Before the Cowboys’ mood-changing victory over Jacksonville last Sunday, there was a lot of discussion of a possible contract extension coming for Head Coach Jason Garrett. The front office shut down those rumors, and they would be wise to keep doing so through the end of Garrett’s current deal.
Jason’s contract expires at the end of 2019, as do the current deals for Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan and Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli. If the 3-3 Cowboys continue at their current middling pace, Jerry Jones should feel no incentive to spare Garrett and his assistants “lame duck” status next year.
In my opinion, the stigma against coaches working on an expiring contract is overrated. Players are asked to do it all the time, and often it spurs them to greater performance than once they’re comfortable with their job security.
That’s not to say that I think Garrett or anyone on the coaching staff doesn’t give max effort. And I understand the notion that players might start tuning a coach out if they feel like he won’t be around for long.
But this isn’t the NBA, where a player’s contract is fully guaranteed and replacement coaches are hanging on trees in colleges and international teams across the globe. NFL players don’t have the same leverage or luxury to go rogue.
Let’s just consider the three scenarios for Dallas the rest of this year; positive, neutral, and negative. They can go one of these ways in 2018, and two of them would suggest Garrett doesn’t need to stick around.
The positive outcome would be the Cowboys building on last week’s win and getting back to their 2016 form. If they can win the NFC East and get into the playoffs, that’s something that Jason Garrett and the front office can build from.
There will be a lot of dead money coming off the books next year from the contracts of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and a few others. Dallas should be able to get new deals worked out for Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, DeMarcus Lawrence, and still have resources to improve the rest of the roster.
But even if 2018 ends positively, why extend Garrett then? Why not see if he can finally have some sustained success the following season, rather than the up-and-down flow of the last few years?
Granted, Jason couldn’t help Romo’s injury in 2015 or Elliott’s suspension last year. Those were major factors in the team’s woes those seasons.
But the great coaches in the NFL consistently find ways to overcome adversity. Unfortunately, Garrett’s Cowboys have consistently proven unable to do so.
Moving to the neutral, let’s say today’s 3-3 record leads to an 8-8 finish or even 9-7 without a playoff appearance. Outside of Travis Frederick’s absence, what major issue can the team’s failings really be blamed on?
Garrett has benefited from some clear issues that derailed his team in some seasons. 2018 doesn’t offer the same scapegoat.
Whether the team holds a round .500 this year or struggles the rest of the way, it’s hardly the time to commit to a long-term future with Jason Garrett.
I think Jason has some great qualities as a coach. I like the way he handles the media and seems to inspire his players. You can’t question that the Cowboys play hard every week, even if they play poorly.
But at some point, Garrett’s system has to be held accountable for the lack of success. This is his eighth season as the head coach, not counting the 2010 interim, and the Cowboys have little to show for his time in the big chair.
Even if the team takes a nosedive the rest of 2018, I see no reason to fire Jason Garrett before the offseason. There is no great option waiting in the wings.
That really makes the point, though; you could make a legitimate case for sending Garrett packing this year if the team falters. Given that, why would you begin to consider a contract extension anytime this year, or even next season, until you see some clear signs of improvement?
Even if “lame duck” status isn’t ideal, it’s not the devil that some make it out to be. Plenty of players, perhaps even the starting quarterback next year, will be facing the same situation. Maybe it will galvanize the team if Dak Prescott and Jason Garrett are both working to save their jobs.
Garrett has already been given more rope by his owner than a lot of NFL coaches have enjoyed through the years. Jerry Jones’ loyalty should only go so far, though. Right now, the businessman in Jerry needs to see that investing more into Jason doesn’t make sense based on his current data.
I hope that changes. I hope Garrett and the Cowboys are shining by the end of this year. And if things go well enough to finish 2018, then maybe I can live with a new contract for the head coach.
But now is too soon, and the team too shaky, for any contract extensions. It’s time to let things play out with Jason Garrett and not make any moves until you have to, for good or bad.