When it comes to Jason Garrett, you either love him or you hate him. When things don’t turn out as expected, fans are left questioning whether or not he’s the right guy for the job. When things don’t turn out as expected year after year for all seven of his seasons as head coach - those questions turn into a straight-up perception that Garrett has got to go. Recently, the always outspoken former Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens came out said that he doesn’t understand why Garrett still has a job in Dallas.
When you really look at it, it doesn’t make sense for Jason Garrett to continue to have his job. [The organization is] not really expanding or progressing even as a team under his coaching tenure there.
And here lies the big problem I have with Owens' remarks and many others who want to see Garrett fired - the organization is expanding. The organization is progressing. And the team continues to get better under Jason’s tenure as the coach. There is a reason that the often-impulsive owner Jerry Jones is hanging with Garrett and that is because he has completely bought into what he’s doing and firmly believes that it will produce a championship team. If Jones didn’t truly believe that, Garrett would be fired. So, the only question that remains to be answered is - is Jones going senile and completely off his rocker with how he views Jason or is there some real substance there that many fans are missing?
Well, I’m going to provide three reasons why it’s the latter, so if you’re interesting in hearing why Garrett is the right guy for the job, then get your popcorn ready as this piece is for you.
1. He works well with Jerry Jones
Whether you like it or not, Jerry Jones is the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and he is very passionate about his football team. He wants to be in on as much of the football activities as he can. And as long as he has a breath in his body, nothing about that is ever going to change. If you’re the head coach of the Cowboys, there is one skill-set you must have in order to keep the job - you must be able to work well with a meddling owner.
Jason Garrett can pull it off.
Jerry’s ownership has led to some very difficult years for Cowboys fans. Impulsive, “win-now” Jerry has made some terrible general manager decisions that had a drastic effect on their ability to contend for a championship. Paying out so many big contracts to players who haven’t lived up to their value has not only led to disappointing seasons, but has also dug big holes for subsequent years.
The Cowboys have had a huge financial disadvantage over Garrett’s tenure as coach. This will be his eighth season as head coach and in five of them, the Cowboys have been in the top five of teams that have the most dead money.
The Cowboys have wasted $154 million in cap money over Garrett’s tenure. That’s almost enough money to pay for an entire team of players for one season. That’s absurd.
When you’re only able to use around 85% of your team’s allotted resources year in and year out, that’s a sure-fire recipe for creating a losing team. However, the Cowboys aren’t a losing team. Despite this disadvantage, Garrett still keeps this team competitive. That’s not good enough in the eyes of many fans, but it’s important to understand some of the limitations he’s had to work with.
The good news is this is not a trend we should expect to continue. The Cowboys are getting smarter about their spending. In fact, in 2016 the Cowboys were the best team in terms of fewest wasted dollars. Over the last couple years, the team has released a couple of big contract players in Tony Romo and Dez Bryant so that’s going to leave a mark, but you can definitely see an improvement in how the team is using its cap resources as of late. As the team continues to have success building through the draft, their dollar is stretching out a lot farther and this disadvantage will soon become an advantage.
2. He’s kept them winning while rebuilding
Garrett’s 67-53 record as head coach impresses no one. Of his seven seasons, only two resulted in NFC East titles with only one playoff victory to show for it. While it’s fair to point out these less than spectacular results, you have to recognize what has been going on with this organization over the last several years. Garrett has completely remade this team. Sean Lee and L.P. Ladoucer are the only two players who were on the team prior to Garrett becoming the head coach. That’s a 96% turnover.
Not only is this an extensive makeover for the team, but many star players have departed. Tony Romo is this franchise's all-time leader in touchdown passes. He’s gone. Dez Bryant is this franchise's all-time leader in touchdown catches. He’s gone. And DeMarco Murray had more rushing yards in a single season than any other Cowboys player in history, which says a lot considering Emmitt Smith played 13 seasons with the Cowboys. Murray is also gone. Let’s face it, they’re all gone.
Now, teams have turnover, that’s normal. But considering all the big changes in Big D, what’s not normal is the fact that the Cowboys have stayed in contention every year. Other than the 2015 debacle where Romo went down and the team had no answer at backup QB, Garrett’s Cowboys have always given us fans a reason to have hope in December.
