Cowboys finally have a 'real' coach

IRVING, Texas -- These days, a real head coach roams the halls at the Dallas Cowboys' Valley Ranch training complex.

It's been a while.

Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells had been the only real head coaches in the Jerry Jones era.

You can add Jason Garrett to the list.

That's because Jerry respects Garrett's intelligence. And his pedigree. And his approach.

Most of all, Jerry respects his opinion.

Jerry knows Garrett has no interest in being a puppet. And he understands Garrett has a well-conceived plan for making the Cowboys good again.

Besides, Jerry has never hired a weak head coach who worked out.


Jimmy won consecutive Super Bowls and Parcells laid the foundation for the team that earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in 2007.

Sure, Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl, but we all know that was Jimmy's team. And two seasons later, the Cowboys were awful.

Yes, Wade Phillips went 13-3 in 2007, but we all know that was Parcells' team. Three seasons later, Phillips became the only coach Jerry has ever fired in the middle of a season.

Phillips was too interested in pleasing Jerry to be a real head coach; Garrett is not.

Among the biggest misnomers in sports is that Jerry only wants a head coach he can control. Jerry always wants to be part of the decision-making process, and as the GM and owner, he has that right. Jerry, though, has always acquiesced to his head coach.

The coach, however, must have enough courage to tell Jerry what he wants or needs to make the team successful. And he must make demands with conviction because Jerry has a personality as strong as titanium and he's as persuasive as P.T. Barnum.

See, it's essential the players know the head coach is in charge of the team. The players must know they can't dial the owner's personal line and get him to intervene, which has happened in the past.

Garrett has taken control of the entire organization since the day Jerry hired him.

He doesn't have to yell and scream and cuss out players, though they say he occasionally drops a four-letter word to get their attention.

When Andre Gurode, a 10-year veteran and five-time Pro Bowl selection, gets cut a week before the season starts, players take notice.

Garrett knows exactly the type of team he wants. His father, a scout with the Cowboys for 17 seasons, was always partial to smart, tough players, even if they had some physical flaws.

Garrett is, too.

As a fringe NFL player for 12 seasons, Garrett cherished every practice and meeting as an opportunity to get better. He wants players who take the same approach.

Being a head coach is about more than putting together schemes and motivating players. It's about leadership. Players will follow a coach they respect.

Don't let Garret's calm demeanor fool you. He's demanding and he holds everyone from players to assistants to scouts accountable.

Players respect Garrett's intelligence and his attention to detail. They like the way he lays out his expectations and how he demands they meet them.

The players believe he has a plan that will make them winners again, and they know ultimately Garrett -- not Jerry or their salary or their vast collection of accolades -- will keep them on the roster.

"I felt every minute of every day that I was on the practice field that his eyes were burning a hole in the back of my head," Garrett said of Jimmy. "There was never a minute of any day that I was around him when he was the head coach of this team that I, as a player, and all the other players and coaches didn't know he was the head coach.

Garrett's the same way.

While that's no guarantee Garrett will succeed and make the Cowboys a part of the NFL's elite again, he has a significantly better chance than most of the other coaches Jerry has hired.

Real head coaches rarely fail.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.