Sunday night's game against the Falcons in Atlanta will be Jason Garrett's 32nd as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. That equates, as you all could surely figure out, to two full seasons. And unless the Cowboys win the game -- unless Garrett has a way to beat this season's lone remaining undefeated team in a building in which that team has lost a grand total of seven games in the last five seasons -- Garrett's record as head coach will stand at an even 16-16. Considering he won 12 of his first 19, that doesn't look much like progress, does it?
Todd Archer certainly doesn't think so. In this piece for ESPNDallas.com, Todd writes that Garrett's messages about preparedness and ball security do not appear to be resonating with this group of Cowboys:
It was 11 months ago when the Cowboys beat the Miami Dolphins, 20-19, on Thanksgiving to improve to 7-4 with their playoff fate in their control. The Cowboys had a one-game lead in the NFC East with five to play. Since, the Cowboys are 4-8 and look nothing like a team ready to make a playoff run with a 3-4 record this season heading to undefeated Atlanta on Sunday. If the trend continues -- one that could put Garrett's job in doubt with those with the last name Jones and not just fans and media -- then turnovers and readiness will be the main reasons why it didn't work out.
Garrett likes to say when he talks to the team, it's like a pastor delivering the same sermon 52 different ways a year. He is still searching for the right sermon because what he has delivered has not worked.
The key part of what Todd writes is the question of when and whether Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decides that Garrett's not the right coach for his team. Jones has been extremely supportive of Garrett, says he believes he'll be a great NFL head coach and certainly wants to be right about that. Personally, I don't think Jones is blowing smoke, and I expect him to remain supportive of Garrett in the absence of a complete Cowboys meltdown (unlikely, given the way the schedule looks after Sunday) or the sudden appearance of an exciting alternative in the free-agent coaching ranks (Andy Reid, perhaps?). Jones talks a lot about the importance of continuity in those leadership positions and does not like his reputation as a knee-jerk changer of coaches. I think he'll stick with Garrett too long rather than take a chance on firing him too soon.
But you do start to wonder if he's kidding himself. A loss Sunday would make Garrett 4-9 in his last 13 games, including a late-season collapse that cost him a division title, and for the first time he would not have a winning career record as a head coach. It would make the second half of the season a vital time for Garrett to push that trend back in the positive direction in which it appeared to be heading less than one year ago. I don't think Garrett's in trouble this season or at the end of it, because I think Jones is going to be stubborn enough in his conviction about the guy that he'll stick with him. But if Garrett really does think he can be a long-timer in this job, the way his team (specifically his offense) performs this November and December offer him a chance to push back a decision that his boss doesn't want to make.