When I read the title of Tom’s latest Kool Aid musing comparing Jason Garrett to Jimmy Johnson, I nearly spit coffee all over my computer screen. I was so floored by Tom’s fantasy laden article that I had to respond with more than a simple comment. Tom is 100% correct when he says his article is pure opinion, albeit an opinion with little supporting evidence. So let me take a moment and provide numbers and actual analysis about why it is way off base attempting to compare Jason Garrett to Jimmy Johnson.
Let’s evaluate 3 key areas of coaching: game planning and production, leadership, and talent evaluation.
Let’s start with the fact that Jason Garrett has failed to prove he is anything more than an average offensive coordinator, much less a great head coach. Let me point out a reality that is often overlooked. Since Tony Sparano left Dallas in 2008 to coach Miami and Garrett took 100% control of the offense, the Cowboys offense has been middle of the pack. While Garrett led offenses have put up nice yardage totals each season under his control, what matters in the NFL is scoring. Let’s look at how the Cowboys ranked in Points Scored to prove my point: 2008-18th, 2009-14th, 2010-7th, and 2011-15th for an average ranking of 14th in the NFL under Garrett’s leadership. Not only has the Cowboys offense been average in scoring under Garrett, the hallmarks of his offenses have been horrible red zone play calling and execution, mental errors, turnovers, and the inability to make big plays in the clutch.
There is nothing to suggest that Garrett is an effective leader. Anyone who works in the business world knows that the best leaders are rarely the “smartest guy in the room.” The best leaders have a quality that goes way beyond pure intelligence, and a core part of that quality is the ability to inspire others and get the best of people. The best leaders surround themselves with smart people and use their leadership skills to maximize the talent around them. Does anyone here think Garrett got the most out of last year’s team? To the contrary, in the biggest games with the most on the line last year’s team folded under Garrett’s leadership and won only 1 game against a team over .500. Garrett’s robotic, emotionless style did nothing to inspire anything resembling fight or toughness in last year’s team. Quite the opposite, when things got tough late in key games the Cowboys seemed turtle up and cower from the fight.
Lastly, let’s look at Garrett’s ability to evaluate and acquire talent. I’ll give Garrett credit for his role in a better than average draft last season. However, if you subscribe to the theory that Garrett had his fingerprints all over last year’s team, then Garrett is also responsible for signing off on the idea that Phil Costa could be an NFL starter at center…a move that had dramatic negative consequences for the team’s offensive performance. Garrett also failed to bring in any playmakers on a defensive line and secondary that allowed the likes of Rex Grossman to look like the second coming of Joe Montana. If we are to believe that Garrett is somehow more involved than past Jerry Jones puppets in shaping the team's personnel, looking at how poorly the Cowboys graded out in upgrading the team's talent level via free agency, it's extremely hard to say Garrett is anything special when it comes to evaluating and acquiring talent.
I’m like Tom in that I hope Garrett turns out to be a great coach. We all dream that Garrett turns about be a legendary coach in the mold of Jimmy Johnson. However, based on the body of work available for evaluation, there is little evidence to suggest Garrett is anything special and a fair amount of evidence that illustrates Garrett has a long way to go before we see him hoisting the Lombardy Trophy.