Let owner Jerry Jones say it: coach Jason Garrett doesn’t have to make the playoffs in 2014 to keep his job.
“I don’t think so,” Jones said at the NFL owners meetings. “I don’t look at it that way at all. It’s no secret that we probably are shoulder to shoulder on the success we’d like for this team to have with him as head coach and what it would do for our fans’ future, our future.
“He’s more capable today than he was when he took over as head coach. If that arrow is going up, it just makes sense to have our future with Jason.”
The devil is in the details of that last statement about the arrow going up.
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The facts are that Garrett is in the last year of his contract and is coming off three consecutive 8-8 finishes and a 29-27 overall record as Cowboys coach.
The Cowboys have missed the playoffs the past four years, and a fifth year out of the postseason would be the longest streak since 1986-90.
If the Cowboys are left wanting again, there is no way that even a spin doctor such as Jones can sell Garrett as the arrow going up.
While Garrett says he and Jones haven’t talked much about his future, he understands what’s at stake.
“We really haven’t talked about that at all,” Garrett said Wednesday at the NFC breakfast during the owners meetings. “Again, my focus is on coaching to the best of my ability each and every day and to try to help the Dallas Cowboys become a better football team.
“We’ve played in the Week 17 game to win the division the last three years. We put ourselves in the position to achieve our immediate goal, which is to win the NFC East. Hopefully that takes us on a path to be a Super Bowl champion. We feel like we have the guys to do it.”
Garrett will begin a critical 2014 campaign with a new coaching emphasis and a team in transition.
Garrett, a former quarterback and former offensive play-caller with the Cowboys, will continue his involvement as a complete head coach by focusing his attention on defense this season.
The hiring of former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to call plays along with offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan and the dire state of the league’s worst defense in 2013 prompted the change.
“I have a lot of confidence in Scott Linehan, a lot of confidence in Bill Callahan and the whole offensive staff to do things the way we want to do them,” Garrett said. “I will spend a lot of time with the defensive guys. We have to do a better job in that area. So that is an area I have to give my attention to, give my focus to throughout the off-season and as we go forward in OTAs, minicamp and camp and during the season.”
The defense will be decidedly younger in 2014, which is part of the reason the Cowboys cut former Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Ware and let Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jason Hatcher walk in free agency. Finances played a role, but so did the team’s desire to get younger.
“You always want to infuse your team with young talent,” Garrett said. “You’re always trying to build your team for now and for going forward. You don’t want to build your team with guys based on what they’ve done in the past.
“That’s not a commentary on anyone we’ve let go. We had to make an organizational decision in a salary cap era, given our salary cap circumstances.”
The question left unanswered is if it will all be best for Garrett’s hopes of keeping his job past 2014.