Jason Garrett is the reigning Coach of the Year.
This is an honor that was well-deserved after he navigated the Dallas Cowboys through a hectic, sometimes dramatic, 2016 season that culminated in 13 regular season wins.
It bought Garrett some currency with his detractors. He’d finally done it, they said.
This season was supposed to be about Jason Garrett’s Dallas Cowboys taking the next step. A franchise quarterback, all-world running back, and the best offensive line in football figured to finally get defensive help. It was all coming together.
It had shades of the 2015 season for the Cowboys, when they looked to build upon an NFC East Championship (Garrett’s first) and a should-have-been-Dez-catch moment that separated them from the NFC Championship Game.
We all know what happened then, though. The premier ball-carrier left and the franchise quarterback broke his collarbone. The Cowboys plummeted, and many chalked it up to an excusable down year given the litany of injuries and ensuing negative fallout.
Just one year later, Garrett and his staff impressively (some would say luckily) replaced the franchise quarterback and handed the keys to the machine that is their offensive line to someone who knew how to drive it.
It was as quick of a total reset as you see in the NFL. It was arguably even a carbon copy of 2014, as the season finished in identical fashion, a divisional round loss at the hands of Aaron Rodgers.
That brings us back to where we are now. There’s a Cowboys team that’s 5-4, underwhelming in the minds of most, staring its life on the season square in the eyes in the form of the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday night.
You could make the argument that the Cowboys haven’t truly been this desperate, especially in their building, since they hosted this same team in the 2013 regular-season finale with the NFC East going to the winner. Just like 2015 two years later though, a Romo-less Cowboys squad wasn’t enough, giving Jason Garrett another out of sorts.
Part of the reason why the Cowboys are in this position of desperation is the loss they sustained in Atlanta last week, where they sure did seem to put forth a sub-par effort. You can argue that the absences of Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, and Sean Lee made matters all the more difficult (because they did), but at what point does the presence of Jason Garrett win out?
The 2013 regular-season finale, the 2015 season, last Sunday in Atlanta... there has to come a point where Jason Garrett becomes the Dallas Cowboys head coach that is single-handedly enough to overcome whatever obstacle that befalls him. It simply can’t continue to be a pattern of excuses and justifications.
That point has arrived in the form of the NFL’s best in the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday night. A win keeps the Cowboys in the playoff hunt, a loss puts them all the more closer into the ground. Even down three (the Tyron situation is still up in the air) superstars, Jason Garrett has to be enough. He has to finally be enough.
Who will Jason Garrett be Sunday night when the triple zeroes strike the game clock? The same old day-by-day apologist that is afforded a pardon of a particular variety, or the Dallas Cowboys head coach that defeated the odds and found a way to win the game all by himself?
We’re about to find out.