Unbeknown to our fair-haired redhead, Jason Garrett is entering Jerry Jones’ neighborhood as a man who can’t win even when his team does.
Should the Dallas Cowboys claim victory, it is because of Will McClay, Stephen Jones, Charlotte Jones, Zeke, Dak, Brad Sham, and Roger Staubach. Throw Tony Romo in if you’d like.
As much as he may want it, credit for Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Jerry Jones will never happen in this, or any, lifetime. The national pundits will not allow it.
Now this is the reality for the head coach, too.
And fair has no place in this discussion.
Garrett is coming off his first NFL Coach of the Year award, and yet there are still a lot of people in our great sports nation who believe the man is a clap-happy, cliche-spouting fraud. That he fell into the award, and when the Cowboys win it has nothing to do with his efforts, guidance, motivation or coaching.
This week, former NFL player and current NFL TV analyst Eric Davis ripped Coach Process on Fox Sports 1. He believes Garrett is a mediocre head coach; that he is the reason the Cowboys this season will ride down the NFL’s fun slide into its large cesspool of .500.
So I called Davis to ask him to further explain why he thinks JG is a JAC — Just a Coach. Davis put Garrett on the cutting board, and then dropped him in the fryer at 375.
“His track record shows he’s not a big-game coach,” Davis said. “You need a coach when things aren’t going perfectly. Last year, he had two guys come in that no one thought were going to do what they did. No one thought that was going to happen to Dak Prescott. No one thought Ezekiel Elliott would lead the league in rushing.
“Two years ago (2014), he got a career year from DeMarco Murray. That’s not Jason Garrett. He’s been carried by his talent.”
I don’t completely concur with Davis’ point line-by-line; coaches are usually only as good as their players. And Garrett has convinced the owner to buy in on several concepts, most notably the need to draft decent guys who want to be pros. It is not a coincidence that since Garrett was named head coach the team has had a distinct purpose in acquiring players.
But Davis makes several valid observations about Jerry’s Chosen One.
Of all the coaches in the NFL, Garrett is the most difficult to evaluate. In six full seasons, he’s had two winning records and one playoff win. Coaches with such records often are fired.
There are those three consecutive 8-8’s when the Cowboys entered the final game of each of those respective seasons needing a win to make the playoffs. And they didn’t.
JG also needs to acquit himself of his puppy-sized performance in the Cowboys’ playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers in January.
There is always some explanation as to why Garrett’s teams finish the way they do, good, bad or average. Explanations vary from horrid to marginally average defenses, catastrophic injuries, and the Jerry Factor. In the NFL, such reasons go by a different moniker — excuses.
“If I were a player at any position, and you say I played from six to eight years, and two of those years things went really well,” Davis said. “The other years, I was average to below average. Do you consider me a good player? This isn’t personal, but your record tells me you’re the other guy.
“He did what Jim Caldwell did with the Colts. When they lost Peyton Manning, they couldn’t win a game. Garrett lost Romo (in ’15), and he couldn’t find a way to coach his team into winning games. He couldn’t find a way to get it done.”
Davis also sliced up the notion of something that myself and many others have applauded Garrett for doing by always keeping his team engaged, motivated and playing hard at all times despite some often dire circumstances.
“In the NFL, I don’t need a coach to motivate them; motivation is the paycheck and a way to pay your mortgage and to stay in the league,” Davis said. “You don’t need a rah-rah speech.”
On this I disagree with Davis, only because of having witnessed the Wade Phillips era with the Cowboys. That was a talented group that the head coach simply could not reach, inspire, motivate or teach.
“The player is on the field, but what you need once or twice from your coach is the correct call. The head coach has to be three or four moves ahead on the chess board,” Davis said. “What you need from a coach and a staff is professional footwork, and the nuances of the game. The game is about technique and it’s mistake management. That’s what you need a head coach to do, and I just don’t think Jason Garrett is a big-time head coach.”
Sorry, Jason. Win the Super Bowl and that will shut ’em all up.
(Jerry, your next Super Bowl win is because of Stephen.)
Mac Engel: @macengelprof