Jason Garrett may yet be canned, but to his credit and that of his players no one on his watch has raised the white flag on Captain Jerry’s yacht, the S.S. Interesting.
Nearing the conclusion of his third full season as Cowboys head coach, we know what this team does well under Garrett: Try hard, stay with it, and be relevant.
Sunday’s entertaining (good show, Jerry) 24-23 win against the Redskins gives the Cowboys yet another win-and-they’re-in season finale. Unlike the previous two years, Garrett was always going to return regardless of outcome in those games in 2011 and 2012.
Despite reports from ESPN’s Ed Werder that this whole staff assumes it will be fired if the Cowboys don’t win the NFC East on Sunday night, or the ranting from Fox’s NFL analyst Terry Bradshaw that Garrett is a yes man, the reality is no one knows.
We don’t know because Jerry doesn’t know. He plans on winning; there are no contingencies based on losing. Not such a bad way to approach life.
“I haven’t taken a breath since July not thinking that I can still walk out in the Super Bowl,” Jerry said.
Whatever you think of the Cowboys, or Garrett as a head coach, this is a hard team to kill, and a hard coach to fire.
Sunday was another piece of evidence of both.
Play smart? Not always.
Play well? Sometimes.
Play hard? Other than that dog against the Saints earlier this year, nearly 100 percent.
This creates a serious problem for Jerry. It is hard to fire a coach when the players have not quit on him, but a bit easier when the results are not there.
The irony is the reason Jerry hired Garrett in the first place was the perception that his intellect would make for a brilliant game manager/play caller. In reality, Garrett’s best attribute has been his ability to lead, inspire and motivate, which have compensated his sometimes disastrous play-calling and game management.
“I focus on doing my job as well as I can do it,” Garrett said. “The emphasis that’s been placed on players and coaches in this league for a long time is, ‘Do your job as well as you can do it each and every day.’ ”
Somewhere in there is an even greater emphasis was placed on ‘Win.’
Only a few hours after Bradshaw ranted on air that Garrett, “Is no head coach [who] never should have been hired in the first place; he’s a yes man for Jerry Jones” the team rallied for its most inspired performance in his tenure.
(C’mon, Terry. Dave Campo, that was a yes man.)
Similar emotional highs and lows this team has endured on Garrett’s watch have killed other teams (the Giants this year), and coaches (Mike Shanahan comes to mind).
“I’m really proud for him,” Jerry said. “I thought he did an outstanding job of getting this team from the obvious, and that is having a tremendous disappointing loss against Green Bay. It was a killer, and it was something that was a real challenge for a coach to get them to come back and play well.”
Sunday was Garrett saying he is not going gently into any goodnight.
That was never more apparent than with the Cowboys down 23-14 with 9:07 remaining in the game. They faced a fourth-and-1 and lined up to go for it from the 35. The old Coach Process would have settled for the long field goal.
Even after Cowboys tackle Doug Free was called for a false start, the team went for it on fourth-and-6 and converted it for a season-saving, career-extending first down.
Even after Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray comically took a 9-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 1 to fourth-and-the-season, there was faith.
If we are going to kill Garrett for his play-calling against the Packers, he deserves praise for his team keeping the faith against the Redskins.
“You have to have a stronger belief in yourself than the doubt of other people,” quarterback Tony Romo said.
The run/pass thing is maddening, the football IQ may range from perplexing to drunk to stupid, but the effort is usually there. His guys play, and at least verbally they get it.
“In the huddle, before the last drive, we said the season was on the line,” guard Ron Leary said. “We were not ready to hang the season up. We looked at each other and said, ‘It’s on us.’ ”
Now, if we can disregard Sunday’s win was against a team that has not won since Nov. 3, is on their backup quarterback, and now has the second-worst record in the NFL, pop the cork.
It is the 17thweek of the NFL season, and the Cowboys can win the NFC East and host an NFC playoff game.
Jerry’s planning on both, and for Jason Garrett to remain his head coach.
As to the contingencies, we are all merely guessing.