Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett

Jason Garrett trending the wrong way

October, 18, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Gotta give credit to Jason Garrett: He's gotten pretty dang good at those day-after-a-clock-management-crisis news conferences.

Heck, he's had a lot of practice.

Garrett aced it on Monday, explaining in detail exactly what happened during the Dallas Cowboys' mental breakdown down the stretch in Baltimore. The players didn't get a pass, but Garrett put the biggest piece of blame pie on his plate.

"It starts with me," Garrett said over and over again.

Man, he's come miles since early last December when he just kept on rationalizing his ridiculous decision-making the day after a similar debacle in the desert. Hey, if you're going to keep making messes, better become efficient with the clean-up process.

Can you think of any other evidence of Garrett's progress as a head coach?

Hear those crickets chirping? Here's why you do.

Time not on Jason Garrett's side

October, 16, 2012

IRVING, Texas -- Jason Garrett preaches the importance of situational football, knowing that the outcomes of close NFL games come down to the final few moments.

If you had not seen in his past two training camps how Garrett has picked out some of the most famous end-of-game situations in NFL history and had his team play under the same scenarios, you would think the Dallas Cowboys had not practiced much -- or any -- situational football.

Sunday's loss at Baltimore was the third time in the Cowboys' past 10 games over the past two seasons that clock mismanagement played a major part in a loss.

The Cowboys let 16 seconds burn off the clock following Dez Bryant's 1-yard catch to the Baltimore 33 to attempt a 51-yard field goal try by Dan Bailey. As good as Bailey has been, he was a 50 percent kicker (2-of-4) from 50 yards or more. Sunday's kick missed to the left by a couple of feet.

"When I look at it, I say we left too much meat on the bone there," Garrett said Monday. "We needed to get more than one yard when we had one timeout and 26 seconds. It starts with the play call that I had and then it really goes from there."

Read more about Garrett's struggles with time management here.

Chad Ochocinco not Cowboys' kind of guy

June, 8, 2012

The Cowboys don't have a proven third receiver on the roster. Chad Ochocinco, a free agent after being released by the New England Patriots, has a resume that features 766 catches for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns in his career.


Would Chad Ochocinco be a good fit with the Cowboys, who need a third receiver?


Discuss (Total votes: 6,095)

But don't count on Ochocinco's next catch coming with a star on his helmet.

You hear Jason Garrett use the same phrase to describe possible additions to the roster: "right kind of guy." Ochocinco, who is as much a reality show as he is a receiver at this point, doesn't fit that description.

The Cowboys don't need to invite drama into their locker room as Garrett continues to work on changing the culture at Valley Ranch.

They especially don't need to invite drama when it comes in a well-past-its-prime package.

The 34-year-old Ochocinco, who had one 1,000-yard season in his last three years with the Cincinnati Bengals, was the most overhyped nonfactor in the NFL last season. He was pretty much a spectator during the Patriots' Super Bowl run, catching 15 passes during the regular season and one during the playoffs.

Ben and Skin list 15 positive vibes coming out of Cowboys OTAs. Are leaders beginning to emerge in the locker room and become more vocal? Is Dez Bryant poised for a breakout season?

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Heck, Kevin Ogletree caught 15 passes for the Cowboys last season, and he's not necessarily favored to beat out a bunch of guys who have never caught a pass in the NFL for the No. 3 gig. If none of the Cowboys' contestants prove worthy of the job, they can always sift through the waiver wire after the preseason and hope to find someone who can be halfway as productive as September pickup Laurent Robinson was last season.

Signing Ochocinco, who once promised to kiss the star on the Texas Stadium turf if he scored a touchdown against the Cowboys, would be a classic Jerry Jones move. And Jerry might pull the trigger if Ochocinco was still producing 1,400-yard seasons, but that was five years ago.

Ochocinco on his last legs isn't nearly tempting enough for the owner to bring in the wrong kind of guy over his head coach's objections.
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys signed probable starters at both guard spots and fullback in March, but their most important offensive addition won’t put on a pair of shoulder pads.

That would be offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

How key is Callahan? The presence and experience of an assistant who has been a head coach and playcaller for a Super Bowl team should expedite the process of Jason Garrett reaching his potential as a head coach.

It’s no secret that Garrett struggled with some game-management situations in his first full season as a head coach. It’s also a fact that Garrett’s best statistical season as a playcaller occurred in the one year that he had running game guru Tony Sparano help prepare the game plans.

