Reports have been all over the place regarding Jason Garrett’s long-term future with the Cowboys. At one point, it was all but certain he would be extended during the season. After the Cowboys struggled to a 3-5 start, ownership may have had second thoughts. Jason Garrett certainly responded well to that adversity and got his team to play much better going 7-1 down the stretch.
Some may think that such a remarkable turnaround, coupled with a 10-6 finish, NFC East title, and playoff win would be enough to justify an extension for Garrett. Those people would be sadly mistaken because it doesn’t look like that extension is coming just yet:
Jerry Jones is not expected to extend the contract of Cowboys’ HC Jason Garrett, short or long term, as he now enters the final year of his contract, per @toddarcher.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 31, 2019
This may be the smartest move the Cowboys will make all offseason as Jason Garrett will enter the 2019 season on the final year of his contract. Through eight full seasons as the Cowboys head coach, the team experienced three mediocre 8-8 finishes, went 12-4 in 2014, fell to 4-12 in an injury-riddled 2015. Since the Dak Prescott-Ezekiel Elliott era began, Jason Garrett has added three-consecutive winning seasons and two division titles. Still, the Cowboys haven’t made it past the divisional round of the playoffs. That’s precisely why ownership is not comfortable dishing out that extension.
What kind of coach is Jason Garrett? We know that he’s passionate, that his players respond well to him, and that they never give up on his message. Those are three great qualities to have as a coach. This season’s comeback story was mostly credited to the Amari Cooper trade, Dak Prescott’s resurgence, and a young ferocious defense. What’s often overlooked is how hard the players played for this coach, they really do like Jason Garrett. You can probably say that they love their coach but players loved Wade Phillips, too. At some point, you are faced with the question of “is this the guy for this team going forward?”
Think about all the justifications made over his almost decade-long tenure as the head coach. The 8-8 seasons were pinned on a defense in transition and an organization in rebuild mode. For the next two years, it was about the health of Tony Romo and not having a solution behind him. In 2016, it was a young team who just got outsmarted by a legendary quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. In 2017, the 9-7 no playoff Cowboys were a product of Ezekiel Elliott’s fight with the league and insurmountable injuries to star players. That led to an offseason theme of making this team “Dak-friendly” with a reset at receiver and turning over the majority of the coaching staff while giving the scepter to Scott Linehan.
We all know where we go from there, halfway through the Cowboys said “this isn’t working, Scott.” Jason Garrett started to warm up to Kellen Moore and Doug Nussmeier towards the end of the year as the Cowboys got themselves to the postseason. After a divisional loss where the Rams just shut this team down, Scott Linehan got the boot. What we have to all realize is that Scott Linehan was ‘a’ problem but Garrett and the others all played their part as well.
As previously mentioned, there are a lot of good qualities to having Jason Garrett as your head coach. He certainly has an eye for talent evaluation but he’s not perfect, nobody is, except for maybe Bill Belichick. The biggest area for Garrett and company to work on is that air of arrogance we often see. It’s one thing to be confident in your gameplan but the Cowboys went into this season without Travis Frederick, they also had a rookie at left guard, and a banged up Zack Martin. Instead of countering with a few adjustments, these coaches lined up and tried to execute 2016’s success without the horses to do so. Now, it did work, at times, you don’t win 10 games without making it work but their problems never went away. They still struggled to move defenses off the ball in the red-zone, were one of the worst in goal-to-go, had all sorts of fits with premier defensive tackles, and were the second-worst in terms of sacks allowed. When they faced off against a great team like the Rams, it exposed every problem they have on both sides of the ball.
These are things the Cowboys coaches will attempt to correct in the offseason but it’s going to take different voices sharing different opinions. Garrett has put the onus on himself and will have a heavy hand in every aspect of the team as a head coach should. With Kitna, Moore, and Nussmeier on offense, Garrett wants to freshen his scheme with creativity. Kris Richard and Rod Marinelli will continue to develop the defense that is already on a path to success.
So for now, we sit with Jason Garrett taking back the scepter and surrounding himself with younger voices and hopefully an open mind. Maybe that will be the difference and this collective approach brings lots of future success. If it does, we can talk about an extension next offseason but the Jones’ family has every right to wait and see if Jason Garrett is the right man for this job.