Four Cowboys Storylines To Watch Over Christmas

Will these two be together for a while? - Tom Pennington

Four random thoughts to get you through the holiday: Jason Garrett looks safe, Lee and Romo are looking at long odds, Miles Austin looks gone, and Jon Kitna may be looking for something long term.

I hope everyone is having (or already had) a great Christmas. And that a lot of you got some Dallas Cowboys gear from Santa.

Here are some things I'm watching and thinking about this holiday.

It looks like Jason Garrett staying as head coach is a done deal.

I always felt that it would take a major meltdown by the Cowboys for Jerry Jones to fire his head coach. While there were times it looked like that could happen this season, the Washington Redskins game was pretty good evidence that Jason Garrett still had the team's faith.

I don't think that was the deciding moment for Jones, however. I think he has a good enough feel for the team that he already knew that Garrett still had the respect of his players long before that, and that his string of statements that Garrett is not coaching for his job can be taken at face value. Rob Phillips said much the same thing in his blog.

By now, he either trusts Garrett to lead the Cowboys to title contention next year or he doesn't.

To me, the biggest thing in Garrett's favor with Jones is that he is completely and totally a creation of Jerry Jones. He played for Jerry, and it was as a member of the Cowboys' staff that he first received notice as a head coaching prospect. Jones always wants his head coaches to succeed, of course, but with Garrett, I think he wants it a little bit more than with anyone else. If the Cowboys can return to prominence with a man Jones personally selected and groomed at the helm, it would serve as a vindication of Jones as general manager - as disturbing as that may seem to some. So I think Garrett has the longest leash of any of the head coaches who have worked for Jerry Jones. And he still has a (barely) winning record as the head coach. Next year may be a decision point, but for this year, I think the decision is already made.

Odds are against Tony Romo and Sean Lee playing this week.

Neither player were at practice today, which is certainly no surprise. Sean Lee appears to not have clearance from the doctors. Additionally, the team may be looking at the long term here and not want to risk him re-injuring his neck in a game where the deck is already stacked against the Cowboys.

Garrett indicated that things have not gone too well for Tony Romo and his back.

Given the normal lack of meaningful information about injuries divulged by Jason Garrett, that sounds really discouraging. Of course, the team does pride itself on keeping the health of the players so far under wraps that the NSA can't get to it, so this may just be another bit of disinformation. But I think that both Romo and Lee have, at best, about a 10 percent chance of playing this week.

Miles Austin looks more and more like he is gone after the season ends.

Despite being as healthy as he has been in a while, Miles Austin has pretty much disappeared from the offense. Both Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley have moved past him on the most important depth chart the Cowboys have for receivers, the one in Romo's head. And, as Calvin Watkins writes, there is that other thing about Austin.

Austin's hamstrings are a sore subject at Valley Ranch and that could be the reason why he played only 63 percent of the snaps. If the Cowboys want to make a financial move regarding Austin, it saves the team $5 million if he's a post-June 1 cut. Williams and Beasley seem to be the future.

Nicely played, Mr. Watkins. Wish I'd gotten there first.

Cute wordplay aside, Austin just seems to be a no-brainer as a cut. He is no longer even close to worth his contract, and the Cowboys now have players that make him superfluous and seem much more able to stay on the field. Look for him to go and the Cowboys to grab a wideout with one of those late picks in this year's draft.

Is Jon Kitna looking for a coaching job?

Everyone was a little surprised that the Cowboys signed 41 year old Jon Kitna to reprise his role as a backup quarterback. Except those who were stunned and amazed. Garrett explained a little about how it happened, and it doesn't reduce the stun factor at all.

Kitna is at practice today, wearing his old number 3. As you probably know, he was coaching high school football and teaching math in Seattle. Given that he took the initiative to contact the Cowboys and volunteer his services, I am wondering if this may be more than just having one last moment in the NFL spotlight for him.

This may be an extended job interview to get a coaching job with Dallas. While I strongly believe Jason Garrett will return, it seems almost a certainty that there are going to be some vacancies among the assistant coaches, and I think most people would put offensive coordinator Bill Callahan at the top of their list of people who are likely to get a pink slip. Current quarterback coach Wade Wilson might be considered for the coordinator position, or he might also be dismissed. I really don't know which way that will shake out, but I think there is a very good chance that, one way or the other, the Cowboys will be looking for a new quarterback coach.

Who would be better qualified than Kitna? He has some coaching experience, years working with Garrett's offense, and he knows Tony Romo, who has said in the past that he learned some things from Kitna while they were on the roster together. Now, he has a week-long (at least) chance to make his case with Garrett and Jerry Jones.

I discussed the topic with some others, including Dawn Macelli and our friend Birddog26, and they think the idea may have some merit.

Obviously the team likes Kitna, and bringing him back to the team on nothing more, really, than his word he is ready to go seems to indicate that they have a lot of respect for his knowledge and football intelligence. It is something to watch.

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