Only once in the history of the Dallas Cowboys has a head coach been fired in the middle of a season. It happened in 2010 following a humiliating 45-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Wade Phillips was shown the door and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett took over.
Six years later, Garrett is poised to earn his first NFL Coach of the Year award. The Cowboys reached 13-3, tying their best record in franchise history. The top seed in the NFC for these 2016 Playoffs, Dallas is preparing for their first game as they'll be hosting the Packers this Sunday.
With Green Bay back on the schedule and Garrett's stock never higher, it's an interesting time to reflect on how things have circulated since that fateful week in 2010.
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Jason Garrett was always known to be a favorite of owner Jerry Jones. In 2006, Bill Parcells was using a hybrid duo of Tony Sparano and Todd Haley as his running and passing game coordinators, respectively. When Parcells retired in 2007, Jerry brought in Garrett to run the offense. Sparano even stayed on staff as the offensive line coach but all coordinating duties now belonged to Jason.
After Dallas had the league's 2nd-best offense in 2007 there were plenty of teams interested in making Garrett their head coach. He reportedly turned down offers from the Ravens and Falcons that offseason. Jerry gave Garrett a raise that, at that time, made him the highest-paid assistance coach in the league.
Jason had other interviews the next two years but you always had a sense that both he and Jerry were waiting for the master plan to unfold in Dallas. That may have been why Jerry hired an older guy like Wade Phillips, someone who could only keep the seat warm for so long.
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The early part of the 2010 season is arguably the lowest point in recent Cowboys history. Even with Tony Romo starting, Dallas had a 1-4 record to begin the year. Then, against the New York Giants, Romo suffered his first collarbone injury and was lost for the season.
Veteran Jon Kitna took over and fared no better, losing that week to the Giants and again the following game. At 1-6 and seemingly lost as a team, the Cowboys traveled to Green Bay to take on a Packers squad that would eventually go on to become Super Bowl Champions that same season.
Going into that game, Jerry Jones had said that he wasn't a fan of firing a coach mid-season. However, the brutal 45-7 thrashing that the Cowboys endured pushed Jerry to take action. There was nothing left to lose with Wade Phillips, so Jones ended his tenure and named Jason Garrett the interim head coach.
Dallas won the very next week, on the road against the Giants. They would finish the year 5-3 despite Kitna remaining the starter. There seemed to be a new enthusiasm and effort throughout the team under Garrett's leadership, and this generated optimism about what the future would bring once Tony Romo returned.
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The only time Cowboys fans want to see "8-8" is when you're deciding between blue and white Troy Aikman jerseys. Otherwise, it conjures some disappointing memories.
From 2011-2013, Dallas finished each season with an 8-8 record. They narrowly missed the playoffs each year, either losing a Week 17 game or squandering a good record with a December collapse. Tony Romo's injuries also played a part as he missed late-season games in 2011 and 2013.
Coaches have been fired for less than what Jason Garrett produced during those three years. However, Jerry Jones likely saw what many of us did. Despite the roster undergoing a massive overhaul and Romo's occasional absences, Garrett kept them competitive. They were always just on the cusp of the postseason.
If Garrett could finally build his foundation and coach his roster, what would the results be?
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Jerry Jones' faith began to be rewarded in 2014.
The Cowboys jumped to 12-4, winning the NFC East for the first time since 2009 and only the third time in 16 seasons. Behind the dominant offensive line that began construction with Tyron Smith in 2011, Garrett's first pick as a head coach, DeMarco Murray set a team record in rushing yards.
Dallas won their first playoff game against the Detroit Lions and then traveled to Green Bay, their first visit to Lambeau Field since that fateful 2010 game. The Cowboys' postseason ended in controversy with a Dez Bryant catch that was ruled incomplete. Even with that disappointment, everyone was excited about what the future held and the foundation that Garrett had laid.
Those good feelings would be short-lived, though, because of another Tony Romo injury. The 2015 season would mark another low point in Cowboys history as Romo missed 12 games and parts of others. The team fell to 4-12, its worst record since 1989. To put that in context, '89 was Troy Aikman's rookie season, Jerry Jones' first year as owner, and Jimmy Johnson's first as a head coach.
Despite this fall from grace, many did not blame Jason Garrett. They remembered what he did the previous year and focused more on the lack of depth at quarterback, or the issues with the defense. However, had Garrett not earned the cache of success from 2014, it's reasonable to assume that last year might have been his undoing.
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While you could've made a case in 2014, this season truly feels like we've come full circle from the start of Jason Garrett's tenure. 2014 could have been an aberration, but now he's won two division titles in three years and with two different starting quarterbacks. There is now a system in place in Dallas, Garrett's system, and it's getting results.
One of the most common mistakes in professional sports is when management doesn't give a coach time to fully implement his vision for a team. How often do we see coaches gone after just one or two seasons, still in the midst of trying to optimize the roster for their system?
This is a case when Jerry Jones' loyalty, which has gotten him in trouble in the past, yielded wonderful results.
Jerry handpicked his coach, groomed him from 2007-2010 and then stood behind him through some rough spots. The reward will likely be Garrett becoming the first Cowboy to win Coach of the Year since Jimmy Johnson in 1990.
In a way, it's like Jerry Jones has also come full circle as an owner. He finally seems to get what works and what doesn't, and Jason Garrett was one of the guys who helped teach him.
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Jason Garrett's career seems to keep intersecting with the Packers. You can go all the way back to his greatest day as a player, the 1994 Thanksgiving victory that he led over Green Bay as the Cowboys' third-string quarterback. That performance showed you that Garrett lived what he preaches now to his players, focusing on the moment and being your best at any given opportunity.
Garrett's coaching tenure began thanks to a crushing loss to the Packers. His peak thus far is the 2014 loss in Green Bay, a game Dallas arguably could've won but for a single bad call. Now the Packers are back in his crosshairs as he tries to lead the Cowboys back to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 1995.
It's not often that coaches get more than one window to try to win a championship. Garrett has navigated the closