Nobody is having fun since the Cowboys followed up a three-game winning streak with a three-game losing skid. It’s not just the fact that they’re losing but how badly they’ve been beaten: 27-7, 37-9, and 28-6. That’s 92-22 for those keeping score at home.
This has led to one thing almost no one expected from this team at the beginning of the year, a season so bad that head coach Jason Garrett would actually end up on the hot seat.
There are fans and media focused on firing Garrett and starting over; that would satisfy the need for change for some. However, would that be an easy move? No. More importantly, is it the right move? Change isn’t always good for change’s sake.
Before you oust this coach, think about the real question that needs asking. Who is going to replace Garrett?
While the job of head coach for the Dallas Cowboys is certainly a dream job for some candidates, to think it’s the dream job of every candidate from Jon Gruden to Jim Harbaugh is far too rosy of a picture. The relationship a coach in this organization has with the Jones family is paramount and cannot be ignored. Any potential candidate that is looking for complete control like some coaches have will not fit in Dallas. That’s something to keep in mind.
What’s really out there on the landscape of coaching that is going to truly excite this organization enough to make that change? It’s understandable to want some accountability but it would be a striking move to fire a guy one year removed from “Coach of the Year” honors. We can’t sit here and blame Garrett for 2017 without giving him credit for 2016.
These reactions tend to happen when a 13-3 season transfers to a 5-6 mess the following year. This was a coaching staff that did everything right in 2016 to only have the wheels come completely off this season. There are other factors that have been contributing to these losses outside of the coaching staff. If players are “really” starting to point fingers or not buy into the message, maybe they need to point directly back at themselves. They too have a major part in this collapse.
There is no bigger contributor to these losses than the fact that they are extremely dependent on Ezekiel Elliott to make everything work. Rod Marinelli once implied that Elliott being drafted was one of the biggest helps for his defense. He was drafted to help the entire team and he just so happens to be the heartbeat. It reminds you of the 90’s where the Cowboys didn’t win without Emmitt Smith. There are lots of teams that are drastically different without their best player, it just so happens that most of those are quarterbacks.
What we’ve seen is that this team started losing talent to attrition at the worst time. The offensive line is banged up. Sean Lee will miss at least five games by the time he returns leaving a rather inexperienced and underachieving defense in his wake. With that said nothing killed the Cowboys’ season faster than the six-game suspension to Ezekiel Elliott.
It’s a natural tendency to blame the head coach in these situations, but should we blame Garrett enough to fire him? I’m not buying it but don’t take my word for it, my colleague Tom Ryle did the research using Pro Football Reference.
“In the history of the NFL, there have been 489 head coaches. Jason Garrett's winning percentage puts him at 110 on that list. As a percentile, that means he has a better record than 77.5% of all head coaches ever.
Now, that list includes one and dones and coaches with short careers, plus the current head coaches who only have a season or two. If you refine the numbers to only look at head coaches with four or more years experience in the job (eliminating a lot of bad coaches that didn't last), Garrett is 64th out of 174. That still makes him better than 63.2% of that group.
That's better than Chuck Fairbanks, Jon Gruden (who is always on somebody's list of who should replace Garrett), Dan Reeves, Tom Coughlin, Tom Flores, Brad Childress, Dick Vermeil, Steve Mariucci, and Bum Phillips, just to name a few.
He has a winning percentage better than 17 other active head coaches. And that includes the disaster of 2015 and the three .500 years after he took over from Wade Phillips and the team had a lot of rebuilding to do. Recency bias with the current struggles does not mean that another head coach could come in and be an improvement, especially over the long term.
Based on the odds, the chances of getting any head coach that would do better than Garrett, at least in the long run, are much less than 50-50. Hiring a new head coach is historically more likely to make things worse, not better.”
It’s more than okay to be upset with the results of this season but also understand that the answer to everything isn’t always replacing the head coach. The head coach shouldn’t be free from criticism but the numbers above do not favor the guy walking in being better than the guy walking out. Be careful what you wish for.