With the Dallas Cowboys just a few days away from the start of training camp, optimism is the predominant mood for the team and its fan base. As some camps are already underway, it is probably safe to say that all NFL teams have a positive attitude about the future, but for the Cowboys, there is a real basis to look forward eagerly to the 2015 season. As Danny Phantom explained earlier, the team has done a really good job replacing most of the players it lost in the offseason, with only the running back position still a sizable question mark. And the team has maintained continuity and stability in the coaching staff, highlighted by Jason Garrett's new five-year deal.
Several writers, including me, have noted that it is rather refreshing to not see the annual articles about Garrett being on the hot seat, with the often implied belief that he would be gone by the end of the season. So imagine my reaction when I read the Saturday morning link dump from rabble and saw this.
Cowlishaw: Even as he approaches Jimmy Johnson's career record, Jason Garrett feeling the hot seat | Dallas Morning News
"What in the world is he writing about?" I thought. OK, so that wasn't really the first thing that came to mind, but the other thoughts are not really appropriate under our site guidelines. They involved some blasphemy, the repeated use of words beginning with the letter "f", references to a certain posterior orifice, and speculation on the marital status and general moral character of Cowlishaw's mother during the period encompassing his conception and birth. But that is not important. The burning question is why? Is there so little faith in Garrett? Does what the team accomplished last season mean nothing? Are the various moves of the offseason, which are mostly being highly praised, of no import?
The Cowlishaw article is a remarkable exercise of damning with faint praise. It takes the idea of the glass being half-empty to the extreme.
Really it's Garrett's security that raises one of this team's bigger questions as the club prepares to head for Oxnard, Calif., this week. Garrett has never entered a season as anything approaching a fan favorite. He has had Jones' blessing, which, in a sense, is all that matters.
But even that doesn't keep one from feeling the hot seat, given that Johnson's five-year stay has been the longest in Jones' quarter of a century in charge.
After a 12-4 season and playoff win, Garrett looks more head coach-like than ever before, even if he never lacked confidence during all those 8-8 seasons. But when fans see him this way, it has more than marginal value. Nothing gets an owner's attention more than home crowds booing their coach and team before halftime (see Cowboys-Jaguars 2010 for more details).
Obviously, Cowlishaw, who is paid well for his musings, has a different view of things than I do, writing for pleasure about the team since I am not making a living at this. Of course, I have always had a different view of Garrett. I take a lot of pride in having been on board the Garrett bandwagon from day one and in encouraging all to join me. Our viewpoints seem to be driven by how well they are supported by the current state of things.
Of note in the article is the constant reference to Jimmy Johnson and his obvious playoff success, and that is telling. Cowlishaw is one of a group of writers and media figures, also including Randy Galloway and Dale Hansen, that were covering the team during Johnson's highly successful but turbulent tenure, as well as the years of struggle afterwards. They apparently attribute most of the blame for the departure of Johnson on the team owner. They have a sometimes blatant dislike of Jerry Jones, and the fact that Garrett is clearly Jones' man seems to condemn him by association in their minds. A sense of bitterness that the annual forecasts of Garrett's failure and dismissal never came true often runs through their writing and on-air commentary. It seems he can do nothing right in their minds until he finally leads his team to a Super Bowl victory, and you get the sense that they will find a taste of ashes when that happens.
In a larger sense, this is perhaps a part of the new world of journalism exemplified by Brian Williams' well-known issues with inserting himself, often falsely, into the story. Any success by Garrett nullifies their own supposed acumen about the team. While other writers such as Bob Sturm and Bryan Broaddus also admit that they did not think Garrett was the right man for the job and should have been fired early in his time as head coach, at least they have the integrity to admit they were wrong. The older group does not seem capable of this, leading to pieces like this one by Coliwshaw putting the most negative slant on things. They use the claim of objectivity to justify their takes, but they seem more a kind of stubborn anti-homerism rooted in their disdain for Jones, who they apparently wish had sold the team long ago to someone they would approve. Of course, they could always have tried to buy the Cowboys themselves. Oh, wait, they are not wildly successful multi-billionaires like Jones who has built a team that was bleeding money into the most lucrative franchise in American sports, and one that will likely be the top one in the world in a few years.
Even as fans, people who are members of our community here at Blogging The Boys admit that Jones has made some grievous mistakes in learning how to return the Cowboys to the wild success of his early years as the owner and general manager. But we also give him credit for what is going on now. Likewise, there is an air of condemnation for Garrett not achieving more to date. There is an underlying assumption that a rookie head coach should start the job fully competent in all aspects of his job, or that the only hires should be successful veteran coaches who can win right away. Those kinds of coaches are of course just sitting around waiting for a call. The state of the roster at the time of hire is not given much weight. Garrett's accomplishments in keeping the Cowboys competitive to the last game of the season every year of his time as head coach is dismissed out of hand, despite the persistent efforts of some of our more vocal and perceptive members here.
I have preached this for 4 years https://t.co/VIzv4yIujM— Paul Leatherman (@Tarheel_Paul) July 24, 2015
One of the most important aspects of Garrett's stewardship as head coach is that he never sacrifices the long run for short-term success. He oversaw the parting of the ways with expensive and aging stars, including DeMarcus Ware and DeMarco Murray in order to allow the team to get younger and better in the out years. The Cowboys capitalized on how the draft fell to build arguably the most talent-laden offensive line in the league. It was not a sexy approach, but it paid dividends last year, and given the young age of the line outside of valued veteran Doug Free, it will continue to do so for seasons to come.
Admittedly, there is a personal bias involved here, but Garrett seems to possess many characteristics that make him a tremendous head coach. We make some affectionate jokes about The Process, but his confidence and steady adherence to his own philosophy is starting to pay off. Dropping him because his team was stuck on .500 for a few years would have almost certainly set the Cowboys back. Instead, they are now the consensus favorites to repeat as NFC East champs. Tony Romo, another figure who seems to get less respect than his performance on the field warrants, is the one element that future success seems to hinge on, but that is true of any team with a true franchise quarterback. And he is exactly that. He is also about as perfect a fit for Garrett's style of coaching as you could find.
Our preseason expectations for Dallas are very high, but those often fall short. It still remains to be seen how well the team will actually do, but it takes a willful disregard for the evidence to not think that most of the arrows are pointing up for the Star. This is almost certainly not the last bit of negativity we will have to endure about Garrett, Jones and the Cowboys.
If they are the team we hope and think they are, it will just make it all the more sweet when they win.