Regardless of what happens this Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett deserves respect. He has endured much criticism in his eight years as the Cowboys leading man. He has been called everything from soft to the owner’s puppet. Owner Jerry Jones has stood by him through it all, ignoring chatter and sometimes parrying the constant ridicule that has been thrown in his head coach’s direction.
Jason Garrett Deserves Respect
As a result, Garrett has his team on an 11-game winning streak. The Cowboys are in a prime position to claim the NFC East title, along with home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The team has shown a gargantuan effort, when one considers that prior to the start of the 2016 season the team was expected to finish at the bottom of the division. The poor expectations can be put to rest as the Cowboys became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot, this past weekend.
This team’s latest achievement is undoubtedly a testament to what Garrett has been trying to build since he took over the helm of America’s Team. The spotlight that once shined down on Valley Ranch now shines down on the Star in Frisco and it burns much brighter. There is constant media coverage and exceptional multimedia center at the Star. The coach has proven that he is the perfect fit to facilitate the reemergence of one of the NFL’s most popularly, unpopular franchises.
Ever since the Princeton grad entered the NFL, he has been the consummate professional. His demeanor has been a calming force throughout the halls of the Cowboys facilities. He addresses his players and assistance coaches as men and offers them the respect that men deserve. His pedigree is that of a coach. His father, Jim was a coach and also scouted for the Cowboys for many years. Garrett is a football guy. He earned two Super Bowl rings as a member of the Cowboys dynamic teams in the 90’s.
As a player, he made a few significant contributions to those teams, but his biggest mark on the franchise has been as a head coach. Rebuilding the team has not been an easy task. Garrett has worked diligently to ensure that the Cowboys locker room is filled with warrior-types. The players on this year’s team are fighters. They pride themselves on being as physical as they have to be for four-plus quarters of football. Under Garrett’s leadership, the team has brought in considerably good men to build a winner and it is working.
The players with bad character issues are gone. Players like wide receiver Dez Bryant who was once considered a hot-head have grown up. Many of them have matured under Garrett’s watch. It is almost like they have just followed his lead. There is harmony behind the walls at the Star and the production has been stellar.
Garrett became the longest tenured coach in team history this season. He ranks second only to arguably the most stoic figure the Cowboys have ever known, the departed Tom Landry. He has guided this team to the longest winning streak in franchise history this season, as well. What stands out the most is Garrett’s ability to communicate.
To some, Garrett’s press conferences may seem ho-hum with his talk of the process and use of a number of cliches, but his answers are direct. He is never at a loss for words. In fact, his concentrated eye contact and mannerisms can be mesmerizing to onlookers. His tone never changes, when he is facing a firing squad of inquiries from the media. He simply answers the questions that he wants to and deflects the questions that he does not want to answer. Sometimes it seems like he does not feel that the reporter is even entitled to an answer but he gives them one anyway.
He runs a tight ship. it does not really matter what anyone thinks. He issues fines to players who do not abide by team rules. He chastises players who need it, but only behind closed doors. He would never do anything to embarrass himself, the player or the team and that is what a professional does. He is not shy about using foul language to get his point across, either.
We may never see him tear into a player, but we can tell by the players’ demeanor that he has their ears. The coach may come across as pristine or emotionless, but if you have ever had the pleasure of watching a video of one of his post-game speeches after one of his team’s great battles on the gridiron, you will see the passion on his face and hear the emotion in his voice.
After the team’s last game against Minnesota in which they did not play very well, managing to pull out a 17-15 win, Garrett’s passion was on full display.
“Day one in training camp we showed up in Oxnard, when you walked in your room there was FIGHT t-shirt. (Pause) There was a FIGHT sweat shirt lying on your bed! Okay? That’s what this was today. We started on day one, line one it’s about fight! It’s the foundation of everything we do with the Dallas football Cowboys. Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight to do your job! Fight to uphold the standard. Most importantly, fight for each other!”
Garrett used the word Fight thirteen times during that speech. There is no question it touched his players’ souls. They knew they had just been in a fight and to a man they had fought as hard as they could to come out on top. He may not provide his opponents with bulletin board material or the sexy quote for the media but he delivers a number of messages to his team. It appears as though his messages have been received loud and clear.
The formula that led the team to its best season under Garrett in 2014 has been on display this season. He has recaptured the power running game and ball control offensive style that helped his team finish 12-4 that year. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has been giving teams a heavy dose of rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot, along with backup Alfred Morris. The club still has Bryant to lean on and a young signal caller in Dak Prescott who does not turn the ball over with regularity. As a result, the offense is in the top of the league in time of possession.
Defensively, the Cowboys practice a “Bend but don’t break” philosophy. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has a smorgasbord of speed players at every level who run to the football and make sure tackles in the open field. Linebacker Sean Lee remains a constant play-maker in Marinell’s Cover 2 scheme and is the defense’s field general.
The linebacking corps has speed and agility. The secondary is also fast and can be physically bothersome to opposing offenses. The defensive line is not a strong suit but the Cowboys have used an eight-man rotation to remain productive.
Special teams have also contributed very well, thus far. Kick and punt returner Lucky Whitehead is always a threat to break a one. The Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey and punter Chris Jones rank among the league’s best as well. Garrett’s stamp has been all over this year’s team. The results speak for themselves. Each unit performs in a business-like manner. The squad never seems to get too high or too low. They simply go about their business, handling each situation throughout the course of a game as they have been coached to do.
The team’s success this season has established him as a solid candidate for Coach of the Year. However, his legacy will never be solidified without leading the team to another Super Bowl title and adding a third ring to his collection. From the looks of things, the respect that he delivers to his opponents and of course, his team should be delivered to him for the job that he has been doing.
Garrett looks like a man who enjoys his work and at 50 years of age, it does not look like he will be slowing down anytime soon. Rest assured that the future of America’s Team is safe in the hands of one of the most honorable men in professional football. Remember to respect his name He has earned it.