IRVING, Texas -- The dumbest move Jerry Jones can make at the end of this season -- no matter how it turns out -- is to fire Jason Garrett. Make the playoffs. Or miss the playoffs. Win seven games. Or win 10. It doesn't matter. Sometimes, tomorrow trumps today. This is one of those times.
See, once you get rid of the consternation caused by the frustration of the past 17 seasons, you'll understand Garrett represents the Cowboys' greatest hope for sustained success.
That's something the Cowboys haven't had since the early '90s. In the glory days of Jones' regime, from 1991 to '96, the Cowboys won 12 playoff games, five NFC East titles and three Super Bowls. Since then, Jerry's Cowboys have won three division titles and one playoff game. They haven't even sniffed a Super Bowl as one of only three NFC teams -- Detroit and Washington are the others -- not to make at least one appearance in the NFC Championship Game.
Most of that is the result of the Cowboys being a dysfunctional organization that has focused more on marketing and making money than winning football. Jerry and Stephen Jones won't like that, but it's the truth. No need to apologize for keeping it real.
Back in the day, the hope was that Stephen Jones would eventually take over the throne and return pragmatism to the organization. Instead, he's backing all of the old man's decisions whether he's talking about the defensive line being a strength after the 2013 draft or discussing some secret sauce and its mysterious relationship to winning the other day. Garrett represents a lone beacon of pragmatism in the front office.
He's all about football -- not marketing and making money, which is always at the forefront of Jerry's mind. There are times when firing the coach makes sense because the players no longer believe his message or he's become a caricature like the New York Jets' Rex Ryan. The key players on this team from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant to DeMarcus Ware not only hear Garrett's message, they embrace it. They respect him. They believe his football ideology -- protect the ball, be physical and focus on today whether it's a meeting, a walk-through or a practice -- because they know it will help them win games. Garrett also has the courage to tell Jerry the truth, whether the owner listens to him or not.
Garrett certainly doesn't always get his way. No coach has since Jimmy Johnson left 20 years ago. And no coach is ever going to have complete control as long as Jerry runs the franchise.
The Cowboys' coach must always make concessions. You're living in a world of make-believe if you think Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher or some other high-dollar, big-name coach with pedigree is going to show up in Dallas and force Jerry into the background.
Bill Parcells came the closest and even he had Terrell Owens shoved onto his roster. By the way, Parcells left with the same number of playoff wins as Dave Campo: none. Any coach Jerry hires is going to be a puppet in the eyes of some folks. The puppet you know, in this case, is preferred to the puppet you don't know. Besides, when the coach gets fired, reverberations are felt throughout the organization. A new coach means a new offensive or defensive philosophy. Perhaps both. It means another two or three seasons of churning the roster so the new coach has players who fit his schemes and philosophies. It means hiring new assistant coaches as the players are introduced to yet another culture and way of doing things.
None of this is conducive to winning. Only Oakland and Kansas City have hired more coaches than Jerry since 1997. Any consistent winners there? Nope.
You can talk about Jim Harbaugh turning San Francisco into a winner, but that was a talented, underachieving team that needed direction by all accounts. The Cowboys have some high-end talent but not much else because of empty drafts in 2008 and 2009. Garrett, a first-time head coach at any level, knows what he's doing. He understands exactly how he wants to build his team.
After two drafts and offseason programs, only 17 players remain from the disaster he took over in the middle of the 2010 season.
The reality is he's been trying to rebuild this team, while not becoming one of the league's dregs. He's evolving and improving as a coach. He's demanding more from the players and making them more publicly accountable. The growth and development is clear. It doesn't mean he won't make mistakes or screw up something.
Every coach does.
Improvement takes time, whether we're talking about losing weight, increasing your bench press or winning football games. It's silly to think a first-time head coach can fix a dysfunctional franchise in a couple of seasons.
Garrett is the right guy to lead this team. And he'll be the right guy at the end of the season no matter how many games the Cowboys win.
Hopefully, the impetuous owner sees that. If not, none of us will be surprised if he makes another dumb decision.