainly showed a lot of patience for Wade to get his ship righted - probably too much. I just do not see one and a half seasons as being enough data for Jerry to feel he is able to make such a call.
I also don't know that Fisher is such a great choice himself. He hasn't exactly torn the league up the past few seasons. And he just got fired. Why is it that failing at your job in the NFL automatically makes you a prime candidate to go somewhere else and see how badly you can mess that situation up? What do they think they are in the NFL, Wall Street investment firms?
In truth, the whole things looks a lot like a knee jerk reaction to timeout-gate, which is alluded to in the NFP story.
Although (Jeff Fisher's) ties to Jerry Jones are strong from being on the NFL's Competition Committee together, it would be interesting to see whether Jerry would jettison Jason Garrett so quickly, even with Sunday's gaffe of icing his own kicker before what would have been a game-winning field goal.
There is also an interesting aspect to the La Canfora piece. Notice the wording:
At least two teams already have reached out to former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher about head-coaching positions, a source with knowledge of the situation said Monday.
Two teams have reached out to him, and then Dallas is one of four teams listed as "possible destinations". That doesn't exactly add up to what I would call conclusive evidence.
This whole things seems like a bunch of rumors based on speculation and connecting dots that don't necessarily have anything to do with one another. And I think it shows a very superficial understanding of the internal relationships and dynamics of the Cowboys. The perception by many is that Jerry is kinda dumb, and reacts on impulse. This is, I think, a mistaken read of how he likes to be out there talking about the team at every possible opportunity. Yes, he talks way too much, but this man has built two financial empires in his life, and the Dallas Cowboys are at the absolute top of the sports/entertainment world (and Jerry understands far better than most just how much entertainment is involved in the product that is the NFL). He is anything but stupid, and he has not been very rash the past few years.
The fact that the Dallas Cowboys are a team that everyone seems to either love or love to hate means that almost any rumor about them, no matter how flimsy, will get an airing. And I certainly see many examples of so called "experts" who make the most ludicrous statements about the team (or any team, for that matter).
If anything is going to change at Valley Ranch, I would think it would be having Garrett wear both the Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator hats. But I do not think Jerry Jones is going to kick Garrett out the door because he had a really bad case of mental flatulence at the end of the Cardinals game. And I think Jerry is also going to give him at least a couple of years to get his system in place and everything working correctly. I just don't think the idea that Garrett's job is in jeopardy is credible.
Of course, as I said, I could be wrong. When there is smoke, there is often fire.
There is also often somebody getting high. I think that is a better explanation here.