Time to work the other side of the ball

3/3/2014 - NFL Dallas Cowboys

By now it should be obvious to all that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has no desire to fire Jason Garrett.

He'll eventually do it one day -- perhaps at the end of next season, if it ends without a playoff appearance -- but it's not something Jerry wants to do.

Jerry wants his coach to succeed, if for no other reason than he has zero idea who would replace Garrett.

That's why he retained Garrett after a third consecutive 8-8 season that ended without making the playoffs.

Understand, since Garrett became the Cowboys' coach in 2011, 20 different teams have been to the playoffs, 19 have had at least one 10-win season and 13 have won division titles, including every NFC East team except the Cowboys.

Jerry is so tired of this once proud franchise being mired in the muck of mediocrity. It's why he let Garrett yank away offensive coordinator Bill Callahan's play-calling duties and hire his friend Scott Linehan to do the job.

And when Jerry talked to the media last week at the NFL scouting combine, the owner made it clear he wanted Garrett spending considerably more time with the defense this season.

Say what?

Garrett, love him or loathe him, has made his reputation as an offensive guru. He's a guy who has worked with a litany of quality offensive minds, from Norv Turner to Jon Gruden, and spent the bulk of his 12-year NFL career prepping to be an offensive-minded head coach.

Now, Jerry wants him to spend time with the defense? Hmmm.

Ask around the club's Valley Ranch training complex and the answer is interesting.

Jerry believes having Garrett spend more time with the defense will make him a better all-around head coach, which is what the owner wanted him to do last year.

But Garrett never had felt comfortable turning the offense over to Callahan, which makes sense considering it's Garrett's scheme. Since Garrett didn't trust Callahan, he really never stopped putting the game plan together.

If you think about it, Callahan never really had a chance. It must be difficult to call plays for another coach's offense using a game play created by the other coach.

As for the Cowboys' defense, you would think with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and his old friend, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, it would have been in great shape.

Obviously, it wasn't.

The Cowboys yielded a league-worst 415.3 yards and gave up more than 30 points seven different times.

In some ways, Jerry blames Garrett.


If Garrett had been a regular visitor to the defensive meetings, listening to Kiffin address the team, implement the game plan during the week and call the games, then Jerry believes Garrett would have been in position to make significant changes in the defense before it was too late.

Jerry believes Garrett would have understood Kiffin wasn't helping a unit decimated by injuries with his lack of in-game adjustments. Since he wasn't in the meetings, Garrett didn't figure Kiffin was part of the problem, not the solution, until it was too late.

If Garrett had figured it out earlier, then he could have taken a similar approach with the defense, just like he did with the offense.

Garrett didn't like the way it wasn't functioning under Callahan, so with six games left the coach started communicating the plays to Romo, giving him an opportunity to speak briefly to the quarterback between every play.

Perhaps Garrett could have put Marinelli in charge of the defense during the season and maybe it would have helped the Cowboys win another game or two.

Marinelli, a loyalist, sure wasn't to going to say or do anything that would put Kiffin in a bad light. Marinelli is a military man who was never going to break the chain of command.

And none of the other defensive assistants, including highly regarded linebacker coach Matt Eberflus, had the juice to say anything about Kiffin -- at least not during the season.

After all, Kiffin is pretty much a legend.

Jerry is in the midst of the longest playoff drought since he bought the team in 1989. A sorry streak like that demands change.

Marinelli is now the defensive coordinator and Kiffin is essentially defensive coordinator emeritus.

Garrett trusts Linehan with the offense. So he can spend more time with the defense. Garrett doesn't have to evolve into a defensive guru, he just needs to recognize bad defense when he sees it and get it fixed.

We didn't seem to have any problem recognizing Kiffin's flaws last year, but Jerry thinks Garrett did.

Garrett won't get another opportunity to make a similar mistake. Jerry thinks he is removing every reason for the Cowboys not to make the playoffs next season.

Jerry is desperate to join the postseason party again. It has been too long.