Yesterday’s “State of the Cowboys” address was dominated by one subject - Ezekiel Elliott. The star running back’s absence loomed over the press conference blocking out the light on most other subjects. But tucked away among all that discussion was a brief conversation about Jason Garrett’s job security. You could say that every coach is coaching for their job every year in the NFL, well, maybe not Bill Belichick, but you get the idea. The NFL is a results-oriented endeavor, and the head coach is held responsible for much of that, rightly or wrongly. After yesterday’s press conference it’s very clear, Jason Garrett is definitely coaching for his job, and anything short of a spectacular season means he will likely lose that job.
All offseason it’s been discussed how Garrett is coaching in the last year of his contract. That’s pretty unusual in the NFL so we already had an idea that this was a critical season for his job security. Jerry Jones had even come out and said he likes the pressure.
So if Jones really believes in that type of potential in Garrett, why hasn’t he given him a contract extension?
”I just like the dynamics considering the relationship we have, the trust we have, our goals,” Jones said. “I do my best work without a net. I really do. I’m better with a little risk involved. In essence, there’s a little bit of no net here.
“So, the real question is, why not? He’s not in danger of having any issue with his credibility with his players or anybody else. It’s well known the support I have for him.”
Given that, we’ve known the pressure is on Garrett to win big this season. Yesterday, Jones seemed to up the intensity of that pressure, both by what he said and what he didn’t say.
First, the what he didn’t say. When asked point blank what he needed to see from Garrett to bring him back next year, Jones playfully blew off the question.
"Next question."— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 26, 2019
Jerry Jones when asked what he needs to see from Jason Garrett to bring him back in 2020 pic.twitter.com/0ppTcOGGxQ
When a question like that gets asked, that’s normally a time when an owner talks about the faith he has in his coach, his belief in what they are doing, basically you’d expect empty platitudes stacked on more empty platitudes that basically dodged the question while flattering the coach. Jerry bypassed that in a clear signal that he expects a lot to bring Garrett back.
Second, the what he did say. Jones gave some hints about what he expects later in the press conference when asked about improvement from this team over the 2018 season. Jones said he expects things like an improved record and/or improved performance in the playoffs.
“I expect us to be a better team,” [Jones] said. “I think our personnel supports that. Our experience gained supports that. I am real impressed with the staff that Jason has put together. So I expect us to be better, and as a part of that should result in maybe advancing our record, or if you will, our place in the playoff.
“It should result in that. That’s the assumption you make that if you’re a better team and you’ve put together a sound one that can stay healthy, then you should be able to do better than you did last year.”
Last year, the Cowboys went 10-6, won the NFC East and advanced to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. There’s very little room for improvement. You could basically say if the Cowboys don’t reach the NFC Championship Game, they haven’t really improved.
It’s hard to put concrete rules around this before the season. You never know how things will unfold. Injuries are always a wild card in a season. The momentum a team is carrying at the end of the year can play into decisions about the following year. A freak play in the playoffs can change everything (think the Dez non-catch or the Saints getting ripped off with the “no pass interference” call).
Still, it seems pretty clear. Jason Garrett better win big in 2019 ore someone else will be on the sidelines in 2020.