Cowboys Extension For Garrett? Of Course Not
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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones named Jason Garrett the franchise’s eighth head coach on January 5th, 2011 after serving as its interim boss in 2010, taking over for a 1-7 club helmed by Wade Phillips. We know it to have been a four-year deal.
Already and often, questions arise regarding whether Garrett should be extended. For the time being and even in the immediate future, the answer should be "no.'' Until Garrett proves he can take the Cowboys to the next step - the NFC playoffs - he shouldn’t be rewarded for mediocrity.
The argument in the pro-Garrett camp is that he took over a 1-7 train wreck that had no Romo and literally gave up on Phillips. The 2010 Cowboys were aging and overpaid, one of the downsides of the Phillips philosophy of thinking of a 53-man roster as a family. In his first off-season, Garrett cut Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis, and Andre Gurode. In midseason, when DeMarco Murray started setting franchise rushing records, Garrett cut Tashard Choice. The Cowboys were including more business in roster-building. The club barely missed the playoffs at 8-8, losing the “win and get in” game in New York for the division title.
The 2012 season? Despite injuries, Garrett rallied a team from a 3-5 start to a 6-6 finish. One of his best coaching jobs, and probably one of the best coaching jobs in the NFL, came in Week 14 in Cincinnati. Outside the lines, the team was grieving the death of linebacker Jerry Brown. Inside the lines, the team had lost defensive tackle Josh Brent because he was the driver in that tragic car accident. Garrett found a way to keep his team motivated and came away with the 20-19 victory, and had them primed to play another “win and get in” at Washington. Unfortunately, the club lost, missed the playoffs, and finished 8-8 again.
In 2013: rinse and repeat, except Week 17 was played in AT&T Stadium for the division title against the Eagles and featured backup Kyle Orton at quarterback because starter Tony Romo had a herniated disc. The team fought valiantly in their 24-22 loss, unlike previous years, but the onus was still on Garrett for lack of playoff appearances.
There has been good in Garrett’s tenure as coach. Among the four interim head coaches who filled in during the 2010 season, Garrett is one of two who was retained by the organization. Among coaches hired during the 2011 off-season, Garrett is one of four still remaining with the same team. The offensive line is set for the next decade. The Cowboys have had their first 1,000-yard rusher since Julius Jones in 2006, and the receiving corps is also locked down long-term with Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams flanking the outsides.
The whole philosophy of the team has changed from looking for talent at any cost to, when possible, looking at smart players with good character. Since Garrett’s full takeover in 2011, the club seems to annually extract a career year out of a journeyman free agent. Garrett's influence in the Stephen Jones/Will McClay-led personnel department is clear.
The 2014 Cowboys have a shot, and Garrett deserves credit for that. No longer can any success be attributed to Bill Parcells, for only three of his players even remain on the team. Even Phillips’ imprints are gone. No longer is the team in the 3-4, and only five of Wade's players are on the squad. Garrett has assembled a team that is his.
But he's already being paid for having done those things. There is no benefit to paying him more.
“In terms of the record of this team, this is not a make-or-break situation for Jason and members of this staff,” Jerry Jones said at the start of camp. “We both know where our expectations are, and when it’s looking good or when it’s looking dire. I don’t expect it to be the latter.”
Garrett needs to show his worth as a regular season head coach – you know, guys like Jim Harbaugh and Ron Rivera, guys who were rookie head coaches in 2011 like Garrett and have each earned a first-round bye, let alone playoff berths. This is the metric upon which Garrett should be judged when drawing up (or tearing up) his extension.
Watch and see: There will continue to be mainstream-media pressure applied to Jones to "prove'' his faith in Garrett by giving him a new deal prematurely. And Jerry may even do so. But there's no need and no justification. Jason Garrett is already being paid handsomely for getting Dallas this far. He should be paid more when he accomplishes more.
At camp, Jones said he expects this team to "compete right now."
'I'm very optimistic that we have a team that can come together and compete, and compete right now," said Jones, adding, "we're a better team, on paper, than when we lined up against Philly at the end of the season."
But more recently, Jones talked of 2014 being an "uphill battle.'' And maybe these two conflicting comments are the best evidence of all that the owner will and should wait.
There is a pot at the end of the rainbow for a successful Dallas Cowboys coach. Jason Garrett needs to be part of creating the rainbow before he gets the pot.
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