Everyone knows that Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is on a hot seat this season. His name is mentioned in countless articles, including being mentioned by two writers in this one at ESPN. Even though not a single game has been played, and teams have not even started training camp, he is reportedly at more peril than the majority of NFL coaches.
And that is all subject to change as soon as wins and losses start piling up.
If the Cowboys get off to a bad, or even mediocre, start this season, then the likelihood of Garrett being fired is good, no doubt. But all he has to do to cool things off is win. If the team is, say, 6-2 at the halfway point, all the talk about a hot seat will die off. It will come up again if the team makes the playoffs, but again, it is all about whether he can get a win or two in the postseason.
The hotseat argument is really something of a fallacy, because almost every head coach in the NFL is coaching for his job every year. Pile up those wins, and you can expect to come back next season. Have your team slump to the cellar, or just fall apart in general, and it may be time to get the old resume updated.
And it is not just won/loss records, but the circumstances involved. Hue Jackson is still the head coach of the Cleveland Browns despite only having notched one win in two entire seasons. The management seems to be taking into account the dismal talent they have provided him. Marvin Lewis remains one of the longest tenured head coaches with the Cincinnati Bengals despite never having won a playoff game in his fifteen years there. He seems to inspire a nearly unshakable faith from his owner, Mike Brown. While most of the league is all about “what have you done for me lately”, those two prove that there are no hard and fast rules, but rather 32 unique situations that shift and change from year to year.
Just twelve months ago, no one was talking about Garrett being fired. The Cowboys had just come off the remarkable debuts of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, and the future was very bright. Then the mistakes and mishaps piled up. The team went with the unfortunate choice of making Chaz Green into a guard. The Elliott suspension case turned into a enervating legal slog. Along with the games Elliott missed, the team also saw Tyron Smith and Sean Lee struggle with injuries. Smith’s injury in particular was a major contributing factor to the Atlanta massacre, when Prescott was sacked eight times, and seemed shaken for at least several games after that.
Now, just a season after being honored as the NFL Head Coach of the Year, Garrett is seen as having one foot out the door. But he really isn’t much more at risk than any other coach. Every one of them can see their time end suddenly. And for several, their time will come after a bad 2018.
Even if the Cowboys have a disappointing year (as in not making the playoffs), that does not mean the Garrett is automatically fired. It would be highly likely, but there could be extenuating circumstances (I will not list some possibilities, out of irrational superstition. Just go back and review the 2015 season). One thing that Garrett does have is a unique relationship with his owner, because Jerry Jones also serves as the team’s general manager. This means he, and his son Stephen, who probably handles more of the day-to-day duties of GM, work far more closely with Garrett and the rest of the staff than any other owner. Jerry in particular also takes ownership of the issues the team has, since he has so much control over the roster decisions. Add in the fact that Garrett seems to have by far the best working relationship any coach has ever had with Jerry, and it is understandable why the latter is always looking for a reason to continue things. Although he has gotten better about making hard decisions, as the Tony Romo and Dez Bryant situations show, Jerry still exhibits a deeper sense of loyalty to his staff and players than most owners. If things are clear-cut, such as a losing record and a failure to answer the admittedly numerous questions facing the team, then Garrett would be gone. But if there is any gray area at all, and the team continues to show the willingness to go out and play hard for their coach, then many fans and observers might be confounded once again to see Garrett back for another try.
And if the team gets to double-digit wins and then adds at least one strong playoff win, Garrett is pretty safe. Get at least to the NFC championship game, and you can be sure he comes back.
Recent history indicates that Garrett does his best coaching coming off of bad years and when a lot of people are looking for the team to falter, as happened in 2014 and 2016. The wholesale changes in the assistant coaching ranks appear to strengthen his hand. And while many have wanted him gone for several years, we all should be pulling for a successful season.
One that puts all the talk about a hot seat in the past - for a year, at least.