Coming into the 2013 season, there was widespread speculation that Jason Garrett was on the hot seat. Many didn’t believe another 8-8 effort would be good enough to warrant his return.
Yet owner Jerry Jones consistently reasserted his confidence in Garrett and said a month before the season ended that he would be back. Despite disastrous performances in winnable games against the Bears and Packers, Jones stuck to his word.
A month of inactivity finally ended last week when the ‘Boys did some major shuffling of the coaching staff. Mike Pope came in to replace Wes Phillips as their tight ends coach, but more significant was the hiring of Scott Linehan to call the team’s plays and the promotion of Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator.
Many were surprised to hear reports that Garrett, not Jones, was the driving factor behind these moves. Jones is perceived, perhaps rightfully so, as a hands-on control freak of a GM.
But in a contract year, letting Garrett call these shots could make all the difference.
If Garrett’s going to lose his job this December, which would probably happen with anything less than a playoff berth, he’s going to do it his way. It’s no secret that Garret and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan had their differences. Installing Callahan as play-caller last year was obviously Jones’s idea.
Linehan and Garrett worked together under Nick Saban in Miami in 2005, and their team posted a respectable 9-7 record. They run a similar offense—it’s as close as Garret could come to reclaiming the play-calling duties himself.
As far as the Marinelli promotion goes, I don’t think anyone honestly believes that Jones wanted Monte Kiffin back in the same capacity. So that one was a win for every party involved.
But it’s obviously important to the team that Cowboys fans know who’s in charge. This is Garrett’s last chance to live up to his promise, and if he’s going down, he’s doing it his way with his guys.
No one can say after 2014 that Garrett didn’t succeed because Jerry strong-armed him into coaching a staff he didn’t want. Nobody can say the ‘Boys had “too many chefs in the kitchen,” or that Garrett didn’t want them there.
And if the Cowboys make the playoffs, which they very well could, Garrett will get the credit for assembling a staff just as talented as the players they coach.
It’s far too early to predict whether Garrett’s moves will pay off. If Bill Callahan stumbles into training camp smelling of Jack Daniels and cursing Linehan under his breath, they won’t pay off. If a sub-par draft produces players too shoddy for Marinelli to turn his defense around, they won’t pay off.
There’s a very real scenario, however, where the Cowboys win nine or ten games on the strength of an improved defense and a high-powered passing attack that sometimes defers to a healthy, effective DeMarco Murray.
If Garrett can pull that off, this coaching staff might be intact in 2015 and beyond.