There are three weeks until black Monday arrives and it is expected by many that it will mark the end of the line for Jason Garrett as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Since taking over the job in 2010, he’s done a fantastic job of keeping this team competitive. Only the 2015 season, where Tony Romo was lost for almost the entire year, is a year where the Cowboys endured a losing season under Garrett.
While being in a playoff contention year-in and year-out is a luxury many of us take for granted, the limits of this teams success has certainly had an effect on the fan base as we thirst for so much more. If history is any indication, Garrett just can’t give us anything more, so much to the dismay of owner Jerry Jones - the only logical decision is to part ways with Garrett.
There have been many names circulated as possible head coach candidates, and ultimately it’s going to be a dice roll whether the next coach brings success. Since we’re making our assessments based on what history has shown us, odds are Jerry’s going to have to break a few eggs to make this omelet. We are just hoping the wait is not too long so this organization can take advantage of the talent they have on the roster.
Will this team continue to draft well?
Coach Garrett’s influence over the type of players the Cowboys look for in the draft is greatly appreciated and doesn’t go unnoticed. There is a significant shift in how well this team drafted that correlates very well with the Garrett era. First-round All-Pro’s almost every year, and outstanding selections later in the draft make up this team’s current roster.
Garrett’s departure won’t suddenly put an end to this team’s ability to draft well. The scouts are still here and they’ve done a fantastic job evaluating players even though they don’t hit on all of them.
But the thing that is a little worrisome is what this means for the Cowboys de facto GM Will McClay. He and Garrett are the hardest working men in this organization and they have been the glue that hold this roster together over the last several years. As Garrett got more control of the team, so did McClay as the organization and communication for the draft greatly improved. You have to figure the bond between these two is very strong and wonder if a big shake up like this would affect McClay’s interest in sticking around. Many have speculated that McClay would be tempted to move on to an organization that would give him the title of general manager, but he has continued to stay loyal because he loves what he has in Dallas. Would he still love it as much if Garrett is no longer in the building?
Risk level: Low, as long as McClay sticks around.
What type of Jerry Jones would we get?
If you’re a long time fan of the Cowboys, you probably have had a love-hate relationship with Jerry Jones. Throughout the years, he’s done some things that have been flat out terrible in terms of derailing the team’s chances of success. Knee-jerk trades, throwing big money at outside free agents, and bringing in game-changing players even if it comes with a lot of drama - these are just a few of things he’s done over the last two decades that have severely hindered the team. For years, he’s constantly pushed cap costs down the road that never went away until they eventually bit the bullet and stopped operating in that manner. Unfortunately for Garrett, half his tenure with the team was made up of years where his team had a huge financial disadvantage thanks to dead money hits.
Luckily, things aren’t like this right now. Stephen Jones is the brains behind this; however, it’s something he had to grow into because he’s been in the front seat with his dad for many years when they were messing everything up. Stephen has definitely grown in his approach as he’s become a lot more patient during the Garrett era, but there is no reason to believe things will suddenly change once Garrett leaves. We should take comfort that both Joneses have matured and even if this growth comes from the influence of Garrett, this is who they are now and they shouldn’t revert back to the hasty riverboat gamblers they once were.
The biggest concern here is what type of personality will the new coach have? If you look at the years following Jimmy Johnson leaving, you have a string of coaches that essentially let Jerry run the team. Barry Switzer offered absolutely nothing in terms of structure and accountability and absolutely destroyed the hard work Johnson had built during the Super Bowl winning years. Both Chan Gailey and Dave Campo were passive voices who let the owner run all over the team. Needless to say, the Cowboys went a stretch of ten years without advancing beyond the wild card round, while the majority of those years never reaching the playoffs. It was not good times, folks.
The Cowboys are lucky to have a football minded owner who takes an interest in the team. As owners go, he’s one of the more savvy individuals when it comes to understanding the game. However, the Cowboys have been unlucky that he’s also donned the GM hat, because as GM’s go - he’s way behind many of the specialized general managers running other teams. As history has shown us, when it comes to running this Cowboys team - Jerry is only as good as the people around him.
One of the great things about Garrett is that he’s actually created a better version of Jerry. The Cowboys owner listens to other people a lot more than he’s done in the past and it has led to more responsible decisions (i.e., not drafting Johnny Manziel). Fans will label Garrett as a “puppet,” but it’s almost as it’s Garrett who has done the Jedi mind trick in convincing Jerry that he’s one of the best coaches in the league, because that’s certainly what Jones believes.
Believe it or not, Jones has more of a hands-off approach now than he’s ever had as the owner of the Cowboys. Don’t get me wrong - he’s involved, and he always will be, but the four horsemen of the two Jones’, Garrett, and McClay have made this one of the more respectable front offices in the league. Will that continue under a new head coach? Will Jerry be more outspoken? Will the new coach be able to handle Jerry’s strong personality or will they clash? If Jerry relapses and gets antsy as father time continues to tick, the people who believe “the Cowboys will never win another Super Bowl as long as Jerry is running the team” better buckle up for more years of frustration.
Risk level: Intermediate, Jerry’s grown up so it shouldn’t be as bad as it once was, but there is definite risk here with a new coach.
What type of players will we get?
Make no mistake about it, the players love Garrett as a coach. There’s a reason why players look at the media weird whenever they’re questioned about the coaching. Fans may not like Garrett, but the players do.
Moving on from Garrett will create some dissension in the locker room. If he was fired, it could be detrimental to the locker room right now and everything could fall apart. However, getting a new coach after the season gives the players plenty of time to get acclimated to the changes before the new season. These are paid professionals and nobody is going to be throwing garbage cans around the facility just because a coach they highly respected is gone.
One thing that will likely change is the culture. Right now, the players do an outstanding job of handling themselves. They act like pro’s. Nobody is pointing fingers or fighting with each other in the locker room. When you look around the league, a strong locker room is not very common. And when you factor in the limelight that accompanies such a high-profile team such as the Cowboys, it’s really impressive that Garrett keeps his guys so collected, even in the face of adversity.
A new coach doesn’t mean everything is going south in the locker room, but it will inevitably get worse to some degree because Garrett’s done such a fantastic job in this department.
Risk level: High. The allegiance of the locker room has nowhere to go but down.
What will happen to the play calling?
Garrett checks off a lot of boxes as a head coach, but when it comes to the schemes and in-game adaptability of his team - he leaves a lot to be desired. Bringing in a fresh new mind is what the organization is hoping is the answer to maximize the talent on this roster. Without knowing who the new coach will be - it’s hard to figure this one out. A defensive-minded coach like Mike Zimmer may be exactly what the team needs. If they get one of the top college coaches, they’ll have a chance to implement some of the most innovative ideas that are dominating at the collegiate level, but will that translate into the NFL?
Risk: Intermediate. You have to figure it can’t get worse, but there is a great unknown here. It would be unfortunate if they gave up too early on a coach like Kellen Moore, but sometimes you have to chances like that.