Apparently when Jerry Jones vowed last week to make things uncomfortable at Valley Ranch, he wasn’t kidding.
On Monday, running backs coach Skip Peete was let go. On Tuesday, it was defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
With his next firing, Jones could aim even higher. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that head coach Jason Garrett should feel comfortable about returning for a third full season.
Jones disappeared immediately after vowing to make changes last week. It was a telling sign that he didn’t attend the Cotton Bowl between Texas A&M and Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium because he normally would love basking in that scene.
It would not surprise me at all to hear that offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan is also gone in the coming days. And once Jerry decides to wipe out Garrett’s offensive assistants, what’s the point in keeping Jason?
But first things first, the demise of Ryan might sound unfair on the surface but it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Yes, he was coaching a defense down the stretch that was missing five starters and a nickel cornerback. He did a nice job of incorporating new players such as linebackers Ernie Sims and Brady Poppinga on the fly. But when he had most of his starters early in the season, there were still too many breakdowns.
The Cowboys defense were penalized for having 12 players on the field on a weekly basis … and sometimes there were only nine or 10 on the field. Last season, Ryan had the excuse of not having an offseason with his players. There were numerous communication breakdowns.
That was supposed to change this season, but it never did.
Ryan also had an embarrassing situation in Cincinnati in which he was flagged 15 yards for walking on the field to curse at a Bengals offensive tackle. Ryan was much more entertaining than the robotic Garrett, but the production of his defense never matched his bluster.
He was in rare form Tuesday after finding out of his dismissal.
“I inherited a team that was 31st in the league in defense and made them better,” Ryan said while confirming his firing to ESPNDallas.com. “I (expletive) made them a hell of a lot better. I’ll be out of work for like five minutes.”
Well, we’ll have to see about that. Perhaps his twin brother Rex will provide sanctuary with the Jets. Ryan did have a great relationship with his players, but they haven’t earned the right to complain too loudly about a firing.
Jones could turn to former Cowboys player Ray Horton, who’s spent the past two seasons as the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator. Or Jones could look to native Texan Lovie Smith.
But for now, Jones has decide what to do with his head coach.
If Garrett stays, it feels like he would simply be a figure-head for an owner/general manager intent on going a different direction. Perhaps Jerry’s giving Garrett an opportunity right now to see if there’s interest from any other teams. Jones desperately wanted this to work with Garrett, but it had to sting to hear former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson talk about a “country club” atmosphere at Valley Ranch.
There’s talk that Jones might attempt to bring in Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Turner would want to bring some of his own position coaches. If Jerry’s willing to give Turner that type of power, he should go ahead and fire Garrett. It would be ridiculous to fire most of Garrett’s hand-picked assistants and then allow him to remain head coach.
It’s way too early to know if this is the correct path for the Cowboys, but at least Jones is following through on his promise. In the past, he has taken comfort in the Cowboys being close to making the playoffs.
So who would Jones hire to replace Garrett?
The most obvious answer would be his longtime friend Mike Holmgren, who has made it clear that he’s interested in coaching again. At one point, it was reported that Holmgren would only accept a head-coaching position with the Cowboys.
He’s since expanded that scope, but it’s easy to imagine him at Valley Ranch working with quarterback Tony Romo, who grew up idolizing Holmgren’s quarterback with the Packers.
At this point, no one at Valley Ranch is safe. That is, except for Jerry.