As the offseason rages on, we thought it may be fun to change the subject of the same old, same old around here. Today, the topic of discussion falls to none other than the red ball himself, Jason Garrett.
Everyone seems to have a few differing opinions when it comes to the leader of the Cowboys' team and every bit of the positives or the negatives have a reason they were earned in the eye of the beholder. When you look around the league, the rankings of the head coaches kind of come and go with their records. The truth of the matter is that Jason Garrett has a record of 46-44 which gets him just over the winning-record mark at .511. He's 1-1 in the playoffs, which is more of an incomplete grade until the appearances start piling up. He had three consecutive 8-8 seasons before jumping the needle to 12-4 and then injuries in 2015 sent the team into the downward spiral of 4-12.
Going into last season, Jason Garrett ranked as high 14th in NFL.com's ranking of the head coaches, but Chip Kelly coincidentally was ranked ahead of him, go figure. Here's what Elliott Harrison had to say then:
Garrett was one of the more difficult head coaches to rank. It seems like folks are more underwhelmed than wowed by him, but it's tough to find serious flaws in his coaching record. Garrett took over a 1-7 team in Week 10 of the 2010 season and led Dallas to a 5-3 finish down the stretch -- with Jon Kitna at quarterback. While his Cowboys finished 8-8 three seasons in a row, they were in position to win the NFC East in Week 17 of each campaign. In 2013, hopes were dashed when Tony Romo was injured for the season finale. Last year, Garrett and the Cowboys surprised everyone, actually raising hopes with a 12-4 mark and a two-game playoff run."
Okay, so I tend to give Garrett some credit for keeping this team competitive in those mediocre years, too. Still, after last year's awful turn of events, USA Today released their rankings of the NFL's head coaches, Garrett placed 21st:
"We all agree Tony Romo is a very good quarterback, right? Maybe not top-five but definitely in the top-10. So why have the Cowboys made the playoffs only once under Garrett? The teams that consistently make the playoffs usually have two things: A good quarterback and a good coach. Dallas has the first part of that combo down. So what does that say about Garrett?"
Okay, so USA Today can be a little harsh on the coach, but they are considering accomplishments and Garrett hasn't exactly had a lot of those going into his sixth season as the head honcho. For good measure, here's his Top-5:
5. Sean Payton, NO, .604
4. Mike Zimmer, MIN, .545
3. Bruce Arians, ARI, .529
2. Pete Carroll, SEA, .583
1. Bill Belichick, NE, .667
All of this got me thinking, what does Garrett lack that other top coaches have? Is he truly light-years away from becoming a really good head coach in this league? He enters 2016 as the most-tenured in the NFC East. What makes a good head coach or not? If it was up to the guys that make these lists, it would mean championships and playoff appearances. So, it may not be too hard to dissect what it would take for Garrett to jump into the Top-10 or so, most likely just more playoff wins. For this exercise, I don't want to make it about that but rather what is the one thing you love about Jason Garrett and what is one thing you wish you would see more from him? I'll start...
What To Love
The fact that this team buys into his message and he's never lost the team is something you have to admire. Being a coach's son and playing a lengthy career in the NFL has earned him trust where some coaches would find difficulty. You can see every bit of the intensity that his father Jim Garrett had running through the veins of Jason. His practices are always very intense and all of his influences can be seen in his coaching.
The way that he took over the team and led them to a 5-3 record with a journeyman in Jon Kitna after the team pretty much quit on Wade Phillips was commendable. After two teammates were involved in a tragic collision resulting in the death of one, Jerry Brown, the team responded by winning an emotional game in Cincinnati 20-19. His leadership abilities and qualities rank high and he never loses sight of his goals. He may be a little robotic but players and front office people gravitate toward him and he is always professional. He took over a team that was desperate for a culture change and made players accountable. He doesn't get enough credit for how he has evolved his coaching style and started trusting his advisers more, while working with the Jones at every turn. He's also been one of the better Cowboys' coaches at evaluating personnel, maybe not Johnson or Landry level, but far better than some of his predecessors.
What Is Lacking
It has to be the conservative nature that he defaults to in games. When he was a coordinator, especially in '07, you saw a guy that wanted to put you away and keep you there. Sure, he's always had that good sportsmanship about him but sometimes he leaves you wanting more. For instance, he used to get a young Tony Romo in rhythm by getting Jason Witten, Terrell Owens, and others involved and rarely took his foot off the gas. Bruce Arians and Pete Carroll have been coaches known to be on the aggressive side, it would be nice if Garrett would get more aggressive at times.
Being conservative as a coach is fine when you have a huge lead and the defense is doing their job. However, if you start the game with the idea that field goals are good enough, that's how you lose games. As far as 2016 is concerned, this team is looking top-heavy on the offensive side of the ball. Scott Linehan will have plenty of weapons at his disposal and I fully expect them to be in use. Garrett showed a little bit of his younger self toward the end of 2014 when they started blowing teams out. Not every game has to be a blowout, but with all that firepower, it would be nice to see Garrett put the pedal to the metal when it's necessary.
What say you, BTB? What do you love and hate about the Cowboys' head coach?