Owner Jerry Jones is admittedly frustrated that the Cowboys have had back to back-to-back 8-8 seasons and a 29-27 overall record since Jason Garrett took over as head coach midway through the 2010 season.
But he says he still thinks Garrett is the right man for the job and wants him to remain coach of the Cowboys for many years to come.
Never mind that he hasn’t backed up that belief up with a long-term contract extension, thus forcing a seemingly lame-duck Garrett to head into 2014 in the final year of his deal.
“This is the one I’m comfortable with — the status we are in right now with our staff,” Jones said during a two-hour interview with the media aboard his blue-star emblazoned Cowboys bus outside Lucas Oil Stadium at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“I like our staff. Jason should know, and I know that he knows, that the plan here and has been for him to be long term, and long term certainly being beyond this year, the coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Jason has a high tolerance for ambiguity. He really does. That is very important in this situation.”
While Jones wants Garrett to continue to run his football team, he wants him to stay clear of the offense.
There was definite ambiguity in that last season, muddying the waters for offensive coordinator/play caller Bill Callahan, whose power was routinely usurped by the head coach.
“Jason was really your coordinator last year,” Jones said. “That’s a fact. That was one of the issues. It was unfair to Bill. All of it was manifested by the fact that it was very difficult for Jason to get out of that role. That’s why we had such a tough time articulating it early. That’s why we made some of the switches we made during the middle of the season.
“All of it was manifested by the fact that it was very difficult for Jason to get out of that role. We laugh, but there is a difference when you’re sitting in the room and as the coach and you say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, y’all put some salt and pepper in there’ than after it has already been cooked and you’re tasting it outside the room and it might need a little salt and pepper. It’s a big difference.”
That will not be the case in 2014, thanks to the off-season addition of former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan as passing game coordinator and play-caller. He will have final say on the offense and Garrett will spend most of his time with the defense, Jones said.
Of course, that was the plan in 2013, when Garrett gave up play-calling duties to Callahan during the off-season. It proved to be a struggle throughout, though it didn’t manifest itself publicly until after the bye week in late November when quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson was moved from the sideline to the booth with Callahan. Garrett then took over Wilson’s headset and would transfer Callahan’s called play to quarterback Tony Romo.
“That wasn’t the plan,” Jones said. “Going into training camp, going into OTAs, going into that period of the time, the plan was for Bill to ultimately be the play-caller with Romo executing it. It just didn’t come into effect. And Bill, as it turns out, was frustrated and should have been. I think calling the plays — I would agree with him right there — that that was the last pencil down. Call it the last pencil down. Who has got the last pencil down? I think Jason had the last pencil down all the way through.”
Jones said the plan heading to the off-season was to have Callahan take full control of the offense. It changed when Linehan, who hired Garrett for his first coaching job in Miami in 2005, became available.
“Jason has the kind of confidence to let it get cooked with Linehan,” Jones said. “And we were fortunate. Callahan not calling the plays, purely is a function of the availability of Linehan. We weren’t out there looking for someone to do it differently than Callahan. We were going to put more emphasis on Callahan. But when Linehan became available that changed our thinking.”
Jones not only said that Linehan will have final say but also that the move will give Romo even more power. Garrett, in turn, will be out of the mix completely and focus all of his attention on defense as he continues his development as a complete, walk-around head coach.
Jones believes it should benefit the Cowboys and Garrett in the long run, especially if they can have success on the field in 2014, resulting in a contract extension after the season.
“For Jason’s future to have these head coaches and these people who have got the experience and what they’re doing, this is the greatest way in the world to put in Jason’s computer great head coaching experience,” Jones said. “That’s very exciting ... for the future. To me, that’s a big deal for the future.”