IRVING -- With all due respect to the head coaches in Green Bay and San Francisco, the 2011 NFL coach of the year works at Valley Ranch.
The national pundits are going to argue for the guy in San Francisco who has turned that Bay wreck into the second-best team in the NFC, and Alex Smith into a passable NFL starting quarterback. Well done, sir.
The argument against Red as coach of the year is that the Cowboys haven't beaten anybody. Fair point. Of the Cowboys' seven wins, only but one has come against a team that boasts a winning record -- Jim Harbaugh's 49ers. But in a league filled with nobodies the Cowboys are beating them.
I contend that what Jim Harbaugh deals with on a daily basis in San Fran' doesn't hold a clipboard to that of what Jason Garrett has to deal with in assistant head coach Jerry Jones.
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A strong case can be made that the NFL coach of the year award should be handed every season to the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Barry Switzer included. The working conditions, and the presence of a certain owner/GM/team president, make this job one of the most unique in all of pro sports.
Jason Garrett is one or two Dan Bailey wide-to-the-rights away from being just another dope hoping not to get canned, but factoring in everything he has been dealt no one has done more with less.
"[Coaching] makes a big difference. The team is good when it takes on his personality," said veteran Cowboys end Marcus Spears, who has been here for the days under Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips and now Garrett.
"Jason is a fighter and wants to win games. He's still young enough and fresh enough to relate to us as players and that goes a long way when he's trying to get his message across or relate to us."
You can't overstate the good health of Tony Romo and the accuracy of the kicker as major reasons why this team is 7-4, in first place in the NFC East, and why the head coach looks like he graduated from Princeton rather than, say, Missouri (as a Kansas alum I am obligated to say that).
Don't hate. That's the way this league is. A few points separate the idiots from the guys who sign extensions.
But there is a reason why this team is both in and winning so many close games.
This was the guy Jerry should have hired all along after Parcells left town in the very early days of 2007. If you recall, Jerry's first hire after Bill bolted was actually Garrett to be his offensive coordinator.
Then he interviewed Norv Turner, Mike Singletary, Todd Haley, Wade Phillips, Jim Caldwell and approximately 345 other coaches when he had already hired the best man for the job.
Every day Jerry should thank someone of a higher power -- yes, there is someone out there who has more power than Jerry -- that Red didn't leave for Baltimore or Atlanta when he had the chance. The reason Red did not take either of those jobs is because this is the job he always wanted.
The people who thought this hire was a reach or that Red was merely the product of some wild-eyed Jerry Optimism Fuel Drink violated a cardinal sports policy. Don't trust Jerry with a draft pick or a coaching hire? History says you are on to something. But when respected football people with solid track records like a certain player or a coach, don't be above following their lead.
When both Ozzie Newsome of the Ravens and Thomas Dmitroff of the Falcons both offered Garrett their team's head coaching jobs in 2008 you should have been far more comfortable with Red as your next head coach. They obviously saw something in this man.
A 12-7 career record as a head coach does not mean Red is the next Jimmy or Landry, but it does prove that the man can do this job and win games despite not having a team over-stuffed with talent.
His play-calling may be a bit questionable from time to time, and he's going to make his share of mistakes, but on the whole Red has demonstrated he can prepare his team to act and play like professionals all the while listening to the owner while not letting it bother him.
The next five games could change our perception of the man, but the way things stand right now Red should be Coach of the Year. Harbaugh has more wins, but this is a harder job.
We don't normally do this around these parts, but the owner/GM/team president deserves some credit for making Red his head coach. Jerry, looks like you got this one right.
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Mac Engel, 817-390-7697