Commentary

Jason Garrett isn't justifying faith

Poor starts, lack of progress increase the temptation to explore other options

Updated: November 23, 2012, 1:37 AM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Here's guessing Sean Payton had one heck of a happy Thanksgiving.

The suspended, soon-to-be free-agent coach's leverage keeps getting stronger. The likelihood of his good buddy Jerry Jones making a high-dollar pitch to hire Payton away from the New Orleans Saints increases every time the Dallas Cowboys perform like a poorly prepared pee wee team in Jerry's $1.2 billion football palace.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireJason Garrett is giving Jerry Jones less and less reason to keep faith in him with the Cowboys' continued poor play, particularly at the start of games.

The rest of the Cowboys' season is really about Jason Garrett justifying his boss' wavering belief that he's the right guy to coach this team.

Can you come up with any good reasons right now?

Jerry couldn't after the Cowboys followed the normal format of digging a huge hole at home and fighting hard in a failed comeback bid.

It continues to be all process and no progress under Garrett. It reached the point after a 38-31 to the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day that even Jerry had to admit any talk about believing this mediocre team is headed in the right direction rings hollow.

Hooray, the Cowboys played hard after digging a 25-point halftime hole!!! It wasn't good enough again, dropping them to a game below .500, meaning they'll probably need a perfect December to make the playoffs.

Garrett earned the job by getting a team that quit on Wade Phillips to go 5-3 down the stretch in 2010 despite having no chance to make the playoffs. The Cowboys went 8-8 last season, going from the driver's seat of the division on Thanksgiving to the couch for the postseason. Here they are now, a try-hard 5-6 team.

Is there anything to like about the direction the Cowboys are going under Garrett?

"That would be real difficult right now because you would have to point to things like comebacks, and that's hollow when you are not winning the game," Jones said. "Or last week, we win one (against the 2-8 Cleveland Browns) and we have to come back to win it, but we don't win it playing well. So that's hollow right now."

Want to hear hollow? Just listen to Garrett's robotic rhetoric.

Jones That would be real difficult right now because you would have to point to things like comebacks, and that's hollow when you are not winning the game.

-- Jerry Jones on the Cowboys' progress

Do me a favor. Chug one of Jerry's beloved Pepsi products before reading Garrett's answer when asked what progress the Cowboys have had during his 35-game tenure. There's a good chance you'll need the caffeine jolt to avoid nodding off.

"We'd like to win more football games, like any coach would tell you," Garrett said. "What you have to do is you have to focus on how we do things, and ultimately if you do things well with the right kind of people we feel like we're going to get the results that we all want.

"So we'll continue to battle hard and work hard and try to win games each and every week and try to play better in all three phases. We'll continue to do that. We'll learn from this ballgame and get ready for the next challenge."

You still awake?

Boring guys can be great head coaches, as evidenced by Bill Belichick's success in New England, but Garrett's way clearly isn't working at Valley Ranch. That's obvious from the way that the Cowboys keep sleepwalking through the first half, especially at home.

The Cowboys spotted the Chicago Bears the first 10 points in a blowout loss. The New York Giants jumped out to a 23-0 lead before the Cowboys' shocking comeback bid failed by the skin of Dez Bryant's fingertips. Dallas managed to come back from a 13-point halftime deficit against the bad Browns. They weren't able to add to their history of Thanksgiving miracles after Robert Griffin III turned the second quarter into his highlight reel to give the Redskins a 28-3 halftime lead.

Please don't blame the tame JerryWorld crowds for the Cowboys' home failures. Jerry made a point to praise Thursday's crowd of 90,166 for its enthusiasm early in the game, which the Redskins quickly killed.

"You suck all the air out of it with the combination of their good play and us not getting it done," Jerry said.

Is Garrett a poor game-planner or a miserable motivator? Both? Whatever it is, the results don't reflect well on the redhead.

Jerry's expectations of making the playoffs and then seeing if the Cowboys can get hot seem like a pipe dream.

A bunch of injuries haven't helped the Cowboys' cause, but to Jerry's credit, he doesn't want to hear that excuse. The Redskins -- and almost every other NFL team -- have also had key players go down.

"That's not the difference out here right now at all," Jerry said.

Garrett better figure out the difference quickly and do something about it over the next five weeks.

Yeah, we're talking about Jerry's chosen one, a guy with deep roots at Valley Ranch who was groomed for this job before anyone else knew Garrett as much more than a clipboard-holding backup quarterback. If Garrett succeeds, Jerry looks like a genius.

But that scenario seems like more of a stretch every time the Cowboys come out flat.

The support from the owner certainly isn't as strong as it was even five days ago. Jerry isn't ready to deliver any ultimatums, but he makes it clear that he expects to win now.

Jerry entered his stadium fully expecting a win to serve as his Thanksgiving dinner appetizer. He thought the Cowboys would have a shot to be even with the Giants atop the NFC East by the end of the weekend.

He certainly wasn't ready to ponder whether he'd have to make difficult, franchise-changing decisions this offseason.

"Under those circumstances," Jerry said, "you don't have to think about those things."

Under the circumstances of reality, the temptation to give ol' pal Payton a ring grows stronger while Garrett's mantra rings hollow.

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