Callahan, a head coach for two seasons with the Oakland Raiders and four seasons at Nebraska, should be a tremendous asset to Garrett in both of those facets of the game.

“Certainly his experience as a coordinator and a head coach will help us,” Garrett said. “He and I have talked about that. He’s someone that I can lean on.”

Garrett will continue to call plays, but Callahan will make recommendations on runs or pass protections during games. Callahan also said he still thinks like a head coach during games and won’t hesitate to make suggestions to Garrett on situations that arise.

“Whatever those situations are, I’ve got enough experience in my background to assist where he needs help,” Callahan said. “I will say this, though: A lot of that stuff is done during the game plan week. That’s where I see that I can really contribute and help this staff is during the course of the week. Then if you’re well prepared, I think it just unfolds on game days. You’re ready to make those crucial calls.”

Garrett’s willingness to take input is a critical element to his relationship with Callahan working. The chain of command is clear, but Garrett isn’t too proud or stubborn to realize that he’s a young head coach who can benefit from Callahan’s experience.

“He’s really open,” Callahan said. “That’s the great thing about Jason. He’s a great listener. He’s wide open to thoughts and ideas, anything you have to offer, suggestions, whatever it may be. That’s been great.

“I’m sure it will be that way on game day, but I do respect his ability to call plays. He’s had a great knack for it. He’s had offenses that have been close to being on top of the league. I think the work relationship has been terrific, and I only see it getting stronger as we move along.”
Tony Sparano’s return to Valley Ranch makes so much sense that Jerry Jones needs to offer as many dollars as necessary to make it happen.

Maybe that won’t matter, as Sparano has financial security from the contract extension the Dolphins gave him through 2013 before deciding to fire him as their head coach in December. Maybe Sparano will be offered a true offensive coordinator job with play-calling responsibilities, which Jason Garrett will not give up, that he considers too good to pass up.

But Jerry has to give it his best shot if he really wants Garrett to succeed.

Jones has proven in the past that he’s willing to pay top dollar for assistant coaches, compensating Garrett like a head coach to keep him on Wade Phillips’ staff and making Hudson Houck the NFL’s first million-dollar offensive line coach. Sparano, a key factor in helping Bill Parcells rebuild the Cowboys’ respectability last decade, justifies that kind of offer.

Loyalty to Houck, who is in his second tour of duty at Valley Ranch, can’t get in the way of what’s best for the franchise. Jones and Garrett can’t let their personal feelings for Houck cloud their judgment.

If Houck and Sparano can co-exist on a staff, that’s swell. But if Houck has to go to make room for Sparano, so be it.

There are many reasons why Sparano, who is respected tremendously by team leaders like Tony Romo and Jason Witten, should be a priority for the Cowboys. The main ones:

1. Sparano would make Garrett a better head coach: Whether he wants to publicly admit it or not, everybody knows that Garrett made critical clock-management errors in a couple of losses. One solution would be to give up play-calling duties to allow Garrett to focus more on the big picture during games, but that isn’t going to happen. He’d benefit from having somebody else on the headset with significant head coaching experience.

2. Sparano would make Garrett a better offensive coordinator: This isn’t just a theory. It’s fact. Garrett’s best season by far as an offensive coordinator was in 2007, the only season that he worked with Sparano. The Cowboys ranked second in the NFL in scoring (28.4 points per game) that season despite it being Romo’s first full year as a starter. They’ve been a top-10 scoring offense only once in the four seasons since then, when they ranked seventh (24.6 points) in 2010.

3. Sparano would make the offensive line better: Dallas’ offensive line has steadily regressed since Sparano’s departure. His edginess and expertise have been missed. Hiring Sparano would increase Tyron Smith’s chances to reach his immense potential. It would increase Doug Free’s odds to return to his 2010 form. It’d give the Cowboys’ young, unproven offensive linemen – which should include another early-round pick in April – their best shot of developing into long-term solutions.

One man could help fix a few of the Cowboys' biggest flaws. What's that worth to Jerry?

UPDATE: Houck is retiring, as reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen. He will be replaced by Bill Callahan, whose résumé includes stints as a play-caller and head coach for the Raiders and University of Nebraska.

Jerry Jones hints at coaching staff changes

January, 6, 2012
Changes are likely to come soon on the Cowboys’ coaching staff.

“We’ll give you better answers on that as we go over the next three weeks,” owner/general manager Jerry Jones said during a Friday appearance on KRLD-FM, indicating that hires would be made the week of the Jan. 28 Senior Bowl. “That’s pretty much the way I’ll leave it.”

