Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said before last season that 2013 would not be an Armageddon year for coach Jason Garrett.
No such guarantees will be made in 2014.
Garrett is in the last year of his contract, and the Cowboys have made no overtures toward extending his deal.
With a 29-27 record since taking over as coach in 2010, including three consecutive 8-8 seasons, Garrett is facing a make-or-break season.
“We didn’t really have conversations about that,” said Garrett when asked at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday if the Cowboys had approached him about a contract extension. “My focus is really on being the best coach I can be each and every day.
“We have been close each of the last three years to winning our division. We haven’t gotten that done. We have to live with that reality. We are working hard every day to try to be great as coaches to help our football team take the next step.”
Vice president Stephen Jones said the team still believes Garrett is the right man for the job.
“Look, every coach is under that with or without a contract,” Jones said. “He’s got a year left on his contract. We can sign him after the contract is over.”
But doesn’t his lame-duck status and the team’s streak of four consecutive seasons minus the playoffs make the situation a little more acute in 2014?
“He feels that,” Jones said. “We feel it. We feel the need to get over the hump.”
The Cowboys are using the combine to take a step in that direction as they begin to evaluate options for the NFL Draft. They have the 16th pick in the first round.
But Jones and Garrett believe they have already taken great strides improving as a team with the changes they made on the coaching staff last month.
The highlights were the hiring of former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan as the passing-game coordinator and play-caller, demoting Bill Callahan from offensive coordinator/offensive line coach and play-caller to run-game coordinator/offensive line coach, demoting Monte Kiffin from defensive coordinator to assistant head coach defense and promoting defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator.
The Cowboys will have had three play-callers and three defensive coordinators in three years.
Jones said the decision on defense with moving Marinelli over Kiffin was predicated by performance, considering the Cowboys set franchise records for most yards and first downs allowed.
While Marinelli had a lot of input last year because of his close relationship with Kiffin, Jones believes Marinelll’s having final say will make a huge difference in 2014.
“I think at the end of the day Monte had the final say and Rod deferred to Monte,” Jones said. “There is some respect there. No different than me and Jerry. There is no deferring to Monte. Rod has final say. Rod is truly the defensive coordinator.”
Garrett likes the new roles throughout his coaching staff, and he said he values the input each coach can bring.
He also said it was important not only to have the right people, but “making sure we have the right seats on the bus. That’s an important thing. We feel we have done that this off-season.”
“We feel really good about that. We believe in having good coaches. We have a philosophy on offense. We have a philosophy on defense we believe in. We have good coaches to implement that. We expect them all to work together like we have.
“We emphasize team so much with our players; it’s the same thing with our coaches. If you have the right kind of guys, they will certainly do that.”
The question is whether the Cowboys are moving in the right direction to make the playoffs and even be a Super Bowl contender and warrant a contract extension for Garrett.
“We have to get better,” Garrett said. “We don’t want to focus too much on what other people are doing. We want to focus on what we’re doing to try to take the next step as a football team.”