There is a lot that can be said about Jason Garrett as the Dallas Cowboys head coach. We all know that.
We’re entering his ninth full season with the team and there’s no question that in the now almost-decade everyone here would have liked to have won the Super Bowl. Such is the case for all NFL teams.
Truthfully though, Jason Garrett has at the very least always kept the Cowboys competitive. Nobody is saying this is the goal or the standard, but it’s notable. His teams have either made the playoffs or played games in Week 17 with playoff implications in all but two seasons (not counting the 2010 season in which he was the interim head coach). That’s 75%.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys are the Dallas Cowboys and the standard is the standard. With more eyes and attention on him and his team, Jason Garrett has failed in the eyes of many by not winning a Super Bowl or even appearing in an NFC Championship Game. It didn’t help his cause publicly when Doug Pederson led the Philadelphia Eagles to a victory in Super Bowl LII.
The national temperature is generally pretty low on Jason Garrett, but it is starting to reach ridiculous places. NFL.com did their annual head coach rankings and guess where they slotted Garrett? 17th. That’s outside of the top half.
17) Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
This spot will be too high for the Cowboys fans who don’t believe in Garrett. It might be hard for them to believe that he is only three wins shy of Jimmy Johnson’s career total, which spanned nine seasons, as Garrett’s has to this point (Garrett has also coached in eight fewer regular season games since he took over at midseason in 2010). Yet, the gulf between Garrett and his former coach is easily discernible. Johnson won, and won big, in the playoffs, taking back-to-back titles. Garrett’s Cowboys have won two playoff games in nine seasons (Johnson matched that total in his Dolphins tenure alone). My point here is that the current Dallas head coach has won a lot more games than people realize. However, every Cowboys team is measured against those ‘90s squads, much like Johnson’s legacy was going to be matched against the high-water marks of the Tom Landry era. Garrett’s going to need to advance this team further in the playoffs for people to feel more confident in his stewardship.
There are actually a lot of kudos thrown Garrett’s way in this write-up, but that doesn’t exactly excuse leaving him out of the top 50% of NFL coaches in 2019. We’re talking about someone who just last season led his team to a division title and playoff win (over the number two ranked head coach on this list).
Over the last three seasons Garrett has been among the NFL’s best
It’s about more than last year, everybody knows that. But looking at the 16 coaches ranked ahead of Jason Garrett, there are a lot of questionable ones. I’ve also put Jason Garrett’s record against them, if applicable, over the last three seasons (the Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott era):
- Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (0-0)
- Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks (1-2... the one win in last season’s Wildcard Round)
- Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints (1-0)
- Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
- Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles (4-2... 1-1 in meaningless games)
- Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams (0-2... with one loss in last season’s Divisional Round)
- John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
- Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers (0-1)
- Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
- Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings (1-0)
- Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons (1-1)
- Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
- Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers (0-1)
- Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears (0-0)
- Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders (0-0)
- Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0... Arians was with the Cardinals at the time)
There are three coaches whom Garrett has not coached against in this time, five which he has a losing record against, one where he’s completely even, and seven that he has come out on top of.
People will moan about using the last three season’s as a sample size here, but that’s when a completely new era of Jason Garrett’s team began. It’s worth using that as a beginning point for data. Consider that over these last three seasons he’s won at least nine games in all of them, won two division titles, appeared in the Divisional Round of the playoffs twice, and has a Coach of the Year Award.
Let us also not forget that over the last three seasons Jason Garrett has had to navigate some difficult hurdles for his team (he’s certainly not alone in this regard). In addition to changing quarterbacks he’s had to overcome the loss of cornerstone players (however self-induced to some degree) like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Granted, the latter has returned. He’s done this by utilizing personnel on the team and outsourcing when necessary, like trading for Amari Cooper. That move alone and the results that it provided should prevent him from being in the bottom half here.
It’s preposterous to name some of these coaches ahead of Garrett
Nobody is going to argue that the likes of Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Sean Payton, Andy Reid, you get the picture, should be behind Jason Garrett. Nobody is going to do that because it would be nonsense.
I’d raise serious questions (and am about to) for at least five of these names. We’ll start with a former friend in Mike Zimmer... how on earth is he in the top 10?
Zimmer’s Vikings have been competitive at times and two years ago almost appeared in a Super Bowl with Case Keenum at quarterback. That’s certainly impressive. Besides that, Zim has had to endure his own obstacles what with the terrible accident that Teddy Bridgewater went through and everything that ensued. But he’s won eight or less games in three of his last five seasons, including 2018. The top 10 feels high for him.
Seniority matters and Super Bowl rings (even appearances) mean a lot in these sort of things, but apparently we’re just going to ignore that Mike Tomlin was in charge of a team who’s culture completely imploded to the point that the team’s two best players wanted out? When it comes to Jason Garrett people generally want to play for him and his team, but hey whatever.
While we’re ignoring things... are we just pretending that the 6-2 Panthers didn’t crater to a 7-9 finish (one I’m excited to watch on All or Nothing very soon) last season? They did beat the Cowboys to be fair, but Ron Rivera does seem to be skating by off that Super Bowl appearance from three years ago.
I’ve said this many times before and it feels like an opinion with only dozens of supporters, but Bruce Arians is pretty overrated generally. He had a phenomenal year with the Arizona Cardinals three years ago and the season after totally fizzled out. He also was responsible for a lot of the Cardinals roster last season (not entirely as he left the franchise for a brief retirement) that many regarded as the worst in the NFL. And now that he’s back, off of a year away, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who Jason Garrett has defeated twice over the last three years) he’s suddenly better? Why?
Perhaps the biggest “wow I can’t believe he is ranked ahead of Garrett” guy on this list is Jon Gruden (again, Super Bowl rings matter). What in the world has Gruden done during his second stint in Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) in order to justify putting him ahead of one the playoff’s final eight coaches a season ago? All Jon has done is tear down the roster and give up many of his best players... including one to Jason Garrett himself.
Rankings are rankings and ultimately they’re always meant to stir a fuss and some debate. And I’m not going to sit here and pretend that Jason Garrett is something that he’s not, but he’s not a coach in the bottom half of today’s NFL.