As rumors and reports go, you have to give everything credence when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones in the midst of a losing streak.
And so when talk surfaced last week that there were people inside the organization trying to lobby Jones to move on from Jason Garrett even though the owner was publicly backing his coach it made some sense.
And when I asked Jones following Sunday’s 37-10 season-saving blow out victory against the Philadelphia Eagles about the players seemingly always having Garrett’s back and supporting him, my ears perked up when Jones appeared to give legitimacy to the rumor in his answer.
“Exactly. Rest assured, that’s my top box to check,” Jones said. “Right there. It really is. He’s been able to do that. He gets a lot of exposure with players, a lot of exposure in many ways of team’s activity, team’s work as well as off the field. So he gets a lot of exposure. He’s really got a wide surface of people taking shots at him at the team level. And so when you see him pass those kinds of tests year after year, that’ll give you some good feeling about your coach.”
So when you say the team level, do you mean inside the organization?
“Any place. Any place,” Jones said. “But head coach, right there beside him the offensive coordinator, the play caller, they’re going to get a lot of shots from time to time because we all know it doesn’t go right at all (all the time) so get ready. But I’ve seen him and I’ve seen him handle it, but I’ve not seen a concern, and I’ve experienced it to where players, key players, have an issue with the coach. I haven’t seen that with Garrett.”
The last line was reminder of 2010 when Jones made the only mid-season coaching change of his career, firing Wade Phillips after getting blown out 45-7 by the Green Bay Packers to put the capper on a 1-7 start.
Jones expressed similar support for Phillips but ultimately moved on because the players quit on him and key players had an issue with him.
Or he could have been talking about 1999 when he fired Chan Gailey after have taking the team to the playoffs in his only two years as coach because key players like quarterback Troy Aikman and Garrett didn’t like his style or scheme.
Certainly, none of that has ever been an issue with Garrett, who is often derided by fans for his clapping, redundancy and professorial approach but has always gotten support from the players in the locker room. They may not always play with fire but they fight for Garrett and they never quit on him.
That was proved again Sunday night with Garrett on the verge of facing the proverbial guillotine if the Cowboys didn’t bow up against the Eagles and coach Doug Pederson’s disrespectful guarantee. And they did bow up with their most complete performance of the season which ended a three-game losing streak and secured sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
Jones never wavered in his support for Garrett leading up to the game. But if the Cowboys would have lost, extending their streak to four games, going into next week’s bye, surely someone would have gotten into his head that the only way to salvage the season was to move on from Garrett.
It’s a situation Jones fostered by not giving him a contract extension and forcing Garrett to come into his ninth season as Cowboys coach firmly on the hot seat and having to prove his worth again.
So I walk Jones to elevator after the game and again, I ask, “Was there anyone in organization trying to sway you to move on from Garrett?
“No. No. No,” Jones said. “I’m not pushing back. No one, including me.”
Huh, you trying not to sway yourself?
Jones understands the wheels he put in motion regarding Garrett and the contract extension.
And while he supports Garrett, he is not about to change the plan.
“Do you need my health examination as well? Or my health record?,” Jones said when asked why not extend Garrett now if he loves him so much. “I’m not going to talk about that, and you know I’m not. Really, I’m not.”
But what’s also true more than ever is that no one wants Garrett to succeed more than Jones.
He will do what he has to do at the end of the season if Garrett doesn’t get the Cowboys in the playoffs and possibly take a giant step toward the Super Bowl, if not play in the ultimate game for the first time since 1995.
That was the mandate Jones laid down before the season.
Garrett has three division titles on his resume but just two playoff wins.
But it’s clear that Jones doesn’t want to move on from Garrett if he doesn’t have to.
“I am looking for reasons. I’m looking for reasons to keep him,” Jones said. “It’s merited here. It’s hard to get an effective coach and get it locked in with all you have to do retool and redo. I’m comfortable. We have established some security apart from the won-loss. He represents the organization well on and off the field. You don’t have to wake up in the morning reading about it.”
And Jones has read about former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer already expressing interest in the Cowboys job. He refused to comment on it
So while Garrett is taking shots from the team level, even though no one is lobbying Jones against him, the owner is trying to find a reason to keep him and not upset the apple cart in what is a comfortable and secure situation for coach and owner.
But the charge is to win and Jones will do what he has to in the end.
The line is already forming.