One of the great things about mixing two Benadryl capsules with high-powered antibiotics during the holiday season is that it allows you think outside the box. I find that it's much easier to be creative when you lose equilibrium due to what's now referred to as the Brett Favre pneumonia, which struck me on the Friday following Thanksgiving and has not yet released its grip on my central nervous system.
This is how I came up with the idea to write a column based on what the Dallas Cowboys' record would be right now had Jason Garrett replaced Wade Phillips in, say, early August instead of November. We've seen in a short time that Garrett does things differently than Phillips, which is to say he actually requires his players to act like they give a damn.
This is a team that had Super Bowl aspirations heading into the 2010 season. Not even the Downy soft Phillips could've messed this thing up because the Cowboys were absolutely loaded on both sides of the ball. Owner Jerry Jones dreamed of his team playing in a Super Bowl in front of Arlington taxpayers and other dignitaries. But we all know what happened next.
The Cowboys began the season with two losses, won a game against what turned out to be a fraudulent Houston Texans team and then ran off five more losses en route to getting Phillips fired. Garrett wasn't exactly an inspired choice as the interim head coach based on his curious playcalling and lack of facial expression. But it turns out the man we called Red Jesus had healing powers not seen at Valley Ranch since the tyranny of Bill Parcells.
Garrett somehow convinced his players that all was not lost and that sport coats and ties should be worn before and after games. In my weakened state of mind, I can't help but wonder what this team's record would be if Garrett had been named the head coach at the beginning of the season. I realize that Wade's contract had just been extended, but I need all of you to suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine that Phillips had popped off to Jones in the hall about Arkansas Razorbacks football and been canned on the spot.
I think Garrett would've approached training camp in a completely different manner. Jerry still would have required the Cowboys to visit 17 different cities during training camp, but Garrett would have required his players to wear full pads in many of the sessions. It's obvious Red J did not approve of Phillips' "picnic on the grounds" approach to training camp. The first thing he did upon being named head coach was to require players to jog between drills and to increase the overall tempo of practice.
I think the Cowboys would've been far more prepared for that first game in Washington. It's not like the Redskins played especially well in that season opener. Quarterback Donovan McNabb played poorly and the Cowboys' defense dominated for much of the game. I realize that Garrett took the blame for calling that passing play late in the first half, but it's not like he knew Tashard Choice was going to fumble the ball and allow the Skins' DeAngelo Hall to race for a touchdown.
I think the Cowboys would've still stumbled at home against the Bears the following week, but they would've been 2-1 following a road win at Houston. With a stern disciplinarian such as Garrett at the helm, the Cowboys would've taken care of Tennessee and Jacksonville at home. And I honestly think they would be 6-5 right now instead of 3-8. And that's the biggest reason why Garrett will be the head coach next season.
I guarantee you Jerry Jones has played all those games over again in his head with Garrett as head coach, and he probably has the Cowboys at 8-3. We were correct in criticizing Garrett the offensive coordinator for his role in the Cowboys' shameful start, but we didn't realize the man would have such mad skills as head coach.
I thought he might be too stuffy and distant to connect with players as a head coach, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Players have embraced Garrett's demanding approach and his ability to say the word "football" at least 27 times in each news conference. If Garrett had been the head coach of this team, the Cowboys would be right in the thick of the playoff race.
This team didn't need a shoulder to lean on. The disgraced players desperately needed a Patton-like figure to bark at them and demand their best effort. I think the Cowboys will go 3-2 down the stretch, which means that Garrett will end up with a 5-3 record as head coach.
Not to get ahead of myself, but I'd project him to win at least 11 games in 2011 and lead the Cowboys back to the playoffs. Some of you want Jerry to go ahead and interview other candidates, but that will be window dressing.
By undoing the past and erasing Wade's sad 2010 campaign (in my mind), it's obvious Garrett would've had this team in contention. It's time to end the charade and admit that he's the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
That is, unless Jeff Fisher's available.
Matt Mosley covers the NFC East for ESPN.com and the Dallas-Fort Worth sports scene for ESPNDallas.com.