Mac Engel

Cowboys’ best option is to stay with Garrett and The Process

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett looks over at team owner Jerry Jones, right, as he addresses the media during the "state of the team" press conference at the start of Dallas Cowboys' NFL football training camp, Friday, in Oxnard, Calif. Garrett is 45-43 in his career as coach of the Cowboys.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett looks over at team owner Jerry Jones, right, as he addresses the media during the "state of the team" press conference at the start of Dallas Cowboys' NFL football training camp, Friday, in Oxnard, Calif. Garrett is 45-43 in his career as coach of the Cowboys. AP

This approval has the distinct echo of a Ted Cruz endorsement to “vote your conscience,” but Jason Garrett is the best option to be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

Who else is there who can do any better, given the circumstances of this particular job? After all, Chan Gailey ain’t walking through that door, but Dave Campo might.

In his endless quest for his own Tom Landry or Bill Belichick, Jerry Jones found neither, but instead discovered a poor man’s Marvin Lewis.

It is straight out of an episode of Stranger Things that for a man who thinks so big and for whom Super Bowl-or-bust is a mantra, Jerry has embraced the type of mediocrity that Jason Garrett has produced — one winning record in five full seasons.

And yet, Garrett’s run is tied for the seventh-longest tenure among active NFL head coaches. Every other coach but two among that Elite Eight has won a Super Bowl. The only two who have not are Lewis of the Bengals and our own Coach Process.

Lewis, who has been running the Bengals since 2003, has zero playoff wins in seven tries.

At least Garrett has Lewis beat there; he has one playoff win since taking over as the full-time head coach in 2011. But that playoff win should come with an asterisk — it was against the Detroit Lions.

With a blah 45-43 career record, firing Garrett would be justifiable in the NFL. He has not been a failure of a head coach, but he has not blossomed into the Landry/Belichick/Mike Tomlin/John Harbaugh that Jerry envisioned when he first hired him to be the offensive coordinator in 2007.

That being said, and it stings the fingers to type, J-Geezy remains the ideal Cowboys head coach. And with Garrett having four years remaining on the five-year, $30 million deal he signed in January 2015, Jerry is not going to flush him anytime soon.

Since replacing Wade Phillips with the interim tag, Garrett has consistently motivated his team to play hard and not once has he lost them.

“He’s smart ... and he understands the intricacies of locker room relationships as well as anybody,” one veteran Cowboys player said.

Garrett has never lost his team despite a locker room that fully realizes the GM routinely undercuts his preferences, and forces things on him.

He never wanted to hire Monte Kiffin as his defensive coordinator, and the addition of Greg Hardy was not on his wish list, either. If Garrett had the type of control of a roster enjoyed by most coaches, suspended linebacker Rolando McClain would not be on this team. The transfer of play-calling responsibilities was butchered from Day One, too.

That is not a defense of Garrett’s ish record, as these details come with the title of “Cowboys head coach.” Not a single one — Jimmy, Barry, Chan, Campo, Bill or Wade — didn’t have to eat something they didn’t want in return for the job, or the money.

And there is no way to defend his 4-12 record last season. No team should be 4-12 in the NFL’s 8-8 league.

Garrett sounds like a hypocrite and he suffers from the Smartest Man in the Room Complex, but he has done as well as a head coach could given what he has been handed.

It is hard to champion or celebrate a 45-43 record with one winning season, but given the circumstances, what other head coach was going to do much better?

Much like the challenges that Rick Carlisle deals with as the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, namely Mount Cuban, Garrett has a daily slalom course that is provided by Jerry Jones. That has to be worth at least 10 losses on a man’s record.

Garrett also has a slew of screw-ups on his head, too, be it questionable play-calling and clock management to his embarrassing handling of Hardy’s selfishly destructive behavior last season.

In the first three full years of Garrett’s tenure — 2011 to ’13 — he had the team in position to make the playoffs in the final game of the regular season.

In case you do not remember, this is how those three season finales finished:

In ’11, the team was popped in New York by a Giants team that would win the Super Bowl.

In ’12, the Cowboys’ defense was beset with injuries, but had a chance to tie the Redskins late in the game until Tony Romo was intercepted.

In ’13, the Cowboys did not have Romo, who had been injured the week before. Backup quarterback Kyle Orton had the team in position to take the lead late, but he was intercepted.

Had the Cowboys won one of those three games, Garrett has two playoff appearances and two NFC East titles to his credit; it changes how he is viewed.

Ultimately, the problem is even if the Cowboys do win one of those aforementioned games, Jason Garrett is still much closer to being Marvin Lewis than any of the Super Bowl-winning coaches his boss so desperately wants.

It could be better, it could be worse, but considering the realities of the job, the best thing is to stay with The Process.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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