FRISCO, Texas -- For every case supporting Jason Garrett, a case can be made against him remaining as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
For: He has a 77-59 record since taking over in the middle of the 2010 season. The Cowboys have just one losing record in his tenure (2015). The Cowboys have won the NFC East in three of the past five seasons.
Against: The Cowboys have won just two playoff games under Garrett. They have not made it past the divisional round in three chances, including Saturday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Cowboys have not been able to post consecutive playoff seasons.
For: The Cowboys have a young team that grew immensely during 2018.
Against: Garrett has had eight full seasons to show what he can do.
As the Cowboys begin their 2018 autopsy and put their eyes forward to 2019, it appears Garrett will be the head coach. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones all but said so after the Cowboys beat the Seattle Seahawks in the wild-card round.
“If Jason Garrett was on the market two weeks ago, he would’ve had five offers for head coach," Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. "I know that. And so you’ve got to look at what your alternative is.”
As emotionless as Garrett appears at times on the outside, the emotions of a segment of fans are difficult to contain. They are tired of the clapping. They are tired of the process. They are tired of the same answers. They want something new. Anybody but Garrett.
And if Garrett does return, well, then their feeling is that Scott Linehan better not return as offensive coordinator.
When Garrett said he did not anticipate significant changes to the staff on Monday, the venom flew on social media with some fans even vowing they were done with the Cowboys.
Statistically, the Cowboys were poor on offense in most every category but the running game, but in the nine games with Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott averaged 274 yards passing. The Cowboys were the best team on third down over the final nine games. There was improvement, but there was also the franchise’s first shutout loss since 2003 -- a 23-0 rout by the Indianapolis Colts.
“I thought when the lineups got a little bit more solidified as the year went on, meaning Amari Cooper is a receiver, Michael Gallup is a receiver, Cole Beasley is a receiver, the other guys are fitting themselves in, I thought we started playing together on a consistent basis,” Garrett said. “I thought we grew. Scott created a good environment for those guys. We ran the ball well. I thought we were efficient throwing the ball for the most part. We certainly can get better in both of those areas. We can get better at situational football. We can get better in the red zone scoring more points. Those are all areas that we have to improve on, but I do think we got better in those areas over the course of the season.”
If you have been underwhelmed by the candidates who have been named head coaches this offseason, what have been your thoughts about the offensive coordinators who are available? It is largely a game of musical chairs when it comes to these positions in which coaches trade one team's T-shirt for another.
Even with the league’s leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott, a quarterback who has won more games the last three seasons than anybody not named Tom Brady, an offensive line that has three Pro Bowlers in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin and a No. 1 receiver like Cooper, attracting a known commodity at offensive coordinator might not be as easy as everybody thinks.
Garrett is signed through 2019 and said his agent, David Dunn, has not been approached yet by Jones about an extension. That is not exactly the best kind of job security knowing your new boss might have only 16 games left.
Garrett praised Prescott’s development under Linehan, who played a big part in Kellen Moore being named quarterbacks coach.
“If you look at how much he has grown over the course of his three years, I think that says a lot about the environment that he’s been in,” Garrett said. “If you look at the success he’s had, the number of games he’s won as a starting quarterback in the NFL over the course of his first three years, it’s a good environment. I think Scott and Kellen, those guys have a good understanding of what his strengths are and again some of the things he needs to work on, and we work on those things really on a daily basis."
In early November, it looked like Garrett could be coaching his final eight games. The Cowboys were 3-5 and seemingly out of the playoff chase. The Cowboys won seven of their final eight games to win the NFC East.
The case against Garrett was the slow start. The case for Garrett was the ability to rebound.
“Obviously we didn’t get off to a good start in the season and that’s my responsibility,” Garrett said. “And so we had to do some things to hopefully put our team moving in a better direction than that and, again, I thought our coaches responded well with that, I thought our players responded well from that and we learned from experiences that we had. We try to take a critical look at ourselves. I try to take a critical look at myself and try to do our jobs better. I’ll continue to do that.”
Perhaps 2019 will be Garrett’s final chance. He entered 2014 on the final year of his contract with three straight 8-8 records and finished 12-4. He was rewarded with a five-year, $30 million contract four days after the divisional-round loss to the Green Bay Packers.
If he cannot lead the Cowboys past the divisional round in 2019, his ninth full season, then the cases for and against him will not matter. It would just be a case that gets closed.