For Garrett to succeed, Jones will have to do more of the same.
That Jones has long admired Garrett has been anything but a secret. He sang Garrett's praises when the Princeton grad earned a roster spot as Troy Aikman's caddy an undrafted rookie free agent, lasting seven roles in that role. Jones anointed Garrett as one of the rising stars in coaching almost as soon as Garrett retired and picked up a whistle for the first time. He broke all compensation standards when he shelled out about $3 million per year to have Garrett guide the Cowboys' offense for the last three years.
When he fired Wade Phillips after the Cowboys staggered out of the gate with a 1-7 record in the first half of the 2010 season, he named Garrett the team's interim head coach, despite a somewhat lethargic performance by Garrett's offense. When his protégé helped the team rebound to a 5-3 mark down the stretch, Jones admitted that Garrett didn't necessarily have ideal experience, but he crowed like a proud father about Garrett's credentials and obvious football acumen.
Jones has long wanted Garrett to coach his team. That became a reality Thursday.
But for Garrett to enjoy success anywhere near that of the most successful coaches in team history — Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson — Jones has to live up to his most significant declaration at Thursday's press conference. Like most such gatherings, the proceedings included a lot of compliments getting lobbed back and forth, with coy jokes and belly laughs. But one statement by the Cowboys' owner caught the attention of everyone in attendance.
"Jason will have the final say on any person that leaves the coaching staff or comes to the coaching staff," Jones said. "There won't be a player on this team that Jason does not want on the team."
Really? That's a far cry from the norm around Valley Ranch, where past Dallas coaches from Barry Switzer to Chan Gailey to Dave Campo to Bill Parcells have coached teams assembled, at least in part, by Jones, who also carries the title of team general manager. None of those coaches complained publicly, of course, but Jones has been chided by fans and media for making personnel decisions some believe he is not qualified to make. That, Jones said Thursday, is not how things will be handled under Garrett's leadership.
"I wanted to make sure," Jones said, "that our fans knew the extent of his power, the extent of his ability to do the kinds of things we traditionally would frankly like for the coach to be able to do. Don't be naïve here. You know that I'm criticized for making decisions in areas that fans and other people would like coaches to make. I'm criticized for that.
"The facts are that he brings that energy, he brings that qualification and I wanted you to see the respect that I have for him."
More than 20 years after Jones boldly fired Landry — which he survived in large part because of the three Super Bowls Johnson and Switzer won — Jones is concerned that the media realizes he likes and respects Jason Garrett?
That's certainly the right attitude to take during a press conference like the one held Thursday, but it remains to be seen whether that is how the Garrett regime operates. When Jones insisted the team will employ no players Garrett doesn't want, it's understandable to wonder whether Jones will be able to resist the urge to tell Garrett that he wants a particular player, like a modern version of one of Jones's "star" acquisitions like Terrell Owens or Roy Williams.
Jones said what the media and fans wanted to hear, but when asked whether he felt he would have complete control of personnel decisions, Garrett walked the diplomatic tightrope like a seasoned veteran.
"I feel great about the relationship I have with Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and the entire Jones family and how we make decisions," Garrett said. "Little daily decisions and what people would consider big decisions. We have very good communication, we'll come to the conclusions. We'll do a great job sorting things out, discussing things, working through the pros and cons of any particular decision and then coming to a conclusion. I feel great about that relationship."
"We'll come to the conclusions?" Doesn't exactly sound like "I'm in charge," does it?
There is no question Garrett has the intelligence and attention to detail. He grew up in a football family, and learned as a player and assistant coach under a list of marquee coaches that includes Johnson, Norv Turner, Jon Gruden and Nick Saban. A perpetual student with a thirst for knowledge and a reputation as a relentless worker, Garrett appears as prepared as any first-time NFL head coach in recent memory. If Jones grants Garrett the authority he promised Thursday, Garrett's chance of fulfilling his considerable promise should go up considerably.
How Much Authority Will Garrett Have?
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