Over the cap did a nice breakdown of the oldest and most expensive NFL teams from last season and I found this to be very interesting.
The Cowboys are in a quadrant that most people wouldn’t expect to see them in. They are grouped with the young teams that are rebuilding. Even OTC noticed this anomaly and spoke out about it.
“The team that surprised me the most about being in here were the Cowboys. I always think of the Cowboys as a very high priced roster of veterans, but in recent years Dallas has sunk that money into younger talent and they have been much more efficient with the salary allocations. That said expectations in Dallas given their play last year are sky high but they really should be tempered as they will continue to need not only last year’s young players to do well but this year’s draftees to make an impact too.”
Cowboys fans shouldn’t expect much? Well, that’s a problem because Cowboys fans expect a lot. Once DeMarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin, and Dak Prescott get their second contracts, the Cowboys will rise into the high expectations/brighter future quadrant, but it’s important to see where they stack up compared to other teams.
Many fans will claim Garrett has had all the tools he’s needed to make the Cowboys a winner, but just doesn’t have the coaching ability to get it done. Make no mistake about it, the Cowboys have built themselves a squad with many great players, but are you sure they have enough? For years this defense has been a liability, and in some cases of historic proportions. If you look back at those disappointing playoff losses or some heartbreaking defeats in the regular season, you’re going to find one common denominator in all of them - a defensive collapse.
While it’s easy to say all the pieces were in place, we could be kidding ourselves. Many of us see those 8-8 seasons as mediocre and underachieving, but what they should be seeing is a team that was rebuilding and remained competitive despite having some serious holes on defense. The good news is the holes are being filled.
3. He’s highly respected
One of the biggest misconceptions about Garrett is the amount this guy is respected. The media will try to sell you that he’s just a pushover coach with no ability to get through to his players. On the surface, Garrett looks like a cheerleader coach who just goes through the motions, win or lose. People see him clapping, chewing gum, and never really exhibiting any real emotion regardless of how bad the situation gets. Some people perceive him as oblivious, but this Princeton graduate is not as clueless as you think. There’s another reason for that stoic expression, he’s unfazed.
Sure, his press conferences are very vanilla, offering nothing of value to us fans, but that’s not what Garrett is like to his players. This guy is intense. As many of us saw first hand on All or Nothing, inside the locker room, Garrett has a lot of fire to him.
Garrett is building a culture in Dallas that we can all be proud of. He teaches his players that it’s a privilege, not a right to play for the Dallas Cowboys, which is a mantra at The Star for all to see.
People respond to Garrett. They fight for their coach. He wants his players to go out and focus on their job. He doesn’t expect people to be perfect, but he does expect them to embrace their opportunity and go out and be the best version of themselves. Anything less and you will fall out of favor with him and that could lead to the end of your stay in Dallas.
Garrett is well respected by his coaches. If you ever want to see a guy in power, watch All or Nothing when Garrett is talking to his coaches at the head of the table and says “look at me” and 12 heads turn in sync directly at him. It felt like Garrett was mob boss and if you aren’t with him, you’ll end up swimming with the fishes, figuratively.
He is also well respected in the coaching community. Whenever a new head coach has success in the league, many Cowboys fans will draw comparisons between him and Garrett. It’s been done with Chip Kelly, it’s been done with Ben McAdoo, and last year - Doug Peterson was applauded heavily after his second season produced a Lombardi Trophy.
But before Pederson became all the craze last year, fans were hyping up the young upstart of Los Angeles Rams head coach, Sean McVay. The Rams had a great season last year and even made it to the playoffs after missing the post season the previous 13 years. Well, if you admire McVay, you should pay special attention to the exchange between he and Garrett after the Rams victory in Dallas last season. They shake hands and McVay says, “I look up to you man, can’t tell you enough.”
While it may not be apparent to us on the surface, Garrett is highly respected in the coaching circles.
This season will be very telling. If the Cowboys struggle, Garrett’s job in Dallas will definitely come in question. But they won’t struggle. The Cowboys are on the right path and they have the right guy leading them down it. Will it lead to a Super Bowl victory? Well, winning championships is hard and it’s no easy task being better than 31 other hard-working NFL teams in the league. If the Cowboys keep improving like they have been, that championship could be right around the corner. And when that happens, we can freeze that hot seat once and for all.