“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing” - Red Sanders, UCLA Bruins football coach
It you can’t win football games, you won’t last very long in the NFL. Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy learned that this past week when he was fired after their 20-17 loss to the lowly Arizona Cardinals. Some fans were shocked as McCarthy is a Super Bowl-winning coach and helped take the Packers to the playoffs in eight straight seasons. But last year the Packers finished 7-9 and are on track to finish even worse this seasons. They were trending in the wrong direction and they decided McCarthy had to go.
If the Packers are so quick to pull the trigger on McCarthy despite his past success, then why are the Cowboys sticking with Jason Garrett for so long? That’s a question many fans don’t know the answer to as the calls for Garrett’s removal grow stronger every time the team struggles. The narrative is that the Cowboys will always just be “mediocre” under Garrett’s reign. He may be a nice guy and scored well on his SAT’s, but when it comes to the game of football - he just doesn’t know how to get the Cowboys to win on Sundays. Or does he?
Some people might be surprised to learn that no other NFC coach has more wins than Jason Garrett over the last three seasons. If your measuring stick is winning football games, then Garrett rates pretty high in recent years with his 29 wins over the last three years.
But fans are still divided when it comes to Garrett. There are some that think Garrett’s a good coach, but he hasn’t always had much to work with over the years as he has gradually rebuilt this team. Then, there are others who believe the team has had plenty of talent, but Garrett’s inept coaching has always held them back. So, which is it?
If you look at Garrett’s tenure, it’s easy to see that he’s very dependent on having key players in place to be successful. But that’s true of any team. For years, the team has been held back by a below average defense. Even when the offense was rolling, the defense couldn’t prevent opponents from coming back. But things got steadily better and the team found success in 2014, yet fell apart the following season after Tony Romo got hurt. Despite all the other stuff he had done, Garrett and company mis-evaluated their quarterback depth and it sunk the 2015 team. If you were to poll fans at that point, an overwhelming percentage would have wanted Garrett fired.
Garrett redeemed himself in a big way the following season where the team won a franchise-tying 13 games despite not having Romo around. It was good enough for Garrett to take home Coach of the Year honors in 2016. But just when people started inching back closer in thinking he might be a good coach, the team falters again last year after they demonstrated they weren’t able to overcome the losses of Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, and Ezekiel Elliott.
So, here we are in 2018 and just this season alone we’ve experienced both sides of the coin. Early struggles have called for Garrett’s head, yet a four-game win streak has people praising his leadership. It’s very symbolic of how the meter changes based on whether or not the Cowboys win games. But if we’re judging over the last three seasons, he’s won a lot of games, so that should count for something, right?
Wrong, because this is the Dallas Cowboys and it’s not just winning that’s important, but winning in January. And when it comes to that measuring stick, Garrett isn’t getting it done. In seven full seasons as head coach, the Cowboys have only made the playoffs twice. And in those two years of making the playoffs, they only have one playoff victory. We could talk about how a couple late catches/no-catches in those Green Bay games didn’t work out so favorably for Dallas and how they were close to advancing. But close doesn’t cut it.
Jerry Jones hears all the whispers in the corridors about Garrett’s lack of postseason accolades, but doesn’t cave to the pressure and continues to support his head coach. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t aware of what it’s going to take to change people’s minds.
“We got to get some playoff wins. Jason needs a championship. We all do. Our fans do,” Jones said at the end of a long-winded answer. “We get that done and you’re going to be shocked at all of a sudden his record of coaching and his coaching qualities, all of a sudden become the most-noted thing about him, not lack thereof of playoff victories.”
Playoff success will change how people view Garrett. And Jerry could be spot on that those successes can suddenly make people do a 180 on him. But until that happens, nobody's budging on their opinion of Garrett. Just remember that while we continue to wait for the team to reach the pinnacle of success, Garrett’s still doing one thing on Sundays better than the rest of the NFC coaches - winning.
"How can you root for the Cowboys? They haven't won anything in years."— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 7, 2018
The Cowboys have the highest winning percentage of any team in NFL history. Which means I've had more happy Sundays than you've had.