Job security has been a tag slapped on Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett for much of the 2012 regular season. It has been quiet as of late amidst a late season surge in the standings, but this discussion never seems to die.
In fact, Garrett’s possible dismissal is only half of what is circulating throughout mainstream media and cyberspace. Already this season we have heard names like New Orleans suspended head coach Sean Payton or ousted Cleveland president Mike Holmgren as potential replacements for Garrett next season.
Lately we’ve even been told that Garrett isn’t going anywhere.
Moments before last Sunday’s kickoff between the Cowboys and the Saints, Jay Glazer reported during the Fox pregame show that Garrett was already assured a third full season as head coach in Dallas.
Well, then the Cowboys actually played the Saints and fell short in overtime following a 14-point comeback that tied the game with seconds left.
When questioned by the media about the Glazer report following the loss, owner and general manager Jerry Jones offered the standard supportive lines for Garrett.
You don’t expect Jones to come out like Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and make a public mandate regarding the postseason, do you?
At the same time, I find it impossible to believe that Jones is that certain about Garrett heading into 2013.
If you have been following the Cowboys very long you know that this is not a "big game" kind of team. The guys on the roster who have played in some big ones with Dallas have ended up losing mightily and many others on the roster have never even played in a "big game" at the NFL level.
But if Dallas plans to take the next several steps towards contention this season then a dramatic turnaround from previous big-game situations will have to happen, especially those that Garrett has had any hand in.
Hearing the phrase “Win and You’re in” once again can’t exactly be music to Jones’ ears, can it?
For the third time in five seasons, the Cowboys will play a division rival on the road needing a win to keep their season going.
Well, so far Dallas is 0-2 against Philadelphia and New York in 2008 and last season, respectively.
Let’s assume Glazer’s report is accurate and that Jones really doesn’t want an offseason that includes another head coaching change. Jones still has to be aware that the fanbase isn’t as much tired of losing as it is humiliation.
If the Cowboys turn the ball over five times and get blown out in Washington this weekend, you think Jones will still feel pretty good about the short-term future with Garrett?
I distinctly recall Jones telling the media following a narrow win over Cleveland earlier this season that he felt ill during halftime as the Cowboys were being shut out by a team that only had a couple wins at the time. Dallas needed overtime to pick up a 23-20 victory.
Jones has also used the word sick as a way of describing how he’s felt following previous losses this season.
Now, Jones could either be telling the truth or just offering lip service.
But if there is any truth to what Jones has said previously, I cannot see how a major humiliation against the Redskins would not force Jones to make a change. How could he possibly sell another offseason and then home schedule of games with the former Cowboys backup quarterback still running this team?
Jones has to create culture change and this, once again, is all about stopping the embarrassment.
If Dallas loses a close game because of a controversial call or there is some other reason to feel sympathetic towards Garrett, then maybe Jones stays put with his learning head coach.
But recent history clearly shows that Garrett’s play-calling and game-planning for situations just like this are closer to horrible than acceptable.
Against the Saints' weak run defense last weekend, Garrett could only stomach handing off to running back DeMarco Murray 11 times, including one carry in overtime.
For a guy who played quarterback at any level for longer than 20 minutes, Garrett should understand the importance of running the football and yet he doesn’t. Because of this, Dallas is a marginal football team that either misses the postseason altogether or ends up having to play numerous road games to get anywhere beyond the wild-card round.
And now Garrett has a banged-up defense that will probably struggle against Washington the way it did against the Saints.
But will Garrett feed the ball to his backs enough to balance things?
Or will he sling the ball around 55 times and get quarterback Tony Romo sacked four times to go along with some interceptions.
Seriously, Garrett has engineered some of the Cowboys' biggest and most memorable defeats ever.
These are the kind of things Jones should already contemplating—and probably is.
Sunday’s prime-time matchup with Washington is the biggest game between these two franchises since the 1992 regular season opener, and FedEx Field will be a mad house. That was the last season the Redskins were defending world champions and they have not been heard from since.
Yes, there is a reason this game was flexed to NBC this week.
This is also the biggest moment for Garrett as head coach. Remember that he was only offensive coordinator when the Cowboys beat the Eagles in back-to-back games at Cowboys Stadium in 2009. And outside of those victories over the Eagles, Garrett has offered almost nothing when it comes to big-game success in any position he’s occupied in Dallas.
Jones loves the limelight and while he says that another head coach is not in his plans, this does not state firmly that Garrett will be back next season. A huge Cowboys defeat means that Jones can get into the coaching search, which happens to offer some highly visible names from the professional and college ranks.
If you’re a salesman, like Jones certainly is, then you understand that you have to offer something of value to your customers, and hope for the future would be the first thing available to help make looking forward a lot easier.
Should the Cowboys defeat the Redskins and win their third NFC East championship in six years, then Garrett likely stays with the Cowboys—but only if he wins.
Then that Glazer report on Fox might end up true.
Until then I would hold my bets.