It’s another loss for the Dallas Cowboys, who have now fallen to 6-5 following a mistake-ridden outing against the New England Patriots that cost them a chance at garnering a needed signature win. That means it was time to again ponder the question of if head coach Jason Garrett would be fired, which inherently meant it was time again for me to remind you he wouldn’t be.
Owner Jerry Jones didn’t exactly pull punches following the defeat at Gillette Stadium, Buffalo Bills. On Monday, and on Tuesday, Jones spoke with 105.3FM the Fan and confirmed as much; and he’d also go on to clarify his stance on Garrett more definitively.— namely special teams coordinator Keith O’Quinn and, ultimately, Garrett — his comments fueling speculation a change would be made ahead of their Thanksgiving battle with the
While his tone remained spicy on Tuesday, Jones walked back some of his wording from Sunday, instead choosing to paint it in the light of an analytical GM, and not necessarily as an owner who was set to rain down hellfire upon his coaching staff.
“You know, when you’re general manager, which I am, those coaches are out there at my ultimate decision,” he said. “So, just as I should and do expect our fans to — when asked in a situation like that — questions regarding how we perform is very much within my realm of purview, to basically not only be standing there as an owner, but be standing there as a general manager that put the staff together to begin with. And, so, people seem to think that it’s particularly harsh to have criticism, and they think that when you look at the other side of the field and call a job well done that might mean that that’s extraordinary criticism of the job that you’ve done over on the other side of the field, which is me.”
Jones wasn’t done there with his reframing but also didn’t relent on how displeased he was with his team’s lack of execution and preparedness — particularly as it related to the inclement weather.
“There’s no question that ‘disappointed’ is not the word,” he said. “There’s no question that, given the opportunity, there were things that we could have taken advantage of — as there is in all games. But, the other night, the name of the game [was] turnovers. The other night, the name of the game was weather and, the other night, the name of the game was how to play that game in those circumstances.
“New England plays a lot of games in those circumstances. They coach their team to play games in those circumstances. They should. And you’ve got a very good chance when weather becomes a factor to be sitting there coaching against an advantage, and that is a coach and an organization that works to take advantage of those situations.”
To the point, the Cowboys practiced indoors on Thursday and Friday preceding the game, and whose decision was that?
“The head coach,” Jones said plainly.
And so it goes, the Hall of Fame owner is indeed frustrated with the underwhelming record as it relates to the unbridled talent on the roster, and isn’t absolving Garrett for his role in the team’s inconsistencies. In that same breath, however, he’s also not willing to cut ties as the Cowboys sit atop the NFC East and still in the driver’s seat for a possible playoff berth.
This means while Garrett is safe for now, he’s still very much on a hot seat that could see him gone in 2020. He can change his fate in a big way with a deep playoff run that includes an appearance in the NFC Championship Game, but there is much work to do, and the Cowboys haven’t yet proven they can achieve such a mission under Garrett. Since taking over the role as head coach in 2011 — the interim tag from 2010 having fallen off — he’s yet to lead the team beyond the NFC Divisional Round, and that’s a key reason the club suddenly pulled back on offering him a contract in late January when they were all set to deliver it to him only a few weeks prior.
Their initial drive to do so was fueled by Garrett having led to team from a 3-5 start to a 10-6 finish and the team’s third division crown in the last five seasons, but a poor showing against the Los Angeles Rams forced them to pull the emergency brake on any talks of a contract extension.
For Jones, who has a lot invested in keeping Garrett around, the chance to not part ways with his longtime head coach begins — or rather again resets itself — on Thanksgiving.
“Well, let’s start right now, which everybody wants to see and that’s come out here and play very well against an outstanding Buffalo team,” Jones said on Tuesday. “We got a chance to get this taste out of our mouth by playing well against Buffalo. We’re in a position. We lead the [NFC] East.
“We can play better. We are prepared to address the nuances or subtleties or however you want to describe them. We’re prepared to take advantage of the detail that it takes to win a football game. As one of the great things about football, one of the great things about sport is that until the season runs out, you get another chance to get a different taste in your mouth as a team, or your fans or everybody concerned.
“This gives an immediate opportunity to step out there and do that. We have to. We can’t dwell one minute on your game Sunday.”
And for those who are still wondering if the thought to fire Garrett midseason crossed Jones’ mind a single time on his flight back from Foxborough?
“The answer is no. Period,” Jones made clear. “I sit there and watch games. I watch games. I look at every aspect of it since I put the coaches out there, and since I put the players out there, at the end of the day with a lot of help and with a collaborative effort. But at the end of the day the buck stops with me. I am highly critical and continually evaluating everybody involved with the game.”
For Jones, the issue expands beyond one person.
That said, he can’t rightfully deny the obvious as it relates to failed postseason success under Garrett, hence his overall level of frustration — also considering how talented the roster currently is and has been in the past. Should the Cowboys flounder in their remaining few regular season games or the playoffs, don’t expect Jones to continue eating his own crow as the calendar flips to the new league year. He will for now though, as the team gives Garrett his last few chances to prove he can get them back to the Super Bowl.
“I shouldn’t be this frustrated,” Jones said on Sunday.
Well, he is, and he’s also complicit in the current state of affairs — to his own admission.
In the end, while the Cowboys remain in contention, Garrett has a job. When/if there comes a point when they no longer are, well, all bets are off, and the casino’s manager — i.e., the more practical and iron-fisted Stephen Jones — will waste no time making his presence felt on the casino floor. At that point, the owner will simply have to admit he was wrong for constantly feeding quarters into a broken slot machine, driven by the incessant psychology of “just one more pull is all it takes”.
For Garrett, simply put, it’s jackpot or tilt in 2019.