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Friday, March 30, 2012
Jason Garrett's learning curve

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

What better way to wrap up the work week than with a link to my good friend Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com? Calvin writes today of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, and the ways in which Garrett believes he's learning and developing as a head coach:
In Year 2 of the Garrett administration, we might have a much better head coach. One who is also still learning from his mistakes.

"Oh, absolutely," Garrett said. "I think you guys have heard me say this a number of times. What we do as coaches and what I do as an individual coach, after every game you say, 'What was good and what was bad?' What we try to do is take a very critical eye of self-evaluation. And we do this with our players all the time: We come in on Monday after a game and say this is what we like, this is what we didn't like. Well, before we do that, we say this is what we like, this is what we didn't like [regarding the coaching], whether it's putting a game plan together, calling plays, game management. It's a really important thing for me as the head coach of this football team to look at myself first, look at what we're doing as a staff, before we walk in to talk to the players."

In evaluating Garrett, I think it's important to remember that 2011 was his first full season as a head coach at any level. Not just as a head coach in the NFL, but at any level. The idea that a person in that position would go through an entire season without making a strategic blunder or a motivational misstep is naive. Garrett made mistakes, and some of them cost the Cowboys games. And when you lose your division race by one game with a loss on the final day of the season, hey, you feel that.

Garrett's probably going to make mistakes this year, too. Young head coaches do, just as young players do, just as young writers and bloggers do. We're all better at whatever it is we're doing now than we were when we started, and part of the reason for that is that we made a bunch of mistakes early on and learned from them. This is not just permitted, it's completely natural and understandable.

But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is all-in on Garrett, and while his first mistake (heck, his first loss) in 2012 is likely to lead some of you to ask me whether he's on the hot seat, he's a long way from there. Jones wants Garrett to develop into a great coach. He's allowed him to make a lot of personnel-related calls over the past two offseasons -- on players last year and coaches this year, in particular. Garrett is going to get every chance to succeed, and if he's as smart as everybody says he is, he'll learn from his mistakes and improve as a result of having made them early.