Does Jason Garrett get a pass because Tony Romo can’t?
By Matthew Postins
Has Tony Romo’s back surgery saved Jason Garrett’s job?
The answer to that question comes next week. But there’s no question that Romo’s injury and subsequent surgery provides owner and general manager Jerry Jones with the perfect excuse to give Garrett one more season.
If fact, no matter how the game goes on Sunday Jones can spin it easily.
If the Cowboys lose a close game to the Philadelphia Eagles? All Jones has to say is, “Well, if we had Romo we might have won. And you can’t blame Garrett for that.”
If the Cowboys lose big? “Well, if we had Romo it would have been much closer. Heck, Jason had to take a knife to a gunfight for this one.” The knife in this case being backup Kyle Orton.
If the Cowboys manage to win. “Well, Jason did an incredible job getting this team ready without Romo. Look at the results.”
Jerry will probably use glory hole somewhere in those fake quotes, but you get the point. Romo’s back gives Jones latitude to give his pet project one more season, even if the Cowboys go 8-8 for the third straight year.
Jones could surprise us. But I’m betting he won’t. He’ll look at the litany of injuries on this football team – specifically the defense – and figure that Garrett was coaching the equivalent of a Daisy air rifle and still managed to get eight wins out of them. He must be on to something.
Garrett isn’t, or at least I don’t think he is.
I made the point after the Green Bay loss that I don’t believe Garrett has grown as a head coach during his time in Dallas. I think the Cowboys’ inability to do smart football things as they lost that lead to the Packers proves that. Gameday is Garrett’s domain, if he has any domain left with the Cowboys. It was incumbent upon him to manage the game and get the Cowboys – specifically Romo and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan – on the right page to manage the game. That didn’t happen. And it’s not the first time Garrett has shown an inability to manage the game properly, from not calling timeouts at the right time to not calling the smart play at the line of scrimmage.
It’s not to say that Garrett is totally responsible for what I believe is the Cowboys’ impending fall off the cliff. In fact, Garrett is far less culpable than Jones, the pseudo-football man who believes that his way will ultimately yield a champion. Jones isn’t motivated by championships anymore, at least in my opinion. He’s driven by his desire to see his way of doing things validated by a championship. Just imagine Jones if his way actually worked and Garrett was his head coach? Oh lord he’d never shut up.
That’s why I believe Garrett gets a free pass this offseason. His staff may not. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jones guts the staff completely and starts anew again, with Garrett at the top of the pyramid working with another new defensive system and another new play-caller. Although, to be fair, Jones’ efforts last offseason to make things “uncomfortable” at Valley Ranch appears to have failed.
But I don’t believe things get any easier for Garrett in 2014, assuming he’s still in Dallas. I’ve made this point before. If the Cowboys lose to the Eagles, which I expect, the Cowboys will have the same exact record in the first seven years post-Bill Parcells as they did the first seven years post-Jimmy Johnson. That’s a record of 63-49.
In the eighth and ninth years after Johnson the Cowboys went 10-22. Then Jones hired Parcells.
The Cowboys appear on that path once again. This is a team with aging core talent and young, unproven talent the Cowboys must rely on to grow up fast. Sean Lee is turning into that era’s Dexter Coakley, a highly productive player tethered to an aging team. And now the quarterback, Tony Romo, has had two back surgeries in less than a year, the second theoretically for a herniated disk that is one of the trickiest injuries a football player can have.
I think Garrett will be back to preside over it in 2014. I don’t agree with it. But I think Jones has his excuse now and he’ll use it.