OXNARD, Calif. — Consider the career fates of the men who held Jason Garrett’s job before him.Tom Landry. Jimmy Johnson. Barry Switzer. Chan Gailey. Dave Campo. Bill Parcells. Wade Phillips.Four of them won Super Bowls. Two coached the Dallas Cowboys into the playoffs.Five were fired. The other two left for the same reason: Jerry Jones.And yet, despite three consecutive seasons of 8-8 finishes and failures to make the NFL postseason, Garrett remains Owner Jones’ head coach.Does that speak more about Garrett or about Jerry Jones?On the day before Garrett’s fourth training camp as Cowboys head coach began, Jones reflected on the progress of his incumbent coach. “I’m particularly encouraged by the guy sitting right next to me,” Jones began. “I’m excited. I know where he is. I know how he has evolved, if you will.”Jones, history tells us, has never before had time for evolutions. He’s always been a wildcatter, quick to declare a dry hole and move on.With Garrett, though, for whatever reason, Jones has displayed uncommon patience. The more that the media and fans have muttered about Garrett, the deeper that Jones’ stubborn heels have dug in.But let’s cut to the chase. Barely one minute after saying he was excited about Garrett, Jones was asked flatly whether this is an “Armageddon year” for the head coach.“This is not a make-or-break year,” Jerry said, reacting to the bluntness of the question. “I’m not going to use that word you just used, just because I’m superstitious. There are a few things we’re not going to talk about that we talked about last year. Seriously.“But I’ll be serious with you. In terms of the record of this team, this is not a make-or-break situation for Jason and members of this staff. We’ve got a job to do.“We both know where our expectations are, and when it’s looking good and when it’s looking dire. And I don’t expect it to be the latter.”That response was Jerry at his serpentine best. Back him into a corner, and he tries to cover his tracks.Jones, however, will turn 72 years old this football season. He is running out of time to start over with another new coach. Evolution doesn’t take as long as revolution. Hence, Jason Garrett may just be Jones’ coach for life. Jerry’s life, not Jason’s.The last thing that Jones wants at Valley Ranch is another Parcells, another head coach with a deaf ear and a wide footprint. The debate will linger, no doubt, but some of us remain convinced that Parcells eventually would have gotten the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl. Jones has settled, it seems, for giving Garrett time to grow into that kind of coach. Regardless of what you think about Garrett’s public persona — the whole, stilted “Coach Process” thing — you have to agree that he ought to know by now how to be a head coach. His dad was a coach. His dad’s friends (and house guests) were always coaches. Jason played for Jimmy Johnson and Sean Payton. He coached under Nick Saban. People inside the Cowboys’ organization chuckle at the media’s mischaracterization of Garrett. Shallow answers at press conferences don’t always indicate a shallow brain font. Garrett has a degree from Princeton. To me, that speaks volumes more than any guarded TV sound bite. When asked last week about his job security, Garrett answered, “The Cowboys get a lot of attention, so we understand that. You live in the world of putting some blinders on, and you focus on your job. I’ve been doing that for literally 25 years.”He may never be a coaching legend, like Landry. He’ll never have Jimmy Johnson’s energy, or inspire performances the way that Parcells and Saban do.But Jason Garrett has evolved and, for now, he isn’t being chased off anywhere. Owner Jones, instead, has given his head coach an uncommon length of rope.Jones doesn’t have time for an Armageddon, but check back in December. “Dire” things can always happen.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton