Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones finally has his man as head coach, but he never planned for it to happen this way. This was Jason Garrett's job to lose since he was hired to be the offensive coordinator in 2007, and that's exactly what he did.
Garrett turned down head-coaching offers from the Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens following the Cowboys' 13-3 season in 2007, in part, because his dream job was in Dallas. Jones paid him $3 million to remain with the Cowboys, which was roughly the same amount Wade Phillips was making. It was an uncomfortable pairing from the start because Phillips knew that the guy calling plays was his hand-picked successor.
Phillips didn't balk, though, because he was pleased to serve as Jones' defensive coordinator and faux head coach. And as long as Phillips could produce results on his side of the ball, it didn't bother Jones that he never had the demeanor or the presence of a real head coach.
That suited Jones just fine because Phillips was a refreshing change to the Bill Parcells era, which is gaining prestige with each Cowboys loss. Phillips desperately wanted his players to like him, and by all accounts, that was never an issue. He was loyal to them even when they didn't deserve it. While some players across the league lived in fear of being cut at any minute, Phillips created an atmosphere of comfort. During a 25-minute news conference Monday during which Jones seemed to be in a fog, he admitted to being in "denial" about what was going on with this team. He desperately wanted the Cowboys to keep it close in Green Bay, so he could justify sticking with a coach he greatly admired and liked personally. But Sunday's 45-7 loss to the Packers was the ultimate reality check.
"When we started having the problems we’re having [on defense], that compounded the overall team thing,” said Jones. “There was a lot of me in denial for at least the last couple of ball games. But where we are right now is that we’ve got to be able to do the biggest challenge everybody does in the NFL and that is get a defense that can slow them down."
Former Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni will take over as the defensive coordinator. Jones said he liked Pasqualoni's "disposition," which is probably a reference to the man's refusal to smile at anyone at Valley Ranch. Jones talked about a "culture change" needing to take place, but he's the guy who created this current culture.
I don't think Cowboys fans are thrilled with Garrett, but he was certainly impressive during his first news conference as head coach. He constantly talked about "moving forward" and said this team would reflect his personality. I've never been able to detect any personality with Garrett, but perhaps his new role will force him to take a different approach. I still think it's a long shot for Garrett to be named the permanent coach, but he'll at least have the opportunity to lead the team for two months. If the Cowboys could go 4-4 the rest of the way, it would be a minor miracle. Jones said he'd be looking for "tangible success."
"He does have the opportunity to get the job long-term,” said Jones. “That opportunity would be obvious if you stepped back and looked at it and we do outstanding as a team and we have very visible, very tangible success then certainly that’s doing your job, if you will, in a crisis situation and that kind of action goes beyond a résumé, especially when you’re in the foxhole with him."
The apologists point out that Garrett went out of his way not to usurp Phillips' authority given their unique arrangement. They think he'll come into his own now that he's in charge. But wait. Other than Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells, have any head coaches really been "in charge" during the Jones era?
Asked if he'd give Garrett the freedom to do as he pleased with this roster the final eight games, Jones went into full stammering mode before blurting something about his not being able to "quantify" something like that. The one move that would truly change the culture at Valley Ranch is something Jones will never do, and that's for him to resign as general manager.
As long as he's in charge of football decisions, it really doesn't matter who's serving as head coach. Jones will inevitably do something to undermine the process.