Gil LeBreton

Dallas Cowboys owner shouldn’t give Jason Garrett free pass after going 4-9

Jason Garrett might face Jerry Jones AND Darth Vader to keep his job after this nightmarish season.
Jason Garrett might face Jerry Jones AND Darth Vader to keep his job after this nightmarish season. AP

My favorite Jason Garrett story actually involves his dad.

Jim Garrett, now 85 years young, was a scout for the Dallas Cowboys for 17 years. But before that he was a coach — sometimes a college head coach — for more than 25 seasons.

The elder Garrett was an assistant in 1977 on Hank Stram’s Saints staff at New Orleans.

The Saints trained in those days at the storied Dodgertown complex in Vero Beach, Fla., where entertainment options, shall we say, were limited. There was no Bourbon Street in Vero Beach.

One night the beat writers and assistant PR guy, the great Greg Suit, were driving back to the complex when we noticed two sets of startlingly white legs, draped in plaid Bermuda shorts, walking on the side of the two-lane beach road.

It was Garrett and fellow assistant coach Sam Rutigliano. They had been at a movie. We pulled over and squeezed them into our rental car.

“How was the movie?” someone asked.

“Terrible,” Rutigliano said.

“Awful,” Garrett concurred. “Totally unrealistic.”

The movie they had seen?

Star Wars. The original.

The world is, indeed, a flat circle, just as Matthew McConaughey said. A new Star Wars hits the movie screens today, and the Garrett family is still coming to grips with the reality.

In this case, the realities of a 4-9 season and, quite likely, no playoffs. As head coach of the Cowboys, Jason Garrett should be aghast at the ledger of his team in the absence of Tony Romo.

True, injury excuses abound. But the seven-game losing streak and the glaring fallibility of the NFC East only serve to underscore the team’s disappointing performance.

Somebody will lose their job over this. Owner Jones has hinted as much.

Offensive line assistant Frank Pollack seemingly is being set up to be one of the fall guys. But is Garrett himself really safe? And if so, why?

In a story on these pages Thursday, colleague Clarence Hill deftly laid out the bleak statistical realities of the Cowboys’ “struggling, punchless offense” —31st in the league in touchdowns.

As an NFL writer from elsewhere in the NFC East asked me last weekend, how did this happen?

“I thought Garrett’s thing was supposed to be offense,” the writer said.

Me, too. That was why Jerry Jones thrust him upon Wade Phillips as a high-paid assistant in 2007. That was why Jones found it easy to promote him when Wade started the 2010 season 1-7.

Four years later, however, Owner Jones saw fit to hire Scott Linehan to call the plays as offensive coordinator, freeing Garrett to work on his sideline head coaching demeanor.

And how has all that worked out?

In Garrett’s defense, the Cowboys have played hard throughout this 2015 debacle, which probably isn’t easy when your predicted contender is laying a 4-9 egg.

But all mea culpas from Jones to the contrary, it would be uncharacteristic of Jerry to let the blame fall upon him. This, remember, is the owner who was so stubborn, he hired Barry Switzer.

In New Orleans these days, there are whispered suggestions that head coach Sean Payton would be accommodated if he wants out. Payton has denied any such plans.

But if, at age 73, Owner Jones wants a quick fix, who should he trust in, a Super Bowl-winning coach, or the one who couldn’t win the worst division in football?

The buyout on Garrett’s remaining contract would likely be hefty. But when a Super Bowl and a 73-year-old owner are concerned, it’s only money.

In the end, every head coach — except for one — that Owner Jones has ever dismissed was fired for not winning enough.

That should be the reality of Jason Garrett’s situation as well.

May the Force be with you, coach. You might need it.

Gil LeBreton: 817-390-7697, glebreton@, @gilebreton

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