Commentary

Jason Garrett needs to stick around

Coach must be allowed to learn on job because it gives Cowboys best chance

Updated: October 16, 2012, 3:34 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- In his first 29 games, the best coach in the Dallas Cowboys' illustrious history went 5-21-3. In his first 29 games, the second-best coach in franchise history went 7-22.

Tom Landry
AP Photo/Pete LeaboTex Schramm countered criticism against a struggling Tom Landry (above) by offering the Cowboys' first coach a 10-year contract.
Oh, the nasty things folks said about Tom Landry in the early 1960s and about Jimmy Johnson after he replaced Landry in 1989. Of course, at the time, fans had no clue about the legacy each man would leave.

When Landry was criticized early in his tenure, Tex Schramm responded by giving him a 10-year contract. When Jimmy came under scrutiny, Jerry Jones gave him a long-term extension.

If Jerry still believes in Jason Garrett, his hand-picked coach, then the owner should let the players, fans and media know he has no reservations whatsoever about the long-term direction of his franchise.

He should give Garrett, 15-14 in his first 29 games, a five-year extension.

Right now.

That's right, Jerry should lock up Red J for the foreseeable future before the month ends.

After all, the Princeton grad gives Jerry the best chance for his dysfunctional franchise to recapture its glory days because Garrett is not a puppet no matter what you think.

Garrett has as much control over the direction of this franchise as Bill Parcells did. Jerry is the GM, but it's Garrett -- not Jerry -- steering the franchise.

Most of y'all are too mad about Sunday night's end-of-the-game debacle and 31-29 loss to Baltimore to focus on Garrett's assets at this moment, which is understandable.

But what you need to understand is the other way just doesn't work. Jerry has hired six coaches since 1997 and the team is 122-123 with one playoff win.

Dallas, the Washington Redskins and the Detroit Lions are the only NFC clubs not to appear in the NFC Championship Game in that span. Eleven teams have made multiple appearances in the NFC title game.

It's not a coincidence Dallas, Washington and Detroit have each had six head coaches, not counting interim coaches, since 1997. No NFC teams have had more.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett and Jerry Jones
AP Photo/LM OteroJerry Jones hired Jason Garrett knowing the first-time head coach would hit some bumps.
The problem for those of you who want Garrett fired is there's no coach you can hire who will guarantee you another Lombardi Trophy.

Not Nick Saban. Not Jon Gruden. Not Chip Kelly. Not Tony Dungy.

No one.

Hey, Bill Parcells didn't even win a playoff game in four seasons with the Cowboys -- and he's among the greatest coaches and team-builders in NFL history.

Understand this: The day Jerry hired Garrett he knew there would be tough times, and Garrett would need a learning curve.

Don't forget, Garrett had never ever been a head coach at any level.

Still, the game-management gaffes must stop. Garrett is too smart to look so clueless at the end of so many games. This is four times in the past 12 games he has had questionable end-of-game tactics.

He's learning, albeit slowly.

Last year, he took virtually no public accountability for the debacle at the end of the Arizona loss. On Monday, nine times in his 32-minute news conference he said some version of, "We need to do a better job in that situation, and it starts with me."

Garrett must also get the penalties under control. Three times in five games, the Cowboys have had 13 penalties.

Pathetic.

Garrett hinted he's ready to do that. We'll see.

"You have the option of saying, if you continue to get penalized you are going to be out of the lineup or off the football team," Garrett said. "Trust me, we're gonna get it right."

You don't judge a coach on one game. You look at his body of work, though his 3-7 record the last 10 games ain't good. You look for progress. You look at how his players respond to his philosophy.

You determine if the coach is the primary reason the team is losing. If so, fire him.

That's not the case in Dallas.

There's some talent on this team -- and on a given day it can compete with the league's best teams. But anyone who thinks this is a championship team probably needs professional help.

This team doesn't have enough players who can singularly impose their will on a game to win a title. And it's so inconsistent from play to play, the Cowboys find it difficult to put a complete performance together.

Garrett will eventually have tangible results because he's a leader, he's a communicator and he's detail-oriented. Besides, so many folks can't be wrong about him.

Coach K. Troy Aikman. Rick Carlisle.

Jimmy Johnson.

Garrett has flipped the roster. He's playing draft picks such as third-rounder Tyrone Crawford, while veteran Marcus Spears was inactive. He's filling the roster with players who have character, toughness, intelligence and talent every chance he gets.

But the reality is he still hasn't coached two full seasons. It's not an excuse; it's his situation.

So he's going to make mistakes.

Garrett will eventually show us he's a quality head coach, but he still needs time. Jerry should make sure he gets it.

Landry and Jimmy turned out just fine when they were blessed with contract extensions. If Jerry still believes in Garrett, he should prove it to his team and the team's fan base by extending his coach's contract.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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