Commentary

Jerry Jones can't squash speculation

Appeal of Sean Payton will be hard to ignore if Jason Garrett misses playoffs

Updated: December 24, 2012, 1:37 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Uncomfortable as it may be, picture Jason Garrett as Jerry Jones' high school sweetheart.

Now, picture Sean Payton as the sexy homecoming queen.

[+] EnlargeJones-Payton
AP Photo/ Bill NicholsJerry Jones has high praise for Jason Garrett, but the allure of Sean Payton could make things interesting if the Cowboys can't reach the playoffs.

Jerry truly loves Garrett, whom he's known for decades and declared could be his head coach for decades after giving him the full-time gig less than two years ago. He appreciates all of Garrett's great characteristics. He's proud that Garrett has guided the Dallas Cowboys to the point that they have a chance to punch their playoff ticket in a win-and-get-in regular-season finale, despite dealing with extreme adversity, of the football variety and far worse.

But, my goodness, Payton sure is pretty. Wow, what a stunner. And that beauty might want to flirt with Jerry?

How can you possibly expect a man to turn down that type of temptation? Heck, Jerry is only human.

After all, Payton is a proven Super Bowl champion on the short list of the NFL's best coaches, and he happens to have a tight relationship with the Jones family, dating to his days as a Cowboys assistant. So Jerry just can't bring himself to slam the door on speculation that Garrett could be a goner at the end of this season.

Especially not after Garrett's offense couldn't slam the door on the New Orleans Saints -- the suspended/pending free agent Payton's former and perhaps future team -- after making a wild comeback. Jerry was certain the Cowboys would win the game once they won the overtime coin toss, but the Dallas offense went three-and-out and punted the ball to Drew Brees' Saints.

After that point, the result was predictable.

Saints 34, Cowboys 31.

"If anything, I thought we'd score more points," Jerry said. "I'm surprised we didn't get that ball down the field and get that touchdown."

Would the Cowboys have scored more points with proven offensive whiz Payton calling plays? Jerry would never admit it, but you know he had to wonder that Sunday afternoon, when Payton presumably plopped down on a coach somewhere around these parts to watch the two teams that might engage in a bidding war for him in a few months.

All Jerry had to do to hush the Payton speculation was confirm the pregame report by Fox's Jay Glazer that Garrett's job wasn't in any jeopardy regardless of what unfolded in the final two weeks of the season.

Jerry chose to play dumb instead. Gee whiz, he hasn't even thought about any scenario other than Garrett being the Cowboys' head coach next season.

"That's the only response that I have to it," Jerry said in the middle of a rambling response.

Is there anything that can happen over the next week that could influence his thinking?

"That's just way too much here," Jerry said. "I'm real pleased with how Jason is coaching and how our staff is, and I thought it was going to give us a chance today to get us another storybook-ending win.

"But certainly [the report] is on the basis of nothing that I've indicated or said. I have no idea about any of that. I don't have any more comment about that than I would if he said I was not [bringing Garrett back next season]. We just haven't been there. There's not a thought. There have been no conversations about anything differently than our keeping Jason."

It's all a matter of semantics, but Jerry certainly left the door cracked for some postseason reconsidering.

He could have guaranteed Garrett's return. He didn't, instead just saying he hadn't considered any other scenarios.

Sure, Jerry.

Of course, this is nothing but noise to Garrett, who ignored this sort of speculation while the Cowboys won five of six games before Sunday to give them a chance to make the playoffs despite a 3-5 start.

Right now, all Garrett cares about is getting ready to play the Washington Redskins with the NFC East title and accompanying playoff berth at stake. He's not going to let something beyond his control affect his focus.

Garrett will just keep doing his job to the best of his ability until it isn't his job anymore.

If the Cowboys accomplish their goal of getting into the playoffs -- and who knows what might happen from there? -- it would be extremely difficult to envision Jerry dumping Garrett. Jerry couldn't be that cold-hearted if there's a lot of legitimate reason to hope Garrett is building something at Valley Ranch, right?

But what if the Cowboys come flat with everything on the line again, just like last season's New Jersey nightmare? Another 8-8, oh-what-could-have-been season?

Well, Jerry did mention how hard it is for him to be patient these days.

If Garrett's Cowboys don't make the playoffs, don't be surprised if Jerry sneaks out on his high school sweetheart to court the homecoming queen. Could anybody blame him?

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