Whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit that the Dallas Cowboys always get your attention. No matter what kind of year the team is having, they are always among the most scrutinized organizations in sports, not just the NFL. And if the Cowboys are having anything but unadulterated success, speculation fires up immediately about whether the head coach is going to be fired.
If you have any doubts about this, there was talk (originally reported here by the omniscient OCC) about Jason Garrett being on one of the hottest seats in the league before the 2012 season even started. Only five coaches were seen as being in a more precarious position than he was. This was on June 28, a full two months before the start of the season. The basis: Garrett works for Jerry Jones, who is well-known to be stupid, mercurial and possessed of the attention span of a five year old at Toys R Us.
And the theme continued through the season. With a quick Google search, I found articles discussing this on August 24, October 15, October 29, November 2, and November 5, plus several others from sites we don't link to from BTB because they will basically post anything that generates clicks with no respect for accuracy or truth. It is a story that refuses to die. And now it has popped up again.
I have long been arguing against those creaky old memes. I think much of the media, including the authors of the articles mentioned above, look at things from several years ago and just assume nothing has changed. I take a different position, that Jerry Jones has indeed learned from his past mistakes and is now taking a longer view of things. My contention has always been that Garrett will get three full seasons before his status is up for review. Jerry Jones has basically said this, usually in the process of talking about how much he regrets dumping Chan Gailey after only two seasons. Stephen Jones has talked about it as well, and has just restated that he has no reason to think that Jason Garrett is not going to be the head coach of the Cowboys in 2013.
"I just think he's done an outstanding job with this team," Jones said. "There has been adversity in this season. He's handled it well. He's never complained, never blinked. I know our guys play hard for him. I don't believe anybody has refuted that. No one wants to win more games than Jason. I know he's disappointed that we haven't won more games, but at the same time, we do have a winning record right now. We're in the hunt."
Stephen Jones is the second most important voice in how the Cowboys are run. His authority is second only to his father's and he frequently is with Jerry at important meetings, such as the recent NFL special meeting held in Dallas. He speaks for the club, and his growing role is clear to anyone who has watched the team for the past five years or so. The general expectation is that he will replace his father as general manager at some point. If he does not take the GM role when Jerry is no longer active in running the team, he would likely be the person who hires a GM. If he says Jason Garrett is going to continue coaching the team next year, you can believe it.
And yet the story of how Garrett is about to be replaced never seems to go away. If any former NFL coach shows any sign of interest in returning to the league, or if a current coach has the slightest possibility of changing jobs, someone out there will find a Jerry Jones connection and declare that a contract is all drawn up to bring the new guy in so Garrett can be kicked to the curb. It doesn't matter if the coach is still contractually connected to a team where he recently won a Super Bowl, like Sean Payton, or has been out of the league for years while displaying his grating and often ill-informed personality on television, like Jon Gruden, or is the head coach of a division rival that the Cowboys swept this year, like Andy Reid, or just a person at a game that Jerry Jones happens to know and talk to, like Mike Holmgren, someone out there will explain in excruciating detail why he is the person Jerry Jones is just determined to hire to take the team back to glory. Several beat reporters said they saw Barry Switzer at Valley Ranch on Thursday, and I am waiting for rumors of his return to surface. How can you figure out who is serious when all these different names keep surfacing?
It is becoming ludicrous. While there are a few voices out there who keep stating that Jerry Jones is not planning on firing Jason Garrett no matter what happens the rest of the season, like Dan Graziano who writes the ESPN NFC East blog (and who I usually find to be very accurate in what he reports), most writers seem to be wishing madly for Garrett to be fired. Take this, from the Gruden article I linked above:
"Jerry Jones' plane...has made a couple of stops," (Dan) Patrick added that the Cowboys, prior to this past weekend's game, were "kicking the tires on seeing who will be available," and that he was told there will be a coaching change if Dallas does not make the playoffs.
This is reportedly from an unnamed source for Patrick. Countering this, every statement made by Jerry and Stephen Jones during the season has been to the effect that Jason Garrett is not going to be fired at the end of the year. Add to that the devastating number of injuries to the team, particularly on defense where Jay Ratliff is possibly going to become the sixth starter on IR. This has to be taken into account in judging the performance of the team, which is 7-6 and still in the hunt for a playoff spot. Logically, you would think that Jason Garrett would get some credit for doing a pretty good job under extreme circumstances. His performance in leading the team under the shocking duress created by the Jerry Brown tragedy was universally praised. And yet the assumption behind all the articles mentioned above is that the Jones family is eager to get rid of the coach they chose less than two and a half seasons ago. It is not a situation like Philadelphia, where Andy Reid was clearly told that this was a win or get fired proposition. Here, over and over, the words coming from Valley Ranch have stated that the team is looking at the long term. In the NFL, long term may not be all that long, but everything said so far would indicate that in Dallas, it is longer than two and a half seasons.
While I could see work going on behind the scenes if there was not all this verbal support, I find it a bit hard to believe that the Jones could be that convincing without letting things slip. Jerry in particular runs on and on about everything, and I do not trust him to keep a secret at all. I just don't see any indication that he is seriously interested in hiring someone else this year as a head coach. I could see an offensive coordinator, a possible replacement for Rob Ryan (although the injury situation would also have to be taken into account with him as well), other assistants if there is some indication that job offers are coming for people on the Dallas staff, or even a general manager. Those are things that haven't really been brought up when discussing mysterious plane trips, which also could be part of a desperate talent search for viable bodies to put on the roster. Jason Garrett has been discussed extensively and always positively. I just am not buying that level of mendacity from the Jones. John Mara, I would buy, but not them. I might be all wet, and I will apologize profusely to you if something happens to prove me wrong. But the biggest argument to me that there is little behind all this is that so many names keep coming up as "Jerry's choice" to be the next head coach.
I don't know what it is like for other teams, but this is largely a permanent part of the landscape around Dallas. It is like our own personal zombie apocalypse. You cannot kill this thing. I think it is rooted in a disbelief that Jerry Jones can ever change, which I strongly disagree with, and the fact that the words "Dallas Cowboys" almost guarantee interest in the topic posted. I have written about this many times before, because I can't bear to leave the constant rumor-mongering unchallenged. I probably will write about this many times in the future, unless the people that think they understand the Mayans are on to something.