Jerry Is Grinding His Ax Again, And This Time Jason Garrett Is The Target
Had you broached this subject back in September, I would have dismissed it as absurd. Or impossible. Or both.
Yet here we are in the middle of December and the impossibly absurd is on the verge of becoming the most stunning of realities. The Dallas Cowboys are 4-9, in playoff contention, with Jerry Jones greasing up his notorious coaching guillotine for a red-letter holiday season Cowboy fandom won’t soon forget. No, Jerry’s not interested in dressing up as Grumpy Santa for the kids right now. He, instead, is showing every indication of going coach-sniper on America yet again. That, of course, would mean the end of the Jason Garrett era in Dallas.
Heading into Saturday night’s showdown in Arlington with the New York Jets, the Cowboys, as a team and an organization, are at a cross-roads, while Garrett finds himself in Jerry’s cross-hairs. Dallas’ last two losses have been by an average of twenty points. That can’t sit well with Jerry, especially when considering the fact that both were nationally televised. Jerry hates to look bad in front of the entire world.
A win will keep Dallas’ slim playoff hopes alive, while serving to prevent Jones from flying off the handle. Anything less than that will likely mean the advent of Scary Jerry, the local football monster who leaves heads rolling with each appearance at Valley Ranch.
The pity party that Jerry was basking in after Tony Romo’s second collarbone injury on Thanksgiving has given way to a moroseness tinged with anger. Jerry, despite what he may say in front of cameras, can sense Romo’s career quickly drawing to a close. With that reality upon him comes the realization that his team’s window of opportunity for a Super Bowl is closing with it, leaving Jones miffed, angry, and secretly looking for a way out.
Following his team’s emotional Monday night victory in Washington, Jones sounded anything but celebratory, choosing to lament the team’s poor won-loss record, rather than rejoicing over their providential standing in the NFC East race. The fact that he also threw the coaching staff under the bus was perhaps the most alarming piece of news, saying that the Cowboys “won on will, not tactical mastery.”
Jones wasn’t through taking his digs there either. Said Jones: “I am stunned that we haven’t been able to win more games without Tony. And I would have thought that we could have coached it up enough, and put it together enough, that we would not have lost those games without Romo early. We would be in better shape right now.”
In times like these, the smart head coaches begin circling the wagons. But with Jerry as the omnipotent GM, it doesn’t matter. Jerry is a one-man cannon-ball, capable of the utmost destruction, sometimes by indirectly undermining the credibility of the coaching staff.
When the going gets rough, and expectations aren’t being met, Jerry will always side with his players, rather than his coaches. It’s his own unique way of defending the roster that he is responsible for assembling. Jerry, you see, knows no allegiance but to himself. That’s not a good characteristic for an NFL general manager to have.
After Sunday’s 21-point loss in Green Bay, Jones went out of his way to avoid any criticism of Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant, who posted more drops (3) than receptions (1). This was the same Dez, mind you, that dropped a key third-down pass against Tampa Bay that led to a loss earlier in the season. Jones found solace instead in alluding to a coaching problem that has undermined the abilities of the Cowboys’ star players.
“We’ve got a lot of work. I want you to know that there’s some things that we have to do better for us to have a healthy Romo and have an effective Dez Bryant,” Jones said. “There’s some things we’ve got to really address and do better as we look forward over these last few games and the future. We need to do them.”
Having disposed of the offensive woes, Jones started in on the defense, which is at the bottom of the NFL in takeaways. “It’s inexplicable that we do not have turnovers – or the percentage of turnovers that we have – for how hard we practice,” said Jones.
Don’t think that Garrett’s job is safe just because he has four years and $24 million remaining on his contract after this season. Remember, Jones fired Chan Gailey with three years remaining on his contract even after going to the playoffs in 1999.
Who else would Jones fire anyway? He’s already given Garrett new offensive and defensive coordinators, not to mention a new special teams coach, and kicking coach. It stands to reason that Garrett would fall under the ax of his own pet slogan. Garrett would be the “Next Man Up.”
And when has money ever been an issue with Jerry, especially when he perceives an unusual opportunity to be cast before him in the near future? Jones knows better than anyone that this off-season has the potential for a major shift in the head-coaching landscape. Sean Payton is rumored to be on the auction-block in New Orleans. The odds of Chuck Pagano being available in late January seem high as well.
Jerry couldn’t care less about Pagano’s status. But it would be foolish to think that he is less than a little interested in bringing Payton back to Dallas to coach the Cowboys.
We all know Jerry wanted Payton to replace Bill Parcells. And we all know he courted him on the sly during the 2012 season. If not for a rash of late-season heroics from Romo, and a last-minute commitment from owner Tom Benson, that would have become a reality.
Three years removed from that little behind-the-scenes drama, there is no Romo to save Garrett, and no strong-armed Drew Brees to keep Payton in the Bayou either.
Barring an unexpected three-game winning streak from the Cowboys (and even that may not be enough to prevent it), expect Jerry to be wheeling and dealing with the Benson’s while the NFL playoffs are rolling on. Such are the habits of Scary Jerry, who grinds his ax for a cause and a time perfect unto himself.