As anyone who has watched the Dallas Cowboys over the last nine years the word that frequently comes to mind is: frustration. Frustrated with the lack of consistency, frustrated with the lack of continuity, and ultimately frustrated with the lack of winning. The Dallas Cowboys are the most visible franchise in the NFL and arguably in all of sports. Yet for the last twenty-two years the Cowboys have been the NFL’s most mediocre franchise. It appears, finally, that Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones has had enough. Last week, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer, the Cowboys are unlikely to extend HC Jason Garrett’s contract this summer. Thus, for the first time in his nine year tenure with the Cowboys, Jason Garrett is finally on the hot seat entering a lame duck 2019 season. For Garrett, this news should not come as a surprise. Despite the fact that his team battled back from a 3-5 start to win the NFC East and win a playoff game, inconsistency has been the hallmark of his tenure with the Cowboys.
Brought in halfway during the 2010 season for the fired Wade Phillips, Garrett has amassed a 77-59 record with 3 divisional titles, but only 2 playoff wins. During the 2014 season, the Cowboys amassed one of its most talented teams in the Garrett era that went 12-4, saw a potential league MVP in Tony Romo and Dez Bryant led the league in touchdowns. but ended in frustration at the hands of Green Bay. Garrett was rewarded with a five year contract extension for $30 million as it appeared that the Cowboys were headed in the right direction. After a down year in 2015 going 4-12 due to injuries namely to Tony Romo, 2016 saw the Cowboys earn the number one seed with rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott as Tony Romo watched in what was his final season with the Cowboys. Ultimately that season ended again in yes optimism, but again in frustration in the divisional round against the Packers this time on their own home field. After a 9-7 season in 2017 marred by the back and forth and eventual six game suspension of Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys were again left frustrated going into the 2018 season.
For Garrett, 2018 presumably became a make or break year. Questions surrounding Garrett centered on embattled Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who would replace Jason Witten, who left for the Monday Night Football booth, etc. made this season extremely important. After a 3-5 start, the Cowboys made a move to bring in Amari Cooper and the offense began to turn to assist a defense, under new fiery assistant Kris Richard, find a renewed sense of physicality, speed and ferocity. Revelations were found with 2018 1st round pick Leighton Vander Esch, who made the Pro Bowl, at linebacker and Jaylon Smith realizing his full potential. Offensively Ezekiel Elliott led the league in rushing as he did as a rookie and Dak show the fight of winner in crucial moments. It appeared that Garrett had done enough again to earn a contract extension. The Cowboys ‘finished the fight’ winning 7 out of their last 8 games showing the organization that they indeed still responded under Garrett’s leadership. Garrett at the end of the season, after losing to the Rams in the divisional round, announced that Linehan would be back as OC in 2019 (cue the screams from Dallas’ Reunion Tower). Ultimately though Linehan was fired a few days after Garrett’s proclamation and now Garrett’s future will be tied to new OC Kellen Moore, who served as the Cowboys QB coach during the 2018 season, after 6 seasons in Dallas as a backup.
With Marc Colombo now the permanent offensive line coach after Paul Alexander was fired mid-season and Jon Kitna (whom the Cowboys love, especially being a former Cowboy) as the new QB coach, all excuses have been removed from Garrett going into 2019. The time is now for Garrett to show that this team will continue to build upon its young nucleus of stars and that it can advance beyond the divisional round which has been the ceiling during Garrett’s tenure. Playing a first place schedule in 2019 and having no first round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, it will be difficult for Garrett and this Cowboys team to repeat its division winning success from 2018. Questions surrounding the future of star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, Dak Precott’s contract extension, and the future of Cole Beasley among other things will make for a compelling off season for this Cowboys team.
Garrett is now firmly planted in the seat of fire and 2019 will be the most important season of his near decade tenure with the team. This year marked the twenty-five year anniversary of the Cowboys 30-13 Super Bowl win over the Buffalo Bills with Emmitt Smith as the game’s MVP. Who was the backup QB on that championship team? That’s right Jason Garrett. The Cowboys haven’t seen that kind of success since those 3 titles in 4 seasons in which Garrett was a part of two of the championship teams. Garrett gets perhaps his final shot in 2019 to give this desperate fan base something to cheer for. Otherwise, 2019 will leave the Cowboys with the unfortunate, but familiar feeling of frustration.