Those changes will not include defensive coordinator Rob Ryan unless he gets an offer to become a head coach. Jones said he is excited about Ryan returning as defensive coordinator, adding that head coach Jason Garrett is in agreement on the issue.

Several assistant coaches have contracts that are expiring: Dave Campo (secondary), Hudson Houck (running game/offensive line), Brett Maxie (secondary/safeties), Wes Phillips (assistant offensive line), Keith O’Quinn (offensive quality control/wide receivers) and Skip Peete (running backs).

Poor performances by their position groups could result in Campo and Houck being replaced despite the franchise’s respect for the assistants in their second tour of duty at Valley Ranch.

The Cowboys tried to replace Campo last offseason by hiring Ray Horton away from the Steelers. However, Horton opted to become the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator instead. Had Horton been hired, Campo likely would have been reassigned to an off-field position.

Former Cowboys offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who was fired as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach this season, could be a candidate to replace Houck. Garrett’s most successful season as a play-caller was in 2007, when he worked with Sparano, who has excellent relationships with key Cowboys such as Tony Romo and Jason Witten.

However, Sparano would likely opt for an offensive coordinator job with play-calling responsibilities if given the choice. Garrett has no intention of relinquishing play-calling duties.

Garrett is also extremely loyal to Houck, who was on the Cowboys’ staff for two Super Bowl championship seasons during Garrett’s playing career and worked with him on the Dolphins’ staff before they returned to Dallas.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Although he expected a win at MetLife Stadium, Jerry Jones emphasized this week that Jason Garrett would continue to be the Cowboys’ head coach regardless of the regular-season finale’s score.

Jones didn’t change his mind after a 31-14 loss to the New York Giants with the NFC East title on the line, ending the Cowboys’ season with an 8-8 record.

“Unequivocally,” Jones said when asked whether he still felt the same way about Garrett. “I feel that Jason is our coach and we can build and do some good things from here. We can take some of the things that we need to do better and address them.”

Garrett’s first full season as a head coach will be remembered for the Cowboys blowing three double-digit fourth-quarter leads -- something that had happened only twice in the franchise’s previous 51 seasons -- and a clock-management crisis in the final 26 seconds of regulation in an overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It will be remembered for the Cowboys collapsing down the stretch, losing four of their last five games to miss the plays.

Jones, however, sees hope and growth when he evaluates a 45-year-old head coach with a 13-11 record.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in him,” Jones said. “He has done a lot of good things here. He’s learned a lot this year. Hopefully we all do, but still he’s learned a lot. Our fans and Cowboys will take advantage of that.”

Ask all you want, Jason Garrett's job is safe

December, 30, 2011

IRVING, Texas – The speculation still swirls, so the questions continue to come at Jerry Jones, no matter how clear he has been about his commitment to Jason Garrett as the Cowboys’ head coach.

“That’s just ridiculous,” Jones said Friday on KRLD-FM, referring to the suspicion that Garrett’s job is on the line Sunday night. “As I’ve said earlier – and I think it expressed it very well – we’re just getting started with Jason.”

Garrett’s job is not in jeopardy. It hasn’t been at any point this season. It will not be even if the Cowboys get blown out by the Giants with the NFC East title at stake.

“We’ll answer this thing as many ways as you want to answer it with as many circumstances,” Jones said. “His job has no bearing and is not a part of this ballgame. Yes, he’s going to be our coach next year, period, no matter what the score is.”

There are many reasons to take Jones at his word. Start with the fact that the Cowboys have made major progress since Garrett took over a 1-7 team last season. Consider that Jones has never fired a coach so early in his tenure and puts canning Chan Gailey after two seasons near the top of the list of his biggest regrets.

If you need further evidence, just look at the last time the Cowboys played a win-or-get-in game on the road. Jones guaranteed in no uncertain terms that Wade Phillips would return as head coach the next season. He stuck to his guns even after the 44-6 Philly flop.

It can’t get any worse than that for the Cowboys. And Jones believes his team will only get better under Garrett.
IRVING, Texas -- Never mind the nonsense about Jason Garrett’s job potentially being in jeopardy if the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs.

The Cowboys aren’t just committed to Garrett, who has a 13-10 record as he nears the end of his first full season as a head coach, they’re confident that Garrett will lead them to a title in the near future.

Cowboys VP Stephen Jones provides an assessment of the current edition of the Cowboys, the pressure on their shoulders and more.

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“Jason has only been a head coach for a year and a half, and if you talk to any head coach who has been a head coach for a long period of time, they learn something every year they’re coaching,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said during a Thursday appearance on ESPN 103.3’s The Football Show. “Jason is going to continue to learn. We all learn in our jobs and continue to get better. He’s done a great job.

“I fully expect him to only get better. He has such dedication and such focus and such a commitment to becoming a better coach each week that he walks out onto the field and we’re fortunate to have him. He’s obviously a Princeton grad and there’s not a doubt in my mind that he’s only going to get better and he’s going to lead us to a championship sooner than later.”

Jones, owner Jerry Jones’ son and right-hand man in all football matters, holds out hope that sooner might only be a little more than a month away.

The Cowboys (8-7) need a New Year’s Day road win over the New York Giants to punch their playoff ticket. Jones is optimistic that can happen and believes the Cowboys are capable of winning their sixth Super Bowl at the end of what has been a wildly inconsistent season.

“As long as we’re in it, our goal is to go win a championship and win a Super Bowl,” Jones said. “We still think that’s the bar of what we want to have, what’s going to get us satisfied in terms of being successful, the only thing is to win a championship. We feel very strongly that we can still get that done this year.”

The primary reason for Jones’ belief is quarterback Tony Romo, who is having arguably the best year of his career with 3,895 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and only nine interceptions entering the win-or-else regular-season finale.

“We have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in our opinion,” Jones said. “Tony has had a great year up to this point. I think in the NFC, going into this week, he’s the third-highest-rated passer behind two guys who have had career years in [Drew] Brees and [Aaron] Rodgers. We feel like we can be one of those teams that get hot in the playoffs.

“At this time last year, Green Bay was squeaking in and they ended up winning the championship and went on to have a great year this year. We have a lot of confidence in this team. We feel confident going up to New York and feel that we can beat the Giants and then make a successful playoff run.”

IRVING, Texas – Working for Jerry Jones presents challenges that no other NFL head coaches have to confront.

There aren’t any other NFL owners who hold postgame press conferences and have twice-weekly radio appearances, occasionally questioning his coach’s strategic thinking. There aren’t any other NFL owners who see fit to approach his head coach on the sideline in the middle of a game to pass along information and discuss which players should sit.

It’s a good thing Jason Garrett is uniquely suited for the job.

Garrett has a good relationship with his boss and gives the owner/general manager the proper respect, but he manages to do it without showing any weakness or sacrificing authority. If you don’t think that’s hard to do, just look at Wade Phillips, whose motto was, “Whatever Jerry says.” Or look at Jimmy Johnson, whose inability to get along with his former Arkansas teammate resulted in a mid-dynasty divorce.

Garrett clearly didn’t feel it was necessary for Jones to join him on the sideline in the middle of Saturday’s first quarter. After all, there are plenty of lower-profile people in the organization who are plenty of capable of passing along that Tony Romo’s X-rays were negative and the Giants had beaten the Jets.

But there Jerry was, for all the world to see. Why?

That's probably a question you need to ask him,” Garrett said.

Translation: It was totally unnecessary. But Garrett let the world read between the lines without saying anything remotely inflammatory.

This is the second time this season Garrett handled a potential Jerry crisis with aplomb.

Remember Jerry criticizing Garrett’s conservative play-calling late in the loss to the Patriots? Jerry said being conservative “bit us,” basically blaming Garrett for the loss.

You can debate all day whether Jerry was right, but there’s no question that it’s wrong for an owner to be so outspoken against a coach who he’s committed to keeping, something Jones admitted on his radio show a couple of days later.

Garrett managed to compliment his boss while pretty much treating the comments like white noise.

"Anybody who's ever had the good fortune to work for Jerry Jones understands that he wants to win," Garrett said that Monday. "He's very passionate about it. And I've had that experience as a player, as an assistant coach and now as a head coach.

"Like I said, anybody who's been around him understands how much he cares about winning. That's one of the things we love about working for this organization. He's very passionate about the game and he's very emotional about the game."

There’s no better way for a head coach to deal with Jerry’s quirks than to respectfully blow them off. Garrett has got that down.

Garrett needs OC? 'Humorous,' Jerry says

December, 14, 2011

IRVING, Texas – You can make an argument that Jason Garrett would be a better head coach if he hired an offensive coordinator.

Just don’t expect to convince Jerry Jones of it.

“I’m actually humored when I hear that he might be overloaded mentally being the coordinator as well as the head coach,” Jones said during a SportsCenter sit-down interview with Hannah Storm. “That’s humorous. His biggest asset is his mental capacity and his ability to digest information and then act on it.

Never mind that Garrett’s late-game clock-management gaffes have provided plenty of laughs the last two weeks.

Tony Sparano, who was a tremendous asset to Garrett in his most successful season as an offensive coordinator, is available now that he’s been fired as the Dolphins’ head coach. Norv Turner, the brains behind the offense that put Super Bowl rings on Garrett’s fingers as a backup quarterback, is expected to be available after the Chargers fire him following the season.

But the Cowboys won’t consider hiring either supremely qualified candidate as an offensive coordinator. Garrett doesn’t believe it’s necessary, and his boss considers the thought laughable.
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys can’t deny that they have a close-out issue. That’s painfully clear.

This team has blown fourth-quarter leads of 12-plus points in three losses this season. To put that stat in horrific perspective, it had happened just twice in the previous 51 seasons of franchise history.

“I can’t think of a worse way to lose than that,” cornerback Orlando Scandrick said.

Coach Jason Garrett admitted the obvious, saying the Cowboys had to get better at finishing games. That’s a lot easier said than done.

Fingers were pointed at Tony Romo for the first two collapses, as his turnovers keyed comebacks by the Jets and Lions. Poor special teams play, especially a blocked punt in the season opener, has also been an issue. The defense served as the collective goat in Sunday’s comeback loss to the Giants. And Garrett gets a good-sized share of the blame for some questionable play-calling and clock management.

And then there’s the issue of mental toughness.

“The best players in this league are the mentally toughest players,” Garrett said. “The best teams in this league are the mentally toughest teams.”

It can be argued that the Cowboys would be 10-3 if they were a mentally tough team. There is no debate that the intangible asset is at a premium at Valley Ranch right now, as the Cowboys likely have to bounce back from a gut-wrenching, high-stakes loss to the Giants by winning the next three games to make the playoffs.

“Mental toughness is a part of the game,” linebacker Bradie James said. “It’s always tested. I welcome the adversity we’re facing right now. All we can do is just respond.”

The Cowboys hope they’re a mentally tough team. They believe they are. But they know they better prove it the next three weeks.

“You know what? We’re going to see,” Scandrick said. “I think we are. Mentally, to put this one behind us, it’s going to take a lot. I feel that Saturday we’re going to come out and we’re going to prove that we’re mentally tough. I think we’re mentally tough, but until we come out and prove it, we don’t know.”

Disappointed Jerry Jones doesn't take questions

December, 11, 2011

ARLINGTON, Texas – Owner/general manager Jerry Jones kept his comments uncharacteristically brief after the Cowboys’ latest crushing loss.

For the first time after a game all season, Jones did not take questions after the Cowboys’ 37-34 loss to the Giants. He just made a 32-second statement minutes after watching his team blow a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter for the third time this season, this time allowing the Giants to pull even atop the NFC East standings.

“Guys, very disappointing,” Jones said. “Major game for both teams, my hat’s off to the Giants. They didn’t quit. They came back and they played well right at the end. Eli and their entire team came back and got the win. I know every Dallas Cowboy fan is disappointed. We are disappointed and we certainly know that we have our work cut out for us [to] maybe give you guys something positive to write about. That’s all I’ve got.”

With that, Jones turned to his left and walked off with his personal security guard.

Jones had been publicly supportive of Jason Garrett all week after the head coach’s heavily scrutinized clock-management crisis in the final 26 seconds of regulation during last week’s loss to the Cardinals. However, the owner was clearly agitated as several seconds ticked off the clock before Garrett finally called a timeout with a minute remaining and the Giants at the Cowboys’ 1-yard line.

“Call a timeout, Jason!” Jones hollered in his suite, a moment caught by the NBC cameras.

Perhaps Jones felt that it wasn’t wise to engage in his normal postgame media session with that sort of frustration boiling.

Tony Romo or Jason Garrett more troubling?

December, 11, 2011

The Sunday NFL Countdown crew breaks down whether Tony Romo or Jason Garrett is more troubling in late-game situations.

Questioning Jason Garrett's game management

December, 11, 2011

The Sunday NFL Countdown crew examines how Jason Garrett can rebuild his credibility with the Cowboys.