It is, in one sense, a non-story. Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is in the last year of his contract and nothing has been done about extending him. This has been portrayed by some observers and writers as a failure on the part of Jerry Jones to support him. However, the only real failure that this really shows is a failure on the part of people to pay attention to how things are done by Jones. He does not extend coaches during the season (although he may fire one upon occasion). He announces these things after the season is over. Any new deal for Garrett will only come after the final game is played, and you can be sure the final record will play significantly into the financials of the deal, if it comes. With the first winning season since Garrett was promoted from interim to full-time head coach, the odds are that there will be a new deal, as long as the Cowboys do not crater completely to end the year.
That is not to say there are not subtle indications of what Jerry Jones really wants to have happen. For instance, Jerry's son Stephen, who is also executive vice president for the team, had this tiny little hint to share during a radio interview:
"We've got a lot of work to do. But I really think Jason is the right guy for this job, and I know Jerry thinks the same thing. I certainly see Jason being a big part of our future.''
Jones' interview is just the latest in a long string of statements from him and his father to the effect that they really, really want to see Garrett stay as the head coach. Although there have been articles every year since Garrett stepped into the top spot on the staff talking about just how hot his seat is, they were all wrong. Garrett was never really on a hot seat. He never had a losing record. He always had the owner's support. Once the team got on its winning streak early in the season, it was fairly clear that he would get a new contract - just not until the season was over.
Nothing has changed. There was never any guarantee, because it would be foolish to hand out a new deal when there was still some possibility for things to come off the rails. You should always verify performance before getting out the checkbook. Look at what happened on the collegiate level when Texas Tech gave a nice raise and extension to second-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury, only to see the team stumble to a 4-8 record. But no one who paid attention to what was going on could possibly doubt that Jerry Jones has always wanted Jason Garrett to succeed. There were a lot of fans who did not like him, and at times it appeared that some members of the Dallas sports media didn't like him, either. He has been portrayed as a puppet who had no real control over things and as someone who simply did not have the ability to be a head coach. Yet he has managed to rebuild the Cowboys almost completely over the past four seasons without the team having to sink to the bottom of the standings. Since becoming the full-time head coach, Dallas has not gone into a single game where they had no chance of making the playoffs.
They still haven't made the playoffs, of course, but all the criticism of the Cowboys for being mediocre missed the fact that the team had become a bit of a hollow shell by the time Garrett took the reins. The skepticism about his capability ignored how well he has done molding the character of the team into his vision of a winning NFL program. The Jones family is still holding him accountable, but also encouraging him and making it clear to the public that they support him. A contract extension will give him a chance to become the second-longest tenured head coach in the history of the franchise, something Jerry Jones has been searching for.
While stability is usually a trait of successful NFL franchises, it does have to be accompanied by a certain level of success. Garrett is on the verge of showing he can bring that to Dallas and earning a nice, lucrative new deal. Of course, he is going to do everything he can to show his team the right way to handle things.
"All I have interest in is this practice that starts in 10 minutes,'' Garrett said Thursday morning.
It is the approach that got him here, after all.