Could Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett Be On The Hot Seat In 2011?

Have you ever encountered something that just catches you completely off guard?  Like being a teenager, and you ask Mom where some toilet paper is, and she tells you to look under her bathroom sink.  And when you grab the toilet paper, behind it there is this little box.  You look a little closer, since it is kinda dark under there, and you finally make out what it says.

"Trojans".

You suddenly have to confront an idea that you had never even considered before.  It was always out there, perhaps, but you just had never gotten around to thinking about it because, well, it just seems too weird.

Let's just say that something similar but less emotionally traumatic happened to me today.  I was cruising the comments on rabblerouser's post about the Cut to 53 when I came across this:

Uh oh...

According to this NFL writer, Garrett may not be around if he doesn’t have a good season. Seriously?

http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-cowboys/headlines/20110905-nfl-writer-if-cowboys-have-disappointing-season-jason-garrett-could-be-replaced.ece

by TheCowboyFan on Sep 5, 2011 1:36 PM CDT

Could this be true?  My immediate reaction was "What an idiotic idea!"  But then, I am concerned about Jerry Jones being a potential problem this year.  I had to stop and think about this, as creepily unpleasant as it is.

The idea of Jason Garrett being on the hot seat comes from Micheal Silver, a writer for Yahoo.com.  I've read him for years, and he does some pretty decent commentary.  He is not always right, which is a bit reassuring here, but some of his stuff is pretty good.

Silver discussed three other coaches as well as JG, Tony Sparano of the Dolphins, Todd Haley of the Chiefs, and Gary Kubiak of the Texans.  Kubiak is a no-brainer, since he has needed fireproof undies for at least the past three seasons.  After last years disappointing slide you would have to think he makes the playoffs or gets the boot.  He has already been given a season or two longer by Bob McNair than many NFL owners would have allowed.

Sparano is almost a victim of his own success.  After the incredible 10 game turnaround from 1-15 to 11-5 in his rookie season with the 'Phins, two back to back 7-9 campaigns have raised a bunch of doubts.  Was he a flash in the pan?  How much did Bill Parcells have to do with that turnaround, and how will Sparano perform with the Tuna back out to sea?  Like Kubiak, this seems a reasonable call.

But Todd Haley seems a bit unlikely.  He is only in his third year, and he led the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth last year after debuting with a 4-12 season.  I do know that an owner may get impatient, but you would have to think that Clark Hunt and Scott Pioli would give him at least one more season if things don't go well this year.  Barring, of course, a complete and total collapse.  Like, say, the Dallas Cowboys had last year.

The midseason firing of Wade Phillips does give Silver's premise a surface gloss of plausibility.  And it's not like JJ has never made a poorly reasoned and pretty much completely wrong decision.  *cough* Roy Williams *cough*  However, there are some things Silver seems to overlook.

First, the situation is very different now than it was when Coach Cupcake was dismissed.  The 2010 Cowboys were coming off a pretty successful year, with the first playoff win since the Coolidge Administration and all that, and expectations were high for pretty much the same team, with the addition of a very exciting rookie named Dez Bryant.  Pushing the expectations even higher was the coming Super Bowl in Cowboys Stadium, and Jerry made no bones about wanting to be the first team ever to play for the Lombardi on their home field.  When the first half of the season fell flatter than Fergie's vocals during the Black Eyed Peas halftime show at that Super Bowl, Wade was pretty much doomed. Not only had the team lost 7 of 8 and pretty much quit on him, but he had very publicly humiliated JJ after all the open talk about playing in Arlington for the championship. 

Jason Garrett has already won some measure of credibility by making the Cowboys competitive the last half of 2010, largely through sheer willpower.  He took the same underperforming team and put a boot in . . . well, where it would provide the most motivation.  He flat out earned the head coaching job.  Yes, that is my opinion, but I will defend it, and I don't think I would be alone.

This also raises the question of what would constitute a disappointing season this year (Well, to be technical, OCC raised it in an e-mail, proving yet again that the future cyber overlord walks among us and is always watching).  Hope is high among the Dallas fanbase, but not so much in the rest of the world.  It is a mixed bag of opinion, and in doing a little research into predictions for the season, I have found the 'boys picked everywhere from first to last in the NFC East.  I know we would all feel crushed here at BTB if the team posted another 6-10 record, or even worse, slid back a game.  But we would have to look at the daring move to rebuild the offensive line and know that there are likely to be some big payoffs in the future.  And if the team does not improve its record from 2010, it is likely to be because the defense is still porous.  The 2011 draft was clearly to fix the offense.  Next year should address the defense.  Given where this team was, it just could not all be done in one year, and it is not unreasonable to think that Rob Ryan's system alone may take a full season to get the kinks worked out.  I have to think JG gets at least one more year to get things headed the right direction.

And this was a very strange year.  I try to forget it, but there was this little distraction called the NFL Lockout.  Jason and Rob lost the entire off season.  Jerry Jones may be impulsive, he may talk a bit too much whenever there is a microphone or camera around, but he is not completely unreasonable.  You don't get to be a billionaire and arguably the most influential owner of a sports franchise in the world without being able to analyze things and make a few good decisions.  I think JJ is fully aware of what the Lockout cost this team.  Don't forget, he was one of the key players in getting the new CBA hammered out just in time to save the season.  I have to believe he would understand that this is not a fair test of JG's coaching and leadership.  I think Jerry will give Jason another year no matter how bad the season goes just to let him have an offseason to work with the team.

When I look back at Silver's comments, I also see one flawed premise:

 I just wonder whether Jerry Jones’ heart was really in this hire.

That seems to fly in the face of the history of the team.  JG was hired before Wade.  There has always been a belief that Jerry had a long range plan of Jason replacing Phillips at the right time.  I think Jerry may have been thinking about asking Wade to step down if he had taken the team to the Super Bowl, to have him go out on top.  It has also been speculated that the decision to give JG the offensive coordinator's job was Jason's idea, that he just did not think he was quite ready for the head coaching position.  I think Garrett was always Jerry's man, and the delay in naming him permanently to the position gave him a chance to eliminate anther part of Silver's argument, that he might be too closely associated with the 1-7 debacle.  Jason put more than enough distance between that and himself.

Finally, Silver may tip his hand a little with his mention of Sean Payton as a possible replacement.  The Payton rumors were running pretty hot and heavy at the end of last season.  I think they were given more weight outside of the Dallas area, where those of us who had been paying more attention to the Cowboys just felt that Garrett was the strongest candidate after the 5-3 finish, but it did surface here on BTB as well.  I just think this whole speculation about Garrett's job is a part of the meme about how Jerry runs the team and the belief that he really hasn't put his trust in Jason.  I really believe Jerry trusts Jason as much as he can ever trust someone else to call the shots on his team.  I would submit the 2011 draft and the overall approach to personnel as evidence.  The team only made one real attempt at landing a big name free agent, and when that fell through at the last minute, it just moved on and took a very smart, long range approach, going younger and picking the best player at each position.  That is such a break from recent history, I have to think it is clear evidence Jerry has turned most of the control over to Jason and perhaps the heir apparent, Stephen Jones.

And Jerry has not exactly shown a hair trigger on firing coaches.  I think Chan Gailey and Dave Campo both got more than a fair shake. 

I do have my doubts about Jerry, but not in this.  I think Jason has a three year window, which I also see as the perceived window for Tony Romo.  If the team flounders that long, then I think Jerry will reluctantly look for a new solution.  But I think Jason has at least that long.

And besides, I expect this whole point to be moot.  I think this team is going to surprise people.  Well, except for Ironman, of course.

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