So-so season for Cowboys could mean so long for Garrett

Posted Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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When the Dallas Cowboys land at Point Mugu Naval Air Station on Tuesday afternoon and deplane the team charter, signaling their arrival in Oxnard, Calif., for the start of the 2014 season, they should all take a selfie.

Capture the moment. Tweet it. Put it on Instagram. Snapchat. Facebook.

Whatever your social media pleasure.

For many Cowboys, it might be the first day of their final season with the franchise.

It all starts in camp and will carry through the 2014 campaign. But if the outcome and results are not a stark improvement over recent years, many important figures shall not walk this way again.

No. 1 on the hit list is coach Jason Garrett and his staff.

Garrett is likeable. He certainly has the right bloodlines and the backing of owner Jerry Jones.

But it’s time for the “process” to be over.

Results are what matter now.

A 29-27 record, three consecutive 8-8 seasons, and out of playoffs is not what Jones had in mind when he fired Wade Phillips and promoted Garrett midway through the 2010 season.

They were supposed to get better under Garrett, not worse. Phillips gladly pointed this out in a tweet in March: “Jason Garrett is tied with Wade Phillips for 56 games as the @dallascowboys head coach. Phillips: 34-22; Garrett: 29-27. #suprisesMe”

Phillips tried to distance himself from the negative comment, saying in a subsequent tweet that he was surprised that the two had coached the same number of games with the Cowboys. That Phillips has a much better record, including two division titles and the franchise’s only playoff win in the past 17 years through the same number of games is a downright stunner to Jones.

Garrett is heading to camp in the final year of his contract. He won’t get a new one, thus a return to Oxnard next year, minus a trip to the postseason and possibly a playoff win.

The list of players who could follow Garrett out the door include:

• Cornerback Brandon Carr, who was given a five-year, $50.2 million contract two years ago to be a shutdown cornerback. Carr has not been a difference maker and started on two of the worst pass defenses in team history the past two seasons. He has been undone by a lack of a pass rush and a coverage scheme that doesn’t play to his strengths. He will at least need to make his first Pro Bowl for the Cowboys to absorb his $12.7 million cap hit and $8 million base salary in 2015. And even that might not be good enough.

• Running back DeMarco Murray is in the final year of his contract. He certainly has played well enough for a contract extension, coming off his first Pro Bowl in 2013. But the league has devalued the running back position, and the Cowboys must decide how much he is worth. A poor season by the team could result in a coaching change and a new direction. Murray might also find the free-agent market hard to pass up.

• Linebacker Bruce Carter is also in the in final year of his deal. Unlike Murray, he has yet to prove himself. Carter was a disappointment in 2013 and is expected to be the linchpin of the defense. The Cowboys have tailored their scheme for Carter to replace injured Sean Lee as the leading tackler and primary playmaker. Much of their success and failure on defense will be determined by Carter’s play. Will he spit the bit again? If he does, the Cowboys most certainly will move on.

• Defensive tackle Henry Melton gambled on himself in this homecoming of sorts for the Grapevine native. A former Pro Bowler with the Chicago Bears, Melton basically signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Cowboys that includes a team option to pick up a three-year, $24 million deal if he is on the roster the first day of the league year in 2015. If Melton becomes the anchor the defensive line so badly needs, he will get paid and return. If not, the Cowboys could walk away. No fuss. No muss. Again, a bad season could signal a coaching change and a new direction anyway.

• Quarterback Tony Romo is only on this list because of his link with Garrett. The Cowboys’ financial commitment to Romo is so great that they passed on Johnny Manziel. There is no way Romo is gone after this year, boom or bust. But if the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs and Garret is gone, Jones will have to start seriously looking for a quarterback of the future.

Romo turned 34 in April, has had back surgery the past two years, and has yet to lead the Cowboys deep into the playoffs. Another so-so season and he might be preparing to work for his fourth head coach, who might be looking in a new direction.

All of this is at stake when the Cowboys arrive in Oxnard on Tuesday.

They can write their own story, happy ending and all, based on what they do in training camp and during the 2014 season.

What can’t be disputed is that a rough draft is already in place.

But first, let them take a selfie.

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