IRVING, Texas – Coaching football is all about “putting people in position to succeed.” If the Dallas Cowboys were to apply that same philosophy to their own staff, to themselves – coaches putting coaches in position to succeed – Dallas would be announcing a subtle-but-meaningful change right about now.
Jason Garrett would be announcing his decision to once again serve as his own offensive coordinator/play-caller.
Is there any sort of alteration like that brewing, Jerry Jones?
“No,” the owner said flatly on 105.3 The Fan.
Was anything like that considered as the Cowboys enter their bye week, coach Garrett?
“That’s not something we’re really talking about,” Garrett said when I asked the question. “We just need to play better on offense.”
The resistance to change is understandable. Garrett’s entire foundation – not just as a coach but as a person – is unflappability. And Jones’ stated position is sound as well.
“Being 5-5 is not acceptable,” Jones said. “But we can we can say we were close in four of the games we lost. … Don’t look at what happened to us the other night (in a 49-17 loss at New Orleans) and become panicky. I’m not going to address the coaching staff and whether they are safe. We are 5-5. We got players coming back. We got one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. It doesn’t call for much change at all.”
Dallas is also in first place in the NFC East, does indeed get this needed time to rehab a battalion of injured standouts, and in the final six games of the season will oppose three teams (NFC East foes New York, Washington and Philadelphia) that the Cowboys have already defeated this season.
So there is no absolute reason to panic, it is true. Nor should there be a change-for-the-sake-of-change approach, despite the pressure from disgruntled fans who visualize a third straight 8-8 season for Garrett’s team.
Make a change in defensive leadership? That’s an impractical fantasy for those unhappy about Monte Kiffin. Dallas is elite in the category of takeways, even as other defensive numbers put this crew on pace to be one of the statistically poorest in NFL history. But Kiffin’s lieutenant – the right organizational-chart guy to step up in his absence – is assistant Rod Marinelli. Marinelli is a loyal man; remember, he took a lesser job (D-line coach) in Dallas rather than stay on in Chicago (as D-coordinator) because Bears management fired his boss, head coach Lovie Smith.
Marinelli is not going to step across Kiffin’s fallen body. Besides, if Marinelli has some magical solutions, he’s already on-staff and is free to pull those tricks from his sleeve.
Ah, but Garrett? He agreed to take his hands off the play-calling steering wheel at the end of last season at the urging of ownership. He handed the responsibility to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan.
The results? A lack of results.
If most of us are Jason Garrett, we certainly propose the idea to our ownership. We wouldn’t sell ourselves as the panacea, as we realize that we lost this play-calling responsibility in the first place because the production was flawed. But we can note that while we don’t support change-for-the-sake-of-change alterations, we do believe that even with the same recipe (playbook) and ingredients (players), a different chef might cook up a better meal.
We can note that our status as “walk-around coach” isn’t doing our failing defense any good.
We can cite recent history of teams that have made such a change looking for a spark … and the positive results. Jim Fassel put himself in charge of his own offense mid-season with the 2002 Giants in at 3-4 (nudgng aside Sean Payton) and New York won its final four games to make the playoffs In 2006, Brian Billick fired his Ravens coordinator (ironically, Fassel) even with their 4-2 record. Billick led Baltimore to a 13-win season. Last December, the Ravens did it again, firing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promoting Jim Caldwell and ended up winning the Super Bowl.
If we were Jason Garrett — fully in charge of the Dallas offense until this season – we would be citing the history. And we would be itching to be fully in charge again.
Part of the natural itch: We as a coach can inform your boss that if we are going down (and if the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs, “going down” is likely Garrett’s fate) we’d like to do it our way. We’d like to give it your best, last shot. We’d like to have the finest offensive mind in the organization — ours – in place in order to save a season, save careers, save face.
Oh, and if the request is made and the boss says no?
You know even more about your fate being tied to playoffs-or-else, about your fate being sealed.
We asked Garrett if, hypothetically and despite the omnipotence of his boss, if he had the authority to take over play-calling duties if he thought that the best action. In other words, forget about “asking the boss.” Could he just flip the authoritative switch.
“Absolutely,” the coach said without equivocation.
Jason Garrett knows that coaching football is all about putting people in position to succeed. His best shot at achievement this year is to do himself the same favor he does his players.
Should he attempt to better himself and his team by becoming his own play-caller?