Mac Engel

December 28, 2013

Changing Jason Garrett won’t fix what haunts Cowboys

Jerry Jones can fire his coach, but by now he knows one more change won’t affect the results.

Jerry Jones does not need to see the final score of Sunday night’s game to decide whether Jason Garrett should return as his head coach.

By now, after three years, he has a pretty good idea of Garrett’s process, that he’s just trying to get better each and every day, and that it’s an honor to be a coach in the National Football League.

By now we have a pretty good idea that if Garrett stays or leaves, it won’t much matter.

Change stadiums, change coaches, change offensive coordinators, change defensive coordinators, change defensive schemes, change the play-callers and here we sit — continually seduced not by the allure of success but the security of remaining relevant.

In today’s culture, pretending to be good can pay the bills just as effectively as actually being good.

Since Jerry will not be relinquishing control any time soon, firing Garrett would be pointless. He’s not Jimmy, but he’s not Campo or Barry. Let Coach Process stay.

Chances are good, with the starting quarterback having just had back surgery for the second time in eight months, Garrett is coming back.

If the Cowboys lose Sunday night, Coach Garrett’s crowning achievement will be the statistical anomaly of three consecutive 8-8 seasons — not even Vince Lombardi did that. That has happened only two other times in the history of the National Football League. So he has that going for him, which is nice.

To can Garrett ignores the gray-haired, Arkansas-accented elephant in the room.

Going back to 2009, the Cowboys have drafted 41 players. Depending on your definition of success, 11 of those draftees are worth a bleep.

Bill Parcells used to say player acquisition was a 50-50 proposition. The Cowboys are batting .268 in their last five drafts. If you want to round up and say .275, go ahead.

Tackle Tyron Smith, receiver Dez Bryant, running back DeMarco Murray and returner Dwayne Harris have been the best. Travis Frederick looks like a keeper, as does Terrance Williams.

Sean Lee can’t stay healthy and Morris Claiborne is dangerously close to being “Just a Guy.”

This is not a coaching issue; these draftees are coming in, being cut and staying at home. No one else is signing these guys.

As long as the Cowboys continually bat .275 at the draft plate, 8-8 with a shot at the playoffs is just about right.

(While we’re at it — the Cowboys gave a 33-year-old QB coming off back surgery the second-most guaranteed money in NFL history. And Tony Romo just had his second back surgery. Bad backs never get right; they just get less wrong.)

In the ’70s and ’90s, the Cowboys defined success by Super Bowls, whether they got there or won. This era of the team will be defined by the postseason, whether they got there or won a game.

If the Cowboys lose Sunday night, this will be the fourth consecutive year of playoff-less football. The only other time since 1966 the team went this long without playoffs was 1986-90.

You may remember that as the time when Jerry bought the Cowboys.

“Jason Garrett is the right coach for this team,” Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher told me.

That’s intended as a compliment, but easily can be taken as an indictment if you choose.

There are as many reasons to fire Garrett as there are to keep him around.

The man is not without flaws — game management and play-calling come to mind.

The man is not without his strengths — he is professional, polite and he has never lost this team or his staff despite a few thousands reasons to do so.

This is a results business, and the results aren’t much.

But the Jerry Factor changes the way a Cowboys coach should be evaluated. Considering the Jerry Factor, Garrett’s been OK.

We just know after so many changes to so many areas, we have a good idea that changing the coach is not a guarantee to change the results.

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