Some of you may have heard the two head coaches in the Super Bowl both come from the same family. A less prominent storyline this week revolves around the man the Baltimore Ravens actually preferred to Jim Harbaugh brother, John.
Despite the Dallas Cowboys’ crushing loss to the New York Giants in a divisional playoff game in Jan. 2008, their offensive coordinator was a hot commodity around the league. Both the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens offered Jason Garrett a head-coaching role, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones convinced him to stay by making him the highest-paid assistant in the league at $3 million per. He would eventually take over for Wade Phillips midway through a disastrous 2010 season.
Now with two full seasons under his belt, Garrett has become Jones’ latest puppet at Valley Ranch. Not only has Jerry stripped him of play-calling duties, but he’s also given his head coach very little say in who ends up on his staff. At least that’s the way it appears. It’s hard to imagine Garrett coming to the conclusion that he basically needs to reassemble the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ staff under Jon Gruden. And that’s where things get really interesting.
I wrote a few weeks ago that Jerry should just get it over with and hire Gruden to replace Garrett. Of course, he doesn’t want to do that because he’d likely end up owing Garrett a lot of money. And if you think Jerry’s not concerned about money, let me remind you of the curious case of Sean Payton. Jones had a rare shot to land one of the most dynamic coaches in the league because of a contract snag in New Orleans, and he didn’t even attempt to make it happen. It’s one of the reasons I laugh when Jerry apologists talk about how he desperately he wants to win.
Yes, he likes winning just as much as the next guy. But he’d much prefer winning while remaining the face of the organization. He’s never truly respected head coaches, and that includes Bill Parcells. That’s one of the reasons I don’t feel sorry for what Garrett’s dealing with right now. He should’ve known better than anyone how difficult it is to overcome Jones after spending so many years in the organization. His father, Jim, may have been the most stubborn scout in the history of the Cowboys. He knew exactly how things worked behind the scenes, so his son had no excuse for thinking it would change.
In Baltimore, Garrett would’ve operated in concert with probably the best scouting department in the league. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has a history of hitting on draft picks in a variety of rounds, and his top assistant Eric DeCosta is also revered throughout the league. How Garrett could spend time with this organization and then go racing back into Jerry’s arms is beyond me. Both the Falcons and Ravens have had success after selecting quarterbacks in the first round. Maybe Garrett felt loyalty toward Tony Romo, a quarterback who’d put up prolific numbers in ’06 and ’07. Romo took a lot of heat over his decision to lead a delegation to Cabo during the playoff bye in ’07, but he still showed plenty of signs that he’d eventually break through.
Since then, Romo has posted one playoff win that came under the Wade Phillips administration. The Cowboys are going to give Romo a long-term contract this offseason, but it’s hard to imagine Garrett being around to see how that goes. He’ll never admit it publicly, but Garrett made a huge mistake in choosing Jerry over stability. The Ravens would’ve moved heaven and earth to make it work with Garrett. It’s hard to believe now, but they were convinced Garrett was the perfect man for the job.
One high-ranking member of the Ravens organization told me at the time that Garrett “came off looking like a guy who could become President of the country.” They were deeply disappointed that Garrett decided to stay with the Cowboys, although they obviously rallied to hire a solid coach in John Harbaugh.
If Garrett’s going to be a successful head coach in the NFL, I don’t think it will happen with the Cowboys. He has some excellent leadership qualities that were on display in the tragic aftermath of Jerry Brown’s death this past season. But even one of Garrett’s closest pals, Troy Aikman, sounded dejected about the whole state of affairs during his weekly appearance on The Ticket last week.
I believe Jerry would’ve been doing Garrett a favor to fire him. It would’ve allowed Garrett the opportunity to salvage his coaching career in another locale. Instead, he’s sat around watching Jerry select a coaching staff for him. Maybe Garrett will be effective as a “walk-around” head coach. But it’s difficult to pull that off when you’re surrounded by men who may not have your best interest in mind.
The speculation over Gruden eventually replacing Garrett due to the makeup of the staff apparently caused the Cowboys to respond over the weekend. A member of the organization told ESPN’s Ed Werder the thought of that was “ridiculous.”
But denials aside, it’s hard to dismiss this as some type of coincidence. It’s not like this staff’s being hired on behalf of Garrett, who head into next season as a lame duck.
And Monte Kiffin’s days of being a head-coaching candidate have come and gone. That only leaves us with one name.