Gil LeBreton

At last, Garrett’s Cowboys are within reach of playoffs

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has been instrumental in the team’s success.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has been instrumental in the team’s success. Star-Telegram

Playoffs. Playoffs?!

With Jim Mora’s old team, the Indianapolis Colts, as Sunday’s guests, a brief nod to the coach’s most famous postgame oratory seems only fitting.

Playoffs?

Yes, long-starved fans of the Dallas Cowboys. Playoffs!

With the free-falling Philadelphia Eagles’ defeat in Washington on Saturday, the Cowboys can clinch their first postseason berth in five years with a victory over the visiting Colts.

It would come after a summer training camp in which the starting quarterback practiced infrequently and the team didn’t win a single exhibition game.

It would come despite the absence of the Cowboys’ three best defensive players of a year ago — free agents DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher and injured Sean Lee.

And it would come after three consecutive seasons of finishing 8-8, a string of mediocrity that rightly called into question post-surgical quarterback Tony Romo’s prowess as well as the head coaching credentials of Jason Garrett.

Yep, playoffs! And here, after the sizable turkey egg that the Cowboys laid on Thanksgiving Day, people were wondering — like Mora at that 2001 news conference — if Garrett’s team was ever going to win another game.

What a ridiculous season this has been. The Cowboys can’t seem to lose away from their $1.2 billion home stadium. And Romo can’t seem to lose in December.

Three weeks ago we cynics in the media were wondering whether December would see Garrett’s final game. Win Sunday , and his team will be hosting a January playoff game.

Stephen Jones, son of the owner, has given his verbal assurance that Garrett’s job has not been even a casual subject matter at the Jones family dinner table. And well it shouldn’t.

If Garrett was going to be held accountable last year for, among several alleged football crimes, Lee’s injuries, Rob Ryan’s and Monte Kiffin’s defenses, Romo’s back pain, and Jerry Jones’ inability to put the genie back in the Super Bowl bottle, Garrett correspondingly should be praised for what the Cowboys have done since September.

The Cowboys have never before had a head coach like Garrett. Young and Ivy League-educated, the red-haired prodigy of a football family.

Tom Landry commanded a Mount Rushmore-type presence. Jimmy Johnson and his staff provided a transfusion of kinetic energy. Barry Switzer, miscast, hastened the dismantling of the dynasty.

The great Bill Parcells found the rebuilding job — and the owner? — harder than he had imagined. Wade Phillips was a master at defense, but lacked the necessary big stick to work with the elder Jones.

How Garrett has unshackled the Cowboys from their 8-8 treadmill is one of the NFL’s best 2014 stories.

A new contract? Is this a trick question?

A more valid question is how many votes is Garrett going to get for NFL coach of the year?

Finding the right people to work with is one of the understated, but vital, tasks of a football head coach. It may have been Jimmy Johnson’s greatest strength.

In Scott Linehan, Garrett has clearly found a coach to whom he can hand the play-calling keys. Romo’s maturity and Linehan’s comfortable vernacular have allowed Garrett to do what he seems to do best — overseeing things, neutralizing the media, and keeping the team’s mindset on a mostly steady keel.

The fruits of Garrett’s development, of Romo’s maturity and of Owner Jones’ willingness to trust his people can be realized Sunday.

Playoffs? Playoffs!

And to think: Four months ago, we were just wondering if the Cowboys, the busts of summer, could even win a game.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

  Comments