Perhaps I'm late to this debate, but a recent post by rabblerouser about 'The Cowboys cut to 53 and what it meant philosophically in 2011' in which Garrett/Johnson comparisons were made (Curvin Richards & Montrae Holland cuts) and passionate responses for and against his rationale (e.g. Fan In Thick and Thin), finally motivated me to submit my first fanpost.
While I certainly appreciated the overall article by rabblerouser and his basic premise that Garrett is changing the culture much like Jimmy did (and the Montrae cut definitely reminded me of Curvin...albeit different circumstances), I felt FITT made some solid points. Most prominently:
what irks me is everyone talks about the similarities with Johnson and ignores the differences.
Johnson wasn’t just ruthless with cutting players. He was hyper-realistic with evaluating his talent too.
after taking Dallas from 1-15 to 7-9 to 11-5 Johnson had every reason to be pleased with what he had done and think that his young team would continue to improve. But he wasn’t satisfied with that. Johnson’s assessment was that on top of everything he had done he needed to add Haley as well.
So how does Garrett compare to that?
So my post is not to address every aspect of both arguments. But it does focus on a couple of things that FITT mentions that Johnson excelled in that Garrett still has to prove: 1) effectively evaluating talent and 2) assessing and adding critical missing pieces to the 2011 Cowboys' puzzle. And I'm adding 3) Garrett's game planning and game management.
I think given the changes and approaches that Garrett has already implemented last year and this year as a foundation (in the mode of Jimmy Johnson), the aforementioned 3 items will make the difference in whether this year's team is the 91 team of 11-5 or more "somewhat" like the 92 team that can make it to the SB.
Let me be very clear: I'm all in on Garrett's Jimmy-like approach to the 2011 Cowboys. And I'm excited after last year's 2nd half success of 5-3. However, rather hauntingly, I keep coming back to some of the OC personnel decisions that Garrett made under the Wade Phillips' era...MBIII as a starter, no use of Felix from scrimmage vs Wash after scoring 3 TDs in his 1st 3 games in 2008, and the devaluation of Tashard Choice in 2009/10. Sure counter-arguments can be made about him not having full authority as OC, but my money would be on the fact that he indeed had autonomy to mainly decide the offensive personnel and use them as he saw fit.
So although I like HC Garrett’s approach to creating competition, his organizational skills, and holding players accountable, he’s still got to show he’s an effective evaluator of talent and "has it" when it comes to game planning, play-calling, making adjustments, overall game management, or deciding what final pieces of the puzzle to add to make his team better (ala Jimmy’s move for Haley...besides the draft, will Garrett be able to fill in a critical missing piece this year via UDFAs, waiver wire, or trade?). I also like that Garrett is establishing a Cowboy’s identity for the future: younger, athletic lineman; a better conditioned and mentally/physically tougher team overall. Reminds me of Jimmy’s going young overall and emphasizing speed on both sides of the ball (except for the massive OL)…different than Garrett’s approach for today’s game, but Garrett understands the need for an identity as Jimmy did.
Jimmy wasn’t an Xs & Os type coach—he clearly allowed Norv and Wannstedt to do their things—yet he still had an incredible sense of what he wanted and needed at certain times during games or against tougher competition. He often spoke of "momentum changers" and had his coordinators (including Coach Joe with STs) implement things at times based on what he thought was necessary and when. Think of his surprise onside kick vs Wash in 91 or his directive to Norv in the famous slant to Harper that clinched the 92 Championship vs the 49ers. And how about his philosophy about ‘when going up against a 600lb gorilla…you hit'em with everything you got!’
Nothing Garrett has done as OC, with all the offensive weapons he's had, (except for maybe 07 when he caught the league off-guard…but fizzled in the playoffs as we all know) leads me to believe that he has arrived just yet to consistently out-scheme offensively and make adjustments to win against top teams. In fact, he’s left us numerous times saying "huh???" with some of his play-calling (ummm...game 1 playcall vs. Wash last year right before the half!). But I remain hopeful that he can get it done--especially after seeing a better balance with running during the 5-3 run last year. And to be fair, Garrett is only just getting started; But what a start to a new regime.
In conclusion, maybe Garrett is the closest we'll ever get to getting Jimmy Johnson back on the sidelines. I think Mr. Jones thinks so and will give Garrett a very long leash (forget ESPN 's Michael Silver's garbage). And we can only hope that he can be effective in ALL of the areas that made Jimmy and that 90s teams so great. Only time will tell of course. But while we wait to see if indeed he becomes the 2nd coming of Jimmy, we can be greatly enthused going into this year that he is definitely the antithesis of Wade Phillips.