Taking Jason Garrett Off The Hot Seat
It’s always interesting when expert opinions on ready-made, controversy-friendly topics diverge so staunchly, especially between two sportswriters from the same outfit. In this case, we’re talking about Jason Garrett and the extent to which, if any, he should be worried about his job — a notion Jerry Jones recently dismissed.
Following that comment, Calvin Watkins of espndallas.com wrote that given the play-calling mystery and changes in his coaching staff, Jones really does have Garrett coaching for his job in 2013. Watkins referenced the gravity of the Cowboys’ playoff shortcomings in justifying his stance. Dan Graziano countered with an espousal that Jones loves Garrett, whom he sees as the team’s “premiere asset,” mentioning the coach’s handling of the team in the wake of the Jerry Brown-Josh Brent incident as a guarantor of his job security.
But the best take on the subject comes not from a credentialed, locker-room regular, but from a blogger. In a remarkably shrewd and sagacious article, Tom Ryle of BloggingTheBoys.com dismantles the argument’s basic premise by asserting that job security among head coaches simply doesn’t exist in the NFL. Ryle further identifies Jones’ endorsement as an attempt to eradicate questions on Garrett’s job status, not a reflection of his stance on the issue, which he believes couldn’t be further from the owner’s mind — as it should be.
Jones has enough media savvy to know that going down this road will create distractions. Being a smart owner (GM is another story), he surely prefers the media focus on football, not business. The topic is signed and sealed for the dilettantish art of batting around clichés like “being on the hot seat,” and it’s being discussed when we’re nowhere near the season’s start nor close a point of rendering final evaluations on rookies and undrafted free agents. Names on today’s depth chart and September’s depth chart — at least at positions like safety and offensive tackle — will be shuffled like a blackjack shoe in a casino.
Moreover, bumbling around the question of Garrett’s future in Dallas inevitably diverts attention from his past — the feats and foul ups that represent empirical indicators of how he’ll fare as coach in 2013. To address this query is to swap reasoning based on hard evidence with outright speculation based on hearsay and out-of-context commentary without altering the final question: will Garrett get it done with this year’s team? You don’t have to be a lawyer to recognize the more logical approach.
So what facets of Garrett’s past as the Cowboys’ top man are worth applying to the present?
He’s coached players with decent talent — Dez Bryant, Anthony Spencer and Sean Lee — onto the cusp of being superstars at their positions. He’s put together an explosive offense without ever having consistent production from the running game. He’s made some confounding decisions late in games (icing his own kicker comes to mind). He’s been accused of calling plays too conservatively and inadequately preparing players for big games, as evidenced by turnovers and penalties in the last three make-or-break, season-ending games.
This is a franchise currently characterized by major fan disillusionment and an enormous need for immediate redemption. Consequently, Garrett’s job status isn’t a completely irrelevant topic for discussion. But as fodder for intelligent debate, it would be better served by considering what he has already managed and failed to accomplish on the field, instead of functioning as a launch pad for writers to speculate on the whims of the team owner.
And for the record, if anyone cares about one more opinion, Garrett is the best man for the job at present. While management’s faith in him seems flip-floppish — assurances about his job security are marred by the revocation of play-calling duties, etc. — Garrett is clearly a coach the players respond to, and he can get the most out of this group that he’s had a big hand in assembling.
But he should absolutely approach 2013 as if his job depends on it. If the Cowboys miss the playoffs again — and this time there’s no chorus of penalties, turnovers and general player sloppiness to take the fall — Garrett will have to go. It’s just the way the league works.