After nine full seasons as the team’s head coach, the Dallas Cowboys parted ways with Jason Garrett this offseason. It was a difficult decision for the Jones family as they wanted so much for Garrett to lead this team to it’s sixth Super Bowl title. Unfortunately, it was never meant to be as the organization has been subjected to too many “close, but no cigar” moments over the better part of the decade. In fact, of his nine seasons as head coach, eight of them have consisted of the Cowboys being in playoff contention entering Week 16 of the season, with the lone exception being in 2015 when Tony Romo went down with a collar bone injury. But none of them have resulted in the team making it past the divisional round of the playoffs.
Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades as the saying goes, and a coaching change was needed if this team is to ever get over the hump.
Garrett wasn’t the only long-tenured Cowboy to leave this offseason as Jason Witten will don a different uniform for the first time since entering the league back in 2003. Seeing him in the silver and black takes a bit to get used to after the future Hall of Fame tight end spent 16 seasons with the Cowboys. Witten is embracing his new opportunity with the Raiders, and in a recent presser, he talked about his decision to leave and the new regime in Dallas.
The 38-year-old did admit that there were talks of potentially returning to the Cowboys for the 2020 season but even though those fell through, he is now excited for his next opportunity.
“I think anytime you have a coaching change and a new program being built, that’s part of this business,” Witten said of his exit from Dallas. “Obviously, I had a great relationship over 16, 17 years there with the Jones family. Very honest and very upfront. Of course, with Mike [McCarthy], look, that’s a talented team. But this was a unique opportunity for me as well to come here. I’m invigorated by this challenge and where I am in my career. Like I said, it made a lot of sense from the fit and the role and the presence that I could have. I didn’t really overthink it. Just a great opportunity to go in there and compete. I’m very fortunate for that. I’ll challenge myself to play at a high level, even where my age is. It’s been a lot of fun for me.”
One can’t help wonder if Witten would be returning for a 17th season had Garrett stuck around. It’s no secret these two guys had such a tremendous amount of respect for each other. Witten was a “Garrett guy” to the fullest extent as he was the epitome of a professional and would be any coaches dream to coach. Witten was a hard worker and had such a commitment to his craft, which is why he enjoyed so much success even when his physical abilities started to decline. He set a remarkable example for younger players, and Garrett couldn’t say enough about how much he meant to the team. JG’s words at Witten’s retirement press conference was a moment to treasure as the former Cowboys coach is pretty good at articulating his feelings.
While it’s always sad to see a legend like Witten go, sometimes it’s just time. And for Witten and Dallas, it was time. After years of watching him defy father time and somehow still win on a consistent basis against younger and more athletic opponents, it appears the moment had finally come where his effectiveness just wasn’t what it used to be.
Witten spent the majority of his first decade in the league averaging over eight yards a target, but in each of his last two seasons in the league, he’s averaged just 6.4 yards per target. That matches his career low from his rookie season back in 2003 where he only was a starter for half the season.
It finally happened. Witten slowed down. Father time is undefeated.
With no Witten, the Cowboys will lean on more reps from Blake Jarwin as well as utilizing Blake Bell and Dalton Schultz for blocking assignments. While Jarwin may not inherit all his 80+ targets, the team has some other mouths to feed on offense, and that should open the door for big plays. And one of those mouths is rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb who just so happens to be one of the most explosive receivers in college football over the last three years.
Over the last three seasons, no one averaged more yards per target outside the red zone than CeeDee Lamb in 2019. pic.twitter.com/H9SHRxfLTh— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) April 4, 2020
No disrespect to 82, but taking away Dak Prescott’s safety net and shifting those targets to Jarwin and Lamb could mean great things for this Cowboys football team.