To save his job, Jason Garrett needs his veterans to step up

Posted Monday, Apr. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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engel A pragmatist, a businessman and a dreamer walk into an NFL draft room.

The pragmatist knows whomever is drafted is not going to win him many games in a rookie year.

The businessman needs a quick return on his investment, and to take advantage of the possibility of a major return for a cheaper price tag on a younger player.

The dreamer just wants everything to work immediately.

In this draft room, the pragmatist is Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. The businessman/dreamer is his boss, Jerry Jones.

Garrett needs better players to win more than eight games, and the best way to do that is through the draft, which begins Thursday night. The problem for the pragmatist is that draftees need time, which Coach Process no longer has.

If Garrett is going to last into 2014 as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, he needs to find two players who are immediate upgrades.

His best chance at lasting one more year is not a bunch of rookies, but praying that the veterans who are returning remain healthy and productive.

That means guys like linebacker Sean Lee and Bruce Carter can’t get hurt.

Dez Bryant has to play for an entire season the way he did the last half of 2012.

Anthony Spencer needs to be as motivated in 2013 as he was in 2012.

DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff need to hold up for one more year.

Tyron Smith has to play a consistent 16 games.

DeMarco Murray must play 15 games.

Morris Claiborne has to have a few more interceptions, and a touchdown or two on defense.

Miles Austin? Forget it. Just plan on him getting hurt.

Tony Romo must, once again, reduce the number of those “No, Tony, no!” moments.

If all of the above play well, Garrett may stick around.

If Garrett, or any head coach, is expecting a rookie draft class to save his job, he’s cooked.

I asked Jerry and Garrett on Monday if it was fair or necessary to expect this incoming rookie class to be productive enough to win nine or 10 games this season.

Garrett talked around it before he hit on this truth:

“You want drafted players to play as quickly as they can play,” he said. “I don’t care what school you played at. You can play at the SEC, the Big Ten or any of the great conferences in this country and it is a jump from college football to the National Football League.

“You can have all of the measurables and the great history and the pedigree, the level of competition [but] when you are going from college football to pro football, it’s a jump regardless of what position you play.”

Claiborne, a defensive back, was one of those guys. He played in the SEC against loads of future NFL players, ran a 40-yard dash faster than a cheetah and looked like the classic cover corner.

As successful as he was in his rookie year last season, he still had more than a handful of games where teams exploited his inexperience.

Even if Garrett was relying on this class to save his job, this rookie field does not have the types of players good enough to make that type of impact. There are no Andrew Lucks, RGIIIs or Cam Newtons coming out of this class.

There are, however, a lot of talented potential pros who should be able to contribute immediately to their new team and be productive.

Here is the rub: Even Jerry the Dreamer knows rookies need time, but he can’t take much more of this no playoff, .500 trash.

Jerry The Businessman needs to see the young guys play well because they are cheaper, and the return is greater.

“The younger ones that we draft are a must to be productive just from the cap prospective alone,” Jerry said Monday.

The man caught in the middle of this conflict is Garrett.

The good news is that since Garrett entered the Cowboys’ draft room as its head coach, they have picked productive players. Smith, Carter, Murray, Dwayne Harris, Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford — each has a big upside and has played well.

The problem is these guys needed time, and some still do.

“There are a lot of different ways to improve your football team and one of them is the draft,” Garrett said.

Another way is the head coach, which if things do not improve the Cowboys’ businessman/dreamer will agree needs to change.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof

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