Mac Engel

Firing Coach Process would be a premature move for Cowboys

For those with a short memory but a love of history, the reason Jerry Jones will not and should not consider firing Jason Garrett was served up right here at historic Lambeau Field.

Back in 2010, a Tony Romo-less Cowboys team quit on their head coach, Uncle Wade Phillips, on Sunday night football and lost by 38 points. The next day, Wade was fired and the Coach Process era began with a 5-3 finish.

On Sunday, a Romo-less Cowboys team played hard for their head coach and lost by 21 points in a game that was much closer than it should have been.

Despite hearing open criticism from his boss during the week, and now guaranteeing his first losing season as an NFL head coach, Garrett remains bulletproof for this season and likely the next.

Expect no major changes on this staff as they will all exercise the Matt Cassel Pass, which will be one of the only times that such a pass will be effective for this team this season.

What this season has also done is guarantee that Garrett’s red head will be on Santa Jerry’s Naughty List when next season begins. Jerry is a benevolent owner but he is not going to suffer this forever, even if it means dumping The Chosen One.

From looking weak in handling/ignoring the repeated Greg Hardy issue, which has quieted in recent weeks, to an inability to win a few more games with a backup QB while so many other teams have done just that, the Garrett résumé is back to being covered in spilled beer as it was at end of his run of three consecutive 8-8 seasons.

Garrett and his staff deserve criticism for this season’s 4-9 fiasco, but to fire him is unrealistic and unnecessary. Sunday after the game, however, felt like the first time since Jerry tabbed Jason as his own and hired him away from the Miami Dolphins in 2007 that the boss man was unhappy with his head coach.

The biggest difference in how we view Garrett today as opposed to his first season in 2010 — when he inherited Uncle Wade’s 1-7 mess — was that Garrett had Jon Kitna rather than the deadly inept combination of Brandon Weeden/Cassel. Kitna was a genuine NFL backup.

There is not that much any coach can do when your QB can’t make plays, which neither Cassel nor Weeden have provided.

Now in his sixth season as head coach of the Cowboys, his teams do the following — compete as hard as any other team in the league and also need a quarterback that can make a few throws. That sounds like most teams in the NFL.

Jerry should be mad, and for him to suggest disappointment the way he did with the staff is simple candor. No owner should be OK with a 4-9 record regardless of the circumstances.

“What we have been doing right now is not working,” defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said.


The defense is OK, but can’t force turnovers; the offense can sporadically run the ball, but can’t score touchdowns; the Cowboys have scored one or fewer touchdowns in five of the past seven games that Romo did not start.

A team’s effort is a direct reflection of its head coach, which remains Garrett’s greatest strength. Against Green Bay, despite Cassel’s inability to do anything other than look like the second coming of Brandon Weeden, it was a one-score game into the fourth quarter; truly a Christmas miracle.

“I still believe we can be powerful,” receiver Dez Bryant said after the game.

He did not give an ETA on that prediction.

Then there are facets to this team that are not flattering for Garrett. Look at the players that got paid in the off-season, and nearly all of them have stunk — some of that is on The Process.

Of varying degrees, Dez Bryant, Jeremy Mincey, Greg Hardy, Tyrone Crawford, Rolando McClain, Doug Free, Brandon Carr, Darren McFadden, Orlando Scandrick were given money, and the only one worth it has been McFadden, who came cheap and has not been an effective replacement for DeMarco Murray.

The Cowboys should have won two or three more games, but even had they won a few more and made the final few weeks of the regular season relevant, no team without its star starting quarterback is going to do a thing in the playoffs.

The moment Romo rebroke his clavicle against the Carolina Panthers on Thanksgiving, Garrett, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli were all guaranteed next year.

They were all likely guaranteed next season anyway because all three signed monster extensions in the previous off-season; Garrett signed a five-year, $30 million contract, and Linehan and Marinelli each signed three-year deals.

The Cowboys are effectively out of the playoffs, and for the first time since Garrett’s first season they are playing meaningless football in the month of December. They won’t quit because they respect their head coach. They just aren’t good enough.

It would be nice if he had a better quarterback to start. But he doesn’t, and that will ultimately be used to keep him off of Jerry’s Naughty List.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram