There are a lot of positives for Garrett in his campaign to get the "interim" label removed from his title. The Cowboys are 3-2 since he took over, and if Roy Williams hadn't fumbled Thanksgiving day against the New Orleans Saints, Dallas almost certainly would be 4-1; players seem interested in winning, and play as if they are being held accountable; in five weeks, Garrett has won three times as many games as his predecessor, Wade Phillips, won in eight; the running game has shown signs of life; and the defense is creating takeaways.
On the other hand: with a record of 3-9, Dallas will not be in the playoffs; the offense has looked better since he took over as head coach than it did in the eight games in which he was the team's offensive coordinator.
No formula for keeping his job has been announced, and it's more than likely that owner Jerry Jones hasn't set any parameters in stone yet for the decision he will have to make at the end of the season. But it's quite possible that the decision could be determined by what takes place at quarterback over the final four games.
When starter Tony Romo had his left collarbone broken in the Cowboys' loss to the New York Giants, many assumed the season was over for the team. After that game, Dallas stood at 1-5; since then, the team's record is 3-4 — hardly the stuff that sparks a run toward the Super Bowl, but a significant improvement, nonetheless.
That's not to suggest that Romo was the problem. He wasn't, and his numbers are better than Kitna's, albeit only slightly.
But now Jones is talking about letting Romo play — not next week against Washington, but perhaps in the final two games of the year against Arizona and Philadelphia.
This makes zero sense.
Yes, Romo is the unquestioned starter on this team. Jones's pledge to the fans that his team will do everything possible to win every game is noble, in theory. But what if Romo gets injured again in one of the last two games? Doctors have said re-breaking the collarbone likely will mean surgery for Romo, and therefore would set him back significantly in his preparation for next season.
But the Cowboys aren't the only ones whose future will be affected by the potential change under center. Garrett, himself, could have his personal future altered by the decision.
Beyond the fact that Romo should be shelved for the rest of the year in order to improve the chances of a full recovery, there is a growing sentiment that it is time for third quarterback Stephen McGee to get his first snaps as a professional player.
Does Kitna give the Cowboys a better chance of winning than McGee does? Without question, at least right now he does. But at 38 years old, and even with as well as Kitna has played, it's time to start seeing if McGee can assume the backup role. Kitna has played well — he has exceeded a lot of people's expectations — and he might well have another year or two in him, if he chooses to continue playing. But even if Kitna remains the team's No. 2 quarterback next year, it's time to find out about McGee.
For Garrett, the quarterback derby is particularly dicey, as he has to balance what is best for the long-term future of the team with what could help him retain his job. Romo, when healthy, gives the Cowboys their best chance to win games. Assuming Garrett and Jones listen to the team's medical staff and to Romo, who said this week that he still experiences discomfort, it comes down to Kitna and McGee. Kitna is the more experienced player, of course, and has done an admirable job filling in since Romo got hurt.
But if there is a reserve quarterback on the roster who has anything to do with the long-term future of the team, it's McGee. If he plays, he might lose more games than Kitna would, which could prompt Jones to replace Garrett with another coaching candidate. Garrett and Jones are spewing all of the expected rhetoric about how "we're professionals and we're going to do whatever it takes to win every game."
Translation: doing what's best for the team could cost Garrett his job.
How's that for justice?
QB Quandary Could Handcuff Garrett
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