Many in the media (local and abroad), as well as across the blogosphere, have taken a simplistic view on how Jason Garrett will retain his job following this upcoming season, stating one of two qualifiers:
He either has to make the playoffs, or he has to do better than 8 and 8.
While I understand that should he be dismissed, one (if not both) of the above probably did not happen, I believe this is taking a rather myopic approach to how a Head Coach is graded as far as their performance over an entire season.
There are quite a few issues that can occur within a season to derail a team's win/loss ratio and/or playoff chances, regardless of the job the Head Coach does. Injuries in particular, especially to key positions such as QB, could play a huge role in a losing season. Does anybody expect Weeden to take this team to a record better than 8 and 8, much less the playoffs? Lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball is the reason many within the media have already picked the Cowboys to go 8 and 8 - or worse - no matter what Garrett does.
Jerry Jones has made it clear. He wants Garrett to oversee the team as a whole, as opposed to leaning towards offense, which means that much of the defense, special teams and offense's success or failure falls on the coordinator's shoulders, in terms of play calling, and the actual players in terms of execution. Granted, Jason will likely have his hand in everything, but at the same time, if one unit out of three doesn't perform as it should, it will be difficult to just point the finger at Jason…at least for me.
This line of thinking set me to questioning the most important attributes of a Head Coach and, furthermore, how their successes and failures are measured; how do we truly determine a Head Coach's value?
Organizationally, I think most agree that the culture has improved over Garrett’s tenure. Despite the occasional low-risk / high-reward chances taken on less-than-RKG material players, for the most part, he has placed an emphasis on filling the locker room with guys who have Team Captain on their resume, a high level of passion for the game of football, willingness to put in work both on and off the field, and for the betterment of the team, men who support each other in that ambition. Or, at least, so it seems. And just so there is no further confusion, RKG doesn't mean country-club-membership-touting boy scout/choirboy who spends his time off looking for opportunities to help old ladies across the street.
While I am certainly guilty of yelling at the television for certain plays called in situations where Garrett has in the past tried to be, in my opinion, so clever he out-smarts himself, the offense, especially these past two seasons, has not been the issue that has handcuffed this team to mediocrity. I am not attempting to dismiss blame from Garrett for how the Special Teams and Defense has performed; I am simply stating that the X’s and O’s of this game have not been his issue and, therefore, likely are not going to be the reason Garrett is dismissed following this next season.
Obviously, Wade's team made it easy to see that it was time for him to be replaced...they quit. But I really can't say that I've seen that level of quit since Wade left. For the most part, this team has battled, losing by seven points or less the majority of the time since Garrett took over for Wade in 2010.
Garrett lost 3 games,
all of which were by 3 points or less:
Saints by 3
Eagles by 3
Cardinals by 1
Garrett lost 8 games,
5 of which were by 7 points or less:
Ravens by 3
Giants by 5
Falcons by 6
Redskins by 7
Saints by 3
Garrett lost 8 games,
5 of which were by 6 points or less:
Jets by 3
Lions by 4
Patriots by 4
Cardinals by 6
Giants by 3
Garrett lost 8 games,
5 of which were by 3 points or less:
Chiefs by 1
Broncos by 3
Lions by 1
Packers by 1
Eagles by 2
My hypothesis is that based on the above information, we can infer his team has not quit on him and have fought to the end. Granted, a few of those losses were situations where teams came back to win, such as the Chiefs, Packers and the Lions from last year, but I do not believe that was a result of the team quitting.
Admittedly, I still hold Jason responsible for those losses because I honestly believe play calling and in-game management had more to do with it than anything. However, with Marinelli, Linehan, and Bissacia calling the shots for the most part as far as play calling, we should see improvement on the in-game management this season because that will be the only aspect of the game Garrett should be directly responsible for...and even with that, I'm sure Callahan will be backing him up.
So with this host of proven talented coaches behind Garrett in 2014, what can we, the fans truly look at to say one way or another if Garrett did a good job or a bad job?
For me, Garrett's ultimate measuring stick will come when this team experiences those "defecation hits the oscillation" situations.
When things go wrong, how does he, his subordinate coaches and, more importantly, his players handle it? Will they continue to fight or will they roll over and submit? If and when injuries occur, will the next man up be ready? I don't expect said player to completely replace his predecessor; but I do expect him at the very least to know his role, his assignments and execute to the best of his ability. When the football takes an unlucky bounce, how does the team respond? With a fight to get the ball back, or do they allow the momentum of the game to be sucked away?
Obviously, these things are the intangibles that are often times hard to measure and can be subjective from one viewer to another, but still, I believe the people within the organization will know. And that's what I think Jerry Jones will be looking at come season end, with or without the playoffs or a record better than 8 and 8.
Should Cowboys Consider Trading for Disgruntled Packers S Josh Jones?
Despite their insistence that upgrading the safety position was a top offseason priority, the Dallas Cowboys haven't really done much to improve the backend of their secondary. They did sign former Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals Safety George Iloka as a free agent and drafted Donovan Wilson in the sixth-round in this year's NFL Draft, but neither player looks like a clear-cut upgrade at this point. Fortunately, there's still time to find Xavier Woods' counterpart for 2019.
Xavier Woods is the only clear-cut starter at safety currently on the Dallas Cowboys roster. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine as to who starts opposite him this season. With that in mind, the Cowboys should be keeping all of their options open, including acquiring players who get released or even making a trade for someone they like. The latter is what I want to talk about today.
A potential safety who could be put on the trade block that I'm kind of intrigued with is Josh Jones, who has reportedly requested a trade from the Green Bay Packers.
Packers safety Josh Jones is skipping the voluntary OTAs and working out in Florida because he's hoping to be traded, a source told ESPN. The source said the 2017 second-round pick believes it would be best for both parties if they parted ways. Story coming on ESPN shortly.
Josh Jones clearly sees where he stands with the Green Bay Packers after they signed Adrian Amos in free agency and drafted Darnell Savage Jr. 21st overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, thus his absence from OTA's and trade request. He understands the business and knows he's not going to see the field much behind those two, meaning his best chance for playing time would be in a different uniform.
It's not all that shocking Jones has requested a trade. Even before the Packers added Amos and Savage he wasn't receiving a lot of playing time. He's just never seemed to fit into what Green Bay was trying to do on the backend of their defense. It may be in the best interest of both parties to mutually part ways. This is where the Dallas Cowboys come in.
I believe Josh Jones is exactly the type of safety Kris Richard would like to pair Xavier Woods with on the backend of the Cowboys defense. He fits the criteria Richard likes in his defensive backs as far as size, length, and speed are concerned. And, he also has the kind of skill set/mindset to become that Kam Chancellor "enforcer" type of strong safety.
Josh Jones is at his best when he can play around the line of scrimmage, much like Chancellor was during his time with the Seahawks. But, Jones also has the ability to be a factor in coverage as well. The only real question here is whether or not he's an upgrade over the likes of Jeff Heath, George Iloka, and maybe even rookie Donovan Wilson?
In all honesty, I don't have the answer to that question. Josh Jones really hasn't received a fair opportunity to prove himself in his first two years in the NFL. I believe the skill set is there to start in the league, but there's not much there to back up that belief.
Personally, I'd be willing to part way with a late round pick if I were the Cowboys to acquire Josh Jones. I like the idea of bringing him in to work with Kris Richard and allowing him to compete for the starting job next to Xavier Woods. This is exactly the kind of low risk/high reward move Dallas likes to gamble on, and it could potentially pay off in a big way.
Where do you stand? Should the Cowboys consider trading for Josh Jones?
How Can The Cowboys Force More Turnovers In 2019?
2018 seemed like the beginning of a new era. A defensive era. For the first time in years the Cowboys were able to consistently lean on their defense during games, staying alive even as their offense sputtered and limped through stretches early in the season.
The defense was downright prolific some weeks. They carried the Cowboys to an inspiring home victory over the New Orleans Saints to put them in prime position to make the playoffs. They dominated the Wild Card game in key moments, making key stops and holding the Seahawks to just 22 points in the win. They featured one of the league's best individual pass rushers in DeMarcus Lawrence, an All Pro cornerback in Byron Jones, and one of the league's most exciting young linebacker duos.
For all of this success, this defense still lacked one thing. Takeaways.
The Cowboys forced only 9 interceptions in 2018, ranking 26th across the league. In fact, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was actually tied with Xavier Woods for the team lead in interceptions with just 2. When it comes to total takeaways the Cowboys' defense was a little better off, though, finishing 16th in the NFL.
Part of the "problem" seems to be their philosophy. The Cowboys have finished 26th, 24th, 27th, and 31st in interceptions dating back to 2015. They've also finished 9th, 25th, 18th, and 19th in team defense DVOA over that same stretch. Clearly there was an improvement in total defense in 2018, but neither their team defense nor ability to take the ball away has been strong since 2015.
The bigger problem, really, is a lack of luck. While this sounds like a cop-out, takeaways often do come down to just that. Of course putting yourself in the right place at the right time to benefit from a batted pass or overthrown ball matters, but those bounces finding the right hands is usually a matter of luck.
Turnovers are incredibly volatile year to year, and as much as you'd like your players to "make their own luck," randomness does play a part here.
You can certainly argue the Cowboys have done their best this offseason to increase their chances at takeaways, however. By trading for defensive end Robert Quinn, re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence, and adding talented players to the middle of their defensive line as well, Dallas has put an emphasis on getting after the quarterback and corralling the opposing running game. Putting pressure on quarterbacks can force them into quick decision making or bad throws, which could in turn breed interceptions.
This is far from guaranteed, though. Plus the Cowboys play against some of the league's top quarterbacks this year, which hurts their chances of taking the ball away further.
In the end the Cowboys will need both the skill of their pass rushers and defensive backs to put them in good positions, and luck to smile down on them, if they'd like to turn around their takeaway numbers in 2019. And after all, this demoralizing trend has to reverse itself at some point, doesn't it?
Will It Be The Cowboys, Or Another Team, Who Pays Byron Jones After 2019?
After having his fifth year option exercised for the 2019 season, cornerback Byron Jones enters a contract year this Fall.
Jones inarguably had the best year of his career in 2018: earning not only his first Pro Bowl selection but also Second Team All Pro honors for his performance. Doing it all without an impressive stat sheet, Jones was able to let his film speak for itself throughout most of the year, and he became the number one cornerback we'd all hoped he could be when the Cowboys decided to take the freakishly athletic defensive back in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
This contract year is quite unique for Byron Jones, however. Next offseason the Cowboys will be forced to re-sign and extend just about all of their key contributors on both sides of the ball. DeMarcus Lawrence already got his contract, but Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and others still await their deals. Deals which the front office has all-but explicitly promised will come.
This leaves Jones, the former first round pick and now former All Pro, generally considered to be the odd man out. So while 2019 is a contract year for Byron Jones, he may be earning himself a contract from a completely different team.
Jones has had an interesting road to this contract season. One which would be a shame for the Cowboys to waste. Moving between cornerback and safety during the first three years of his career, Jones fell out of the coaches' good graces while playing out of his most natural position. Under Kris Richard's new regime, though, Jones had his best season to date. He looked to finally be comfortable in his role, and was now playing for a coach who believed he could be a special player.
Now that Byron Jones has found his place in the Cowboys defense, and has earned his way into conversations with the league's top cornerbacks, he's likely priced himself out of the Cowboys' future plans.
It's funny how that works out. Of course, Jones should go get paid, and I'd never fault a guy for maximizing his value on the market. But there's a good chance the Cowboys make the mistake of allowing a premier cornerback to walk out of their building next offseason. But if they want to retain players like Elliott and Cooper, they may not have any other choice.
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