Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Jerry Jones may be doing Garrett a favor
By Dan Graziano
So yeah, the news out of Valley Ranch on Tuesday is that Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who also already held the title of offensive coordinator, will take over play-calling responsibilities from head coach Jason Garrett. The Cowboys had tried to keep this decision secret for months, but team owner Jerry Jones let the cat out of the bag when reporters asked him and he told them that Callahan was calling the plays in practice and they should infer their answer from that. Callahan then confirmed the news, saying he was "flattered, encouraged and honored."
Garrett then declined to confirm (or deny) the news, reiterating his position that it's not to the team's advantage to make such things public before it's absolutely necessary and insisting he was on board with any and all Cowboys decisions. And look, if the career buzzards were circling your head the way they've been circling Garrett's, hunting every crumb of evidence to prove Jones is out to thin the ice under his coach, you might not feel like admitting such a thing, either. Garrett's pride may very well be hurt here, and if it is, that would be understandable. He's called the Cowboys' offensive plays since 2007, when he was the offensive coordinator and three years before he was head coach. It's hard to believe he's eager to give it up.
It appears that head coach Jason Garrett, left, won't be calling offensive plays for Jerry Jones' Cowboys in 2013.
Personally, I think Garrett should welcome this development. Whatever Jones' motivation, real or imagined, the end result here is that the change removes from Garrett's plate something with which he was struggling and should allow him to focus more on the aspects of the head coaching job at which he's proven adept.
In-game play calling and decision-making simply wasn't working out for Garrett the head coach. The Cowboys took too long to get plays in. They made weird decisions in crunch time. You can argue that this got better as the 2012 season went along, but "better" doesn't mean "solved," and we're working with two and a half seasons' worth of evidence that this is not Garrett's strong suit while he has other coaching responsibilities.
But if you're going to discuss the aspects of his job with which Garrett has struggled, it's important to also discuss those at which he has exceeded expectations. As a manager of players, a leader of the locker room, a navigator of the emotional highs and lows of an NFL season, Garrett has actually proven to be quite good. On a team that's covered as intensely and in-depth as any in any sport, you never hear players griping on or off the record about the coach. The 2012 Cowboys, until their Week 17 flop in Washington, were the story of a resilient team that held together despite a rough on-field start and some very rough off-field troubles. The coach deserves credit for that.
It's clear, if you've been around the Cowboys in the past couple of years, that Garrett has more input into roster decisions than his recent and immediate predecessors had. Jones listens to him, and Garrett has a significant say in the vision for and direction of the franchise. This is the reason he's likely not in as much immediate danger of losing his job as many seem to think he is. Jones has always thought more highly of Garrett than the conventional wisdom has, and he's likely to stick with him longer than conventional wisdom might suggest he would or should.
And while giving up play-calling duties may not be something Garrett sought or wanted, it's got a chance to help him be a better coach. If it's a decision Jones imposed on him, then Jones is taking away an aspect of Garrett's job that makes him look bad and offering more time to focus on those that make him look good. Garrett may not like it, and it may look from the outside like Jones undermining his coach. Heck, it may be Jones undermining his coach. But if the Cowboys hold together as a team again the way they did last year, and if they win one or two more games and make the playoffs, it may turn out to be a good thing for everyone involved -- Garrett most of all.