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Jason Garrett must change attitude

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is as conservative as a blue blazer, gray slacks and black wing tips.

It's time for a change.

Garrett should try wearing Robert Graham shirt -- the more colorful the cuffs, the better --- and a pair of designer jeans from a consignment shop in the Bishop Arts district.

For Garrett to keep his job as coach of the Dallas Cowboys for more than one more season, he must leave his comfort zone and the conservative approach he's used with the Cowboys and be bold next season. Understand, this ain't about trick plays. Or going for it on fourth down. It's about a mindset that shows his team winning is all that matters.

Garrett must have the self-confidence and courage to make a bold move when the opportunity presents itself. That's the only way Garrett can remove this once-proud franchise from the muck of mediocrity. Garrett can look to each Super Bowl team for example.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh benched Alex Smith, then the NFL's top-rated passer, for Colin Kaepernick, who had never started an NFL game. At the time, San Francisco was 6-2. But Harbaugh knew Kaepernick could take his team and his offense to heights Smith could never achieve, so he benched Smith.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron after a 9-4 start because he recognized the team's stagnant offense wasn't working even though the team was winning. Then he promoted Jim Caldwell, who had never called plays in the NFL. Caldwell's aggressive and creative play-calling is among the reasons the Ravens beat San Francisco to win their second NFL title.

The Garrett we know would never, ever make either of those moves.

Think about it, when is the last time Garrett made a bold move with his lineup? Or coaching staff?

You can't.

In 2009, Miles Austin didn't play until a rib injury knocked out Roy Williams for a couple of weeks. Yes, Wade Phillips was the coach, but Garrett had complete control of the offense. Why in the world was Sean Lee backing up aging inside linebackers Keith Brooking and Bradie James on a team that quit on Phillips and wound up 6-10 in 2010 ?

A year later, DeMarco Murray had a tiny role in the offense until Felix Jones was hurt, and Murray responded by setting a single-game record 253 yards against St. Louis and taking Jones' job.

This season, Dwayne Harris didn't return punts until Dez Bryant kept screwing up and Garrett finally benched him after he lost a fumble against the New York Giants. Harris wound up tied for the lead league with seven punt returns of more than 20 yards. And then there's Jermey Parnell, who alternated series with Doug Free at right tackle the last month of the season. The only reason Parnell played is because he acquitted himself well when Tyron Smith was hurt in the first quarter against Washington.

The trend is alarming.

As much as Garrett trumpets the importance of practice and competition within the roster, surely Garrett must notice these guys making plays in practice. So why isn't he giving them an opportunity to help him in games?

It's a question Garrett and Jerry must answer before next season begins.

Just so you know, this goes beyond the Harbaughs.

Remember, third-round draft choice Russell Wilson was supposed to be a backup because the Seahawks gave Matt Flynn a three-year, $19.5 million deal. Well, Wilson won the job in training camp, so Flynn spent the season on the sideline wearing a baseball cap.

And if Garrett wants an example of boldness closer to home, all he has to do is have a chat with Tony Romo.

In 2006, Bill Parcells benched proven starter Drew Bledsoe and inserted Romo, a third-year undrafted free agent, into the lineup at halftime of a loss to the New York Giants in Week 6. Romo led the Cowboys into the playoffs, and the next season he guided the Cowboys to a 13-3 record and the top seed in the NFC, which remains the apex of his career.

The 2013 season will inevitably provide Garrett with an opportunity to make a bold move that impacts the Cowboys' season. When it occurs, Garrett must take it.