Jason Garrett, Cowboys crumbling
Collapse against Giants shows coach's message is falling on deaf ears down the stretch
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The rookie head coach is in trouble.
Jason Garrett is not going to get fired or anything, but he's struggling right now.
The season is falling apart, and everything Garrett knows about coaching needs to emerge right now.
For the last two weeks, the Cowboys have had a chance to move ahead of their biggest rivals in the NFC East by two games.
Two games. Two chances.
Garrett's team is not responding to him. The players like and respect him, but they aren't making plays for him at the right moments.
The New York Giants rallied for a 37-34 win over the Cowboys on Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium, and some of the things Garrett preaches to his team are falling on deaf ears.
Garrett talks about playing with poise and finishing games. That's not happening.
The Cowboys had four fourth-quarter penalties Sunday. That's 36 on the season.
They were penalized twice on the Giants' go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter.
On first-and-10, DeMarcus Ware jumped offsides when the ball was snapped past Eli Manning. The Giants recovered at the Cowboys' 49 after the ball was snapped from the Cowboys' 37, but the penalty wiped that out.
First down, Giants.
"I think at different times we've done a really good job handling fourth-quarter situations, and other times we haven't," Garrett said. "Sometimes guys make penalties in certain situations because they're trying to do too much. We've talked about that, maintaining your poise and simply doing your job."
Then there's Garrett himself.
There are questions about his recent late-game management. The Arizona Cardinals loss comes to mind -- he mismanaged the ending, leading to a missed field goal that would have won it. Garrett apologized to his team for his mistake.
As the Giants were driving inside Cowboys territory, Manning completed a pass to tight end Jake Ballard that placed the ball at the 1 with 1:15 left.
Television cameras showed Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones in his suite, calling for a timeout.
Then there's the man who signs the checks, owner Jerry Jones saying, "Timeout, Jason!"
Garrett did call timeout with one minute left. He wasted 15 precious seconds.
The Cowboys used their two remaining timeouts, and the Giants scored to take the lead with less than a minute to play.
Garrett wasn't asked why he didn't call a timeout sooner, but he was quizzed on whether the team considered letting the Giants score to preserve time on the clock.
"We did talk about that," he said. "We ended up using the timeouts, and they scored right after we used that second timeout."
Maybe the extra 15 seconds, with no timeouts, could have given the Cowboys a better chance at not only a game-tying field goal, but the game-winning touchdown.
Instead, they got the ball with 46 seconds to play.
The other issue Garrett is dealing with is the end-of-the-season failures.
Since 2005, this franchise is 13-17 in December/January.
Garrett likes to say its ancient history. After a 0-2 start this month, it's current history.
"Again, I don't think anything that's happened in the past has a real impact on this football team," he said. "To think about what we have done is what determines our fate in these ball games, and we just have to play better in particular areas and we didn't get that done."
Here's what Bradie James said of December/January: "Put what behind us? What have we put behind us? What we need to do is win this thing. We've got to win in December. We've got three games left. We don't have, this is not October, this is December."
The season is falling apart. Garrett has to find a way to save it, or his first full season as the full-time head coach will end in failure.
Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.