On May 31, 2012, just over 500 days into Jason Garrett's tenure as the Cowboys head coach, I penned an article in which I welcomed BTB readers to what I called "the Garrett Decade." The post's central premise was that Stephen Jones had become the team's de facto GM and, in terms of vision, temperament, managerial style and set of priorities, Garrett was Stephen's type of coach. In other words, the Cowboys new GM had secured his present and future coach and, together, they were making important long-term changes.
Here, on Monday, January 19, 2015, it has been 1,533 good days stacked one upon the other since Wade Phillips was fired and Garrett took over as the Cowboys' interim head coach. As might be expected, there have been lots of twists and turns in the narratives surrounding Garrett since that fateful day halfway through the 2010 season. From this vantage point, when it looks increasingly likely that we will indeed see a "Garrett decade," I thought it might be interesting to go back down memory lane to see what we were writing about the Red-Headed Genius at various points during his tenure. Here goes:
"A quick stroll through the national media jungle this morning shows a lot of skepticism about Jason Garrett being anything more than an interim solution for the Cowboys. Well, they've been proven wrong before."
"A more baldly corporate NFL demands a new breed of coach. The grizzled old veterans--the Bo Schembechlers and Mike Ditkas of the world--have given way to younger, more media-friendly (and with the exception of Andy Reid) more photogenic men....Jason Garrett's opening presser felt like a breath of fresh air: the Cowboys had joined the modern age."
"I don't know what history will say about the Jason Garret era; the first chapter, however, was good enough for me to keep the book on my nightstand."
It's about the Process:
"One of the themes that we have with our players, and something I put in front of them all the time is: ‘You’ve got to try to stack good days on top of each other’. We’re trying to do that. Guys are working hard, the intensity was good, we’ve got a lot of things to clean up, but we’re making progress."
"...it appears that the footprint on Sherman's butt matches Garrett's shoe perfectly. If this is true, I'm ecstatic, for it means that Jerry Jones' press conference comments that Garrett would have absolute authority over coaching hires and personnel--the words we have all been dying to hear--may have been more than posturing for the assembled media."
Jason Garrett: Whenever we acquire a player, through the draft, through free agency, in any way, we want to have "The Right Kind Of Guys". Obviously they have to have the physical requirements to play this game. The measurables, the talent, the aptitude to play. Part of that is being "The Right Kind Of Guy". You want guys who love to play football and show you that they love it each and every day. Passion, enthusiasm, emotion, all of those things come into it."
"Jones has always been a philosophical copycat....Now, he's reflecting Garrett's viewpoint; in the post-game locker-room confab, Jones said that this was a case where 'if you practice well, and play well, then it goes well.' In other words, he saw the final score as the end result of a process."
"I still believe in Jason Garrett, he has the Cowboys closing in on the playoffs even with yesterday's failure. As long as he learns from his mistakes, and holds himself accountable like he does the players, he should come out of it just fine. Just follow your own philosophy."
"A lot of the things that Jason Garrett has done so far "feel right". Of course, they also felt right last year, but that 8-8 record did not "feel right" at all, regardless of any extenuating circumstances. The fact is that success in the NFL is judged solely by the W/L column. Everything else is just icing on the cake."
So what is Jason Garrett? Is he the answer to the' long playoff drought, or is he just prolonging the misery?
This has become a rather hotly debated question of late. It is not so much because of the Cowboys' 3-4 record, but is driven more by how the team has lost those four games.
"Now, under the pressure of a horrible tragedy, the rest of us are getting to see the characteristics that Jerry Jones and the rest of the Cowboys have been seeing close up...To hold this team together through the past weekend was remarkable....The entire game can be seen as a testament to Garrett's leadership."
"When you were hired, Jason, this is the team I envisioned you would build. Sometime during the 2012 season, I lost sight of this vision, or it became muddied, and I failed to see clearly. But you didn't; you continue to preach the message, and the team kept working, long after it no longer seemed to guys like me to be worth doing so.
Guys like me were wrong. I promise I'll never doubt you again."
"Before we condemn Garrett for failing to achieve what either Harbaugh [brother] has, let's give him a similarly talented and deep roster, a front seven that can take over games, an elite running game, and an offensive line that can dominate in the fourth quarter. A coach is only as good as his talent, and this team, contrary to popular opinion, isn't particularly talented. Claiming otherwise is short-sighted."
"Frankly, most of what he says is undoubtedly similar to what every head coach in the league says....What this does is reveal the Jason Garrett that many never believed was there, a coach in charge of this team, with the respect of his players, and with confidence oozing from every pore. The Jason Garrett a few of us have known about from day one. We believed in him because we took the time to hear what he was saying."
"...over the last two weeks, through watching his press conferences, hearing him on the radio, watching him interview with NBC before last weekend's Hall of Fame game, I've noticed something. Jason Garrett looks like a very confident man, who is very comfortable in his own skin and feels like he has the tools at his disposal to be successful at the job he was hired to do."
"I love the change in culture that he brought to the team. Still, enough is enough. Garrett has preached about stacking one good performance on top of another since he took over. While that is a good thing, the truth is that Jason Garrett's personal stack of good performances is not nearly as high as it should be....In my opinion, the time has come for someone else to man the sidelines in Dallas."
"I love the RKG mantra. I hope that whomever would replace Garrett would be required by the GM (don't go there) to maintain that personal accountability. I love the direction that Garrett has given to the scouting department, and the hauls from the recent drafts that coincide with that. However, at the end of the day, the most important skill set of a head coach is leading your team to victory on gameday."
"Jason Garrett watches sporting events in a different way than folks like you and I...the Cowboys coach does not simply look at the game as a matter of X's and O's; when he watches, say a Mike Krzyzewski, Garrett is actually studying the game from a leadership perspective. In this way he is seeking to better himself as a head coach, much the same as he did when he studied other quarterbacks when he was a back-up NFL quarterback."
"A former GM said he could envision Garrett getting fired, landing somewhere as a coordinator and then succeeding as a head coach for a different organization down the line. 'He could emerge as a really good head coach who has been tested by fire,' this former GM said."
"we can see that, through his first two seasons at the helm in Dallas, Jason Garrett fared better than either Tom Landry or Jimmy Johnson."
Following the on-field celebration, including a Gatorade bath...Coach Garrett continued to stress the values that got the team to the point where they now stand. There will be no departure from the process that the Rooster put in place the moment he was named as the interim coach.
A long and winding road, no? It's fascinating to see the peaks and valleys of Garrett's coaching tenure in retrospect, when we know the glorious vista that awaits us after we climb the final peak. For Garrett himself, it's a nice payday and a clear sense of a job well done and respect well earned. To wit:
"The retention of Garrett is something that I always thought would happen as long as his team did not have a major meltdown this year. I never believed that he was on a hot seat prior to the end of his contract. 2014 always looked like the make or break year for him, and everything Jerry Jones said and did fit that idea. I take a little pride that I had pretty much the same outlook all along. This is from one of the first posts I wrote here back in September of 2011:
I really believe Jerry trusts Jason as much as he can ever trust someone else to call the shots on his team. I would submit the 2011 draft and the overall approach to personnel as evidence. The team only made one real attempt at landing a big name free agent, and when that fell through at the last minute, it just moved on and took a very smart, long range approach, going younger and picking the best player at each position. That is such a break from recent history, I have to think it is clear evidence Jerry has turned most of the control over to Jason and perhaps the heir apparent, Stephen Jones."
This last one is from the honorable Tom Ryle, who has been championing Garrett since the very day he arrived on this here scene. The man deserves a celebratory "I told you so," as do all those who trusted in the process even in the face of mounting evidence that it was precisely a .500 proposition. In 2014, things changed, and the process was shown to pay dividends; as Tom shared in an email to the other front page writers when I solicited their input for this story:
"WE WERE RIGHT, [salty language deleted]!"