At 6-1, heading into a game with the 0-8 Cleveland Browns, atop the NFC East, sporting the best record in the NFC; there just isn’t a better place to be right now for the Dallas Cowboys. It’s been a valiant effort by a resilient bunch who have done all of this with virtually a no-name defense and without Tony Romo and partially without Dez Bryant. A lot of credit must be given to the players, of course, most importantly their offensive line, but what about the coaches? In particular, how about the job that Jason Garrett has done thus far, huh? Pretty impressive for a guy that is annually thrust onto the imaginary "hot-seat" that certain media outlets would like you to think exists.
Following a 12-4 season, a playoff win, and falling just short of an NFC Championship appearance in 2014, Garrett’s Cowboys fell to 4-12 last season after their aforementioned two biggest stars were injured in weeks one and two. So, how are the Cowboys doing so well this season without those two guys at the helm? Well, you can argue that Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott are far better than any quarterback-running back combination of last year. However, you would be remiss to not mention that the coaching has been phenomenal as of late.
At this time last year, the "hot seat" meme was getting heavy play concerning Garrett, and there was a good bit of consternation by some when Jerry Jones retained not only Garrett but almost his entire staff. Now there is a different tune being sung about Garrett. He is being mentioned as a Coach of the Year candidate
However, there has always been a lot of support for Garrett and his vision here at Blogging The Boys, as well as a belief that he enjoys a unique relationship with Jerry Jones, resulting in a level of trust that none of the other coaches under Jones' ownership enjoyed. This was first published here during Garrett's first season as full-time head coach.
JG was hired before Wade (Phillips). There has always been a belief that Jerry had a long range plan of Jason replacing Phillips at the right time. I think Jerry may have been thinking about asking Wade to step down if he had taken the team to the Super Bowl, to have him go out on top. It has also been speculated that the decision to give JG the offensive coordinator's job was Jason's idea, that he just did not think he was quite ready for the head coaching position. I think Garrett was always Jerry's man, and the delay in naming him permanently to the position gave him a chance to eliminate anther part of Silver's argument, that he might be too closely associated with the 1-7 debacle. Jason put more than enough distance between that and himself.
(Wow, someone sure used "I" a lot in his early articles here. Just sayin'.)
What the Cowboys are doing isn’t anything that is perplexing to figure out if you stop and look at the entire six years since Garrett won the head coaching job permanently. He isn’t the innovator on offense like Vince Lombardi or Bill Walsh, or as defensively-dominant as the late Buddy Ryan. All it truly is for Garrett is a commitment to the type of team he wants and the persistent pursuit of that goal. It’s very simple but that’s not at all a negative connotation because as simple as it might be, it's been very effective.
Offensively, you can’t find a more efficient bunch than the Dallas Cowboys who have routinely turned their opening drives into points. With five offensive linemen up front, a dynamic running back, and a rookie quarterback who is showing the whole NFL what they missed, the offense is clicking. And the offensive line is the real foundation of the success so far, more so than the surprising emergence of Dak Prescott or the validation that Ezekiel Elliott is something special as a running back. The first draft pick made with Garrett's voice in the room as head coach was Tyron Smith. Since then, the team has added Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Ronald Leary, and La'el Collins. All have become part of the vision Garrett had of recreating the successful teams he was part of as a backup quarterback during the glory years of the early 1990s. And that vision is now being fully realized. Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator (and former Cowboys player from 1989 to 1992) Ray Horton had this (along with more) to say about that line.
"It is outstanding to watch these guys play. For a purist - I know everybody follows the ball when it is snapped - but if you take a peek before you follow the ball, watch their linemen. It is pretty to watch. For a purist, it is what football is. It is your hand in the ground and it is football up front. That is where it starts and that is where you win the game so we have to win the game up front."
Garrett has always had great strength as an architect of the team. Not only has he shaped the roster to fit his vision and philosophy, he has gotten complete buy-in from his players, and more importantly, from Jerry and Stephen Jones. But he’s really coming into his own as a head coach now that he’s not only had success, but as he has become more confident in his own position. His job of winning six games without having a lot of key players in the lineup is evidence of how he is doing a much better job in game-to-game management on the field. The sudden willingness to go for it in key fourth down situations and take some shots at other moments is proof. If Dak Prescott continues to develop on his same path and this offense continues to succeed with this youth, Garrett is going to be set up nicely for a long run in Dallas. People are starting to realize that Jason Garrett is far more than just a run-of-the-mill coach. He, with the support of the personnel department in managing the draft and the salary cap, has achieved the rare feat of constructing a team that can win now and that is set up for success well into the future.
You take this past game into consideration and it reminds you of everything we have grown to love about Jason Garrett. Even Bryan Broaddus, who at times has been an open detractor, has stated that "Garrett is becoming the coach I’ve always wanted him to be." We couldn’t agree more with that statement.
When they needed a play most, he decided to gamble that his punter would be able to fake out the Eagles and get a first down. It worked. When he was facing a fourth and 1 in overtime and he had the NFL’s most accurate kicker, he was at his best. His face was shown on the NBC telecast as he pondered for about seven seconds, then you see him mouth the words: "Let’s go win this game, right now." It’s a quarterback sneak for a new set of downs. A few plays later, Jason Witten is catching the touchdown on a historic night for the 14-year veteran and the Cowboys move to 6-1 on the season. Jason Garrett has always had an edge to him but this team he’s built is bringing out the best coach in him.
Garrett’s appeal to Cowboys’ fans all started in 2007 when he became the highest-paid assistant coach in the league. He backed it up to with the NFL’s third-best team in total offense. It was his ability to keep his foot on the throttle that was most impressive. The young, offensive-minded Jason Garrett had a killer instinct to him and it garnered him a ton of praise as an offensive coordinator.
For two years in a row, he was one of the hottest coaching candidates on the market. Teams like the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos were certainly interested in making him a head coach. It was his loyalty to the Jones family and the Cowboys organization that kept him in Dallas knowing at one point, he would get his opportunity.
He experienced some growing pains but one thing that we see on a daily basis is his commitment to creating the best team he can. We’ve seen him mature and grow into a quality head coach. he’s got a .537 record with 51 wins and 44 losses. It takes time to create a culture and shape an organization but with Jason Garrett, Stephen Jones, Will McClay, Rod Marinelli and others; they’re on their way to creating something special. You have those same media detractors of before calling for Garrett to win Coach of the Year and saying the Cowboys may be the most "complete team" other than New England.
It’s a beautiful thing to see this team where it currently sits. It’s even more beautiful that these coaches stuck to their methods after almost all of us were questioning them in one way or another, and it’s currently working. Maybe they were closer to a 12-4 team than that dreadful 4-12 bunch of 2015 after all. As much credit that goes to these players for stepping up at critical times, credit is due to this coaching staff and particularly Jason Garrett as he continues to impress and find his way as an NFL head coach.
And right now, it looks very much like the best may be yet to come.