PHILADELPHIA -- Standing next to an ambulance outside the Dallas Cowboys' locker room patiently awaiting a final television interview, Jason Garrett took pictures, signed autographs and shook hands. Even with those purporting to be Philadelphia Eagles fans.
One man, who said he has been a Cowboys fan for 47 years, had Garrett sign his ticket to the game and offered up praise for what the interim head coach had done over the second half of the season.
"I really hope you get the job," he said before walking away.
Garrett smiled and said thank you.
Jerry Jones has an easy decision to make: strip away the interim tag and name Garrett the full-time coach. And do it fast.
Follow the NFL's policy regarding the Rooney Rule and interview wide receivers coach Ray Sherman. Talk to another minority candidate if you want, as well. If there's another coach you'd like to talk to then fly him to town, too.
But be up front: This is Garrett's job to lose.
Maybe Garrett could lose it if somebody does what Mike Tomlin did in Pittsburgh after Bill Cowher walked away, turning ownership gaga in the interview process.
Jones said the decision could be made by the end of the week.
"I just want to move on so we can have the coaching decision out of the way, so we can move on and do what we all need to do," Jones said. "We've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of personnel decisions to make, and the quicker that I can get this head-coaching decision resolved, the earlier that I can get on it."
There's another reason to name Garrett the coach quickly: Jones could lose him. Other teams saw how this moribund team played over the final eight games. Do you think Carolina, San Francisco or Denver or any of the other teams that could be in the market for a coach won't take a look at Garrett?
The Cowboys went 5-3 under Garrett. Their three losses came by 3 points, 3 points and 1 point, and they could have beaten New Orleans (think of Roy Williams' fumble), Philadelphia (91-yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson) and Arizona (David Buehler's missed extra point).
Sunday's 14-13 win against the Eagles should have cemented Garrett's spot, even if Philadelphia was playing its B team. The Cowboys had less to play for than the Eagles and stuck around long enough for Stephen McGee, the No. 3 quarterback, to hit Jason Witten for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 55 seconds to play.
This time Buehler made the extra point.
This team that was lifeless after the 45-7 thrashing at Green Bay on Nov. 7 turned into a respectable club, and that is a reflection on Garrett.
"There are some different responsibilities you have as a head coach and you try to do things as well as you can do them and use your experiences and instincts, and you can only be yourself and do things based on the convictions I have," Garrett said. "That's what I did the last couple of months."
When Garrett first addressed the players after taking over for Wade Phillips, he relayed a fable about a man hanging off a cliff while lions lurked above and snakes below. To the man's right was a patch of strawberries. The man devoured the strawberries, living in the moment.
"Be great today" became his calling card.
"It was a difficult position to come into when it's like that and try to change certain things you want changed, it's not always easy," quarterback Tony Romo said. "But I think the team handled it well, and I thought Jason did a great job. He does great job in front of the team getting his message across, and I think the guys responded to a lot of that."
"I would love to see him stay," cornerback Mike Jenkins said. "He's a good guy, good character. He's not all about football all the time. He's about life but he's a great coach. He always puts guys in good situations."
It sounds like Jones wants him to be the guy, too. When asked if the new coach would have say over the coaching staff, Jones said, "The answer is -- when you say decision power -- that is certainly something that Jason needs to have input in."
Maybe it was a slip of the tongue. Maybe it wasn't.