At least Jerry Jones is trying to hide the strings he attached to his head coach.
Jerry at least recognizes that the perception that he’s turned Jason Garrett into a puppet after two seasons with no playoff bids is a problem. Jerry cares enough to be aggressively defensive, insisting in an in-house interview posted on the team’s website that Garrett is the guy calling the shots when it comes to who calls the Cowboys’ offensive plays next season.
It’s transparent spin control – and remember Jerry’s favorite line: “Just because I say it doesn’t make it so” – but it’s at least a little tangible proof that Jerry’s power trip has some limits. And it shows some awareness that publicly stripping Garrett of any semblance of authority would be an awful thing for an owner/general manager to do.
Of course, this is probably too little, too late, much like many of Garrett’s halftime adjustments after his offense stumbled out of the gate.
Perhaps there is a kernel of truth to Jerry’s spin. It sounds as if Garrett gets to pick the Cowboys’ next play-caller, as long as it’s not him again, which essentially means he can prevent an interim coach candidate from being added to his staff.
But only a fool would believe that it was Garrett’s idea to give up play-calling. He made it clear the day after the Cowboys’ 8-8 season ended that he believed the “status quo” was in the Cowboys’ best interests. He suddenly became more open-minded on the subject a couple of days later, coincidentally after Jerry went on his radio show and strongly hinted that a change was coming after six disappointing years with Garrett calling plays.
You think Garrett’s good buddies and old teammates such as Troy Aikman and Daryl "Moose" Johnston would be critical of taking play-calling responsibilities away from ol’ Redball if this was all Garrett’s idea? C’mon, man.
Oh, we’re also supposed to believe that it was Garrett’s idea to run his brother John out of Valley Ranch, right?
Here’s all you need to know about Jerry’s confidence in Garrett: He insisted that Wade Phillips’ fingerprints be all over the defense after the Cowboys missed the playoffs in his second season as a head coach, but it’s the polar opposite with Garrett and the offense at this point. Jerry believed in Phillips’ X’s and O’s expertise. He hopes Garrett can do a better job as a “walk-around” head coach.
It’s hilarious to hear Jerry pump up the impact that Garrett can have without the burden of being the offensive play-caller. This coming from a man who has made condescending comments about “walk-around” head coaches for years, despite the fact that the three Lombardi Trophies he’s hoisted came with head coaches who didn’t call plays.
Gee whiz, good thing the Cowboys’ GM has such a strong, sensible plan in place.
The funny thing is, on paper, all the decisions Jerry has made with the coaching staff this offseason have been good ones. There’s no reason to doubt that Jerry, who has a lot of ego and dollars invested in Garrett, is just trying to help his head coach succeed.
Jerry has just gone about making the right decisions in the wrong way, removing a proud coach’s spine in the process.
You won’t find a bigger Rob Ryan fan than me, but there’s no denying that the Cowboys have hired not one, but two defensive coordinators with much more impressive credentials. You can question Monte Kiffin’s age and ability to adjust to the modern-day NFL, but he’s an NFL legend. New defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who did a tremendous job as the turnover-happy Chicago Bears’ defensive coordinator, is the most overqualified position coach in the NFL.
And Garrett should have given up play-calling a year ago, after he was exposed as overwhelmed by the dual roles of coordinating the offense and managing the clock. It makes no sense to have a continuation of mediocrity, which describes the Cowboys’ offense in the category that matters most (points scored).
But when Jerry promised an “uncomfortable” offseason, it made it clear who was making the decisions at Valley Ranch. That was emphasized when the buzz began about forcing Garrett’s brother out of town – as justified as that was due to the lack of development of the Cowboys’ younger tight ends.
The only realistic way to describe stripping Garrett of play-calling duties at this point is as a demotion. Garrett will enter the season on the NFL’s hottest seat, with a staff loaded with newcomers who just so happen to have strong ties to potential replacements Jon Gruden and Lovie Smith.
It does Jerry no good to have Garrett seen as a lame duck, but there’s nothing he can do about that now.
It takes much more than one staged interview to clean up the mess after cutting a coach’s legs out from under him.