Jason Garrett’s Methods Makes It Easy For Jerry Jones To Sign-Off On Change At QB
In football’s greatest and grandest desert, a source of wisdom has been found. Even at 2-3, even with radio waves and newsprint being filled with the gloom and doom of a three-game slide, brilliance was exhibited by the only intuitive brain remaining at Valley Ranch. The red-headed, tight-lipped head coach of the Dallas Cowboys worked a miracle this week, the only miracle, mind you, that could save this season from being rendered hopeless before Halloween.
The simple minded would view Jason Garrett’s debate over whether to make a move at the quarterback position as one of utmost simplicity. Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel? But, as we’ve all learned through the years, the simple things become confusingly complex when Jerry’s got a horse in the race.
Without Garrett’s foresightedness, the Cowboys could have tripped over Jerry’s ever-changing obstacle course and fallen out of the NFC playoff picture with Brandon Weeden entrenched at quarterback. But with his ability to convey general, big-picture principles to the team owner, the Cowboys were able to officially move on yesterday from a failed experiment, and begin a new era. The Matt Cassel era.
Garrett refrained from making the move all about the individual, and instead focused on the needs of the team. That was important to Jerry, who wanted Weeden to succeed more than anyone else since…well, since the last specimen from his quarterbacking test tube.
Jerry’s fascination with one-time baseball players who then made the switch to NFL quarterback is well documented, as is his tendency to over-state their abilities. He believed in Quincy Carter so much that he made him the opening day starter, rather than six-year veteran Tony Banks. A year later, he cleared the way for another rookie, Chad Hutchinson, to be starting by mid-season.
The Cowboys’ owner even voiced his displeasure to the media when Bill Parcells benched Drew Henson after only two quarters of his first NFL start on Thanksgiving Day in 2004. And on draft day in 2009, he infamously compared Stephen McGee to Tony Romo.
Weeden’s case proved to be no different, Jones telling the world a few weeks back that Weeden threw the prettiest ball he’d ever seen. Jones then had to backtrack when Jimmy Johnson reminded him that one of his former quarterbacks did have the last name of Aikman.
The two-sport athlete appeals to Jones’ gambling tendencies, and his love for the underdog story. Jones himself was once an NFL runt when he first purchased the Cowboys from Bum Bright in 1989. Now a billionaire multiple times over, Jones is a dedicated promoter of the underdog because he, like the expert wildcatter that he once was, loves to call his own shot-in-the-dark. To be a prophet at football’s highest level, as opposed to the in-the-shadows visionary that a typical NFL GM so often is, brings Jerry the greatest satisfaction. It makes him feel relevant in the eyes of fans and media-types, which is all he’s ever really wanted throughout his long-standing football life.
It eats at him that so many fans believe Jimmy Johnson to be primarily responsible for constructing those Cowboy teams that won three Super Bowl championships in four years during the 1990’s. It also bothers him that he didn’t have a hand in signing Tony Romo as a rookie free-agent in 2003.
But what Jones could not stand is having this season slip and slide down the drain. That’s what he sees happening now, with the Cowboys sitting at 2-3, headed for the bottom of the division at breakneck speed.
But what Jones and all of America are experiencing now, Garrett prepared himself for more than three weeks ago. That’s when he pulled a page out of his past to make a move designed to stabilize what he knew could very quickly become an unstable position at quarterback.
In 1993, Garrett was on the sidelines at Texas Stadium for an early November tilt with the Giants when Troy Aikman fell to the turf while scrambling. The diagnosis was a hamstring injury that would sideline the Dallas starter for two weeks. Since Garrett, a standout in the Canadian and World Football Leagues, was the only remaining quarterback on the roster, he was slotted to start in Aikman’s absence.
Aikman said that day during the postgame press conference that the team would rally behind Garrett. But head coach Jimmy Johnson wasn’t so sure. Above all, Johnson didn’t want Garrett’s young confidence to be destroyed like Derrick Lassic’s was while filling in for Emmitt Smith early in the season.
Teammates blamed Lassic more than anyone else for the team’s 0-2 start to the season. And Johnson wanted to avoid more doubt and friction to permeate the locker room in midst of what he believed was going to be a sprint for the NFC East crown.
So when the Browns released Bernie Kosar on the following Monday, Johnson immediately contacted his agent and came to terms. Kosar, a nine-year veteran who had won more than 50 games and played in multiple high-stakes playoff games, had instant credibility in the locker room.
Garrett started the next game against Arizona, but when he completed just 2-of-6 passes to start, Johnson immediately replaced him with Kosar. The Cowboys won that day, by a 20-15 final. Kosar was the hero, Garrett was the good teammate, and everybody in the locker room was thrilled with their seventh straight victory of the season.
For Garrett, this can’t miss lesson about the importance of corporate confidence remained fresh in his mind.
In trying to cover all of his bases the day after Romo went down in Philadelphia, Garrett couldn’t find an available quarterback with the reputation of a Kosar. But what he did find was a former Pro Bowler, who was a disciple of Bill Belichick, and a veteran of three different offensive systems.
Garrett alone couldn’t convince Jones that Matt Cassel was the right man for the job. He had to let circumstances, and Weeden’s ineffectiveness take care of that.
Another day has passed at Valley Ranch. The fact the Cowboys are now one step closer to beating the Giants than they were yesterday is a credit to their head coach, who somehow, someway, manages to stay one step ahead of the fastest-walking, smoothest-talking hillbilly that ever envisioned himself a football big-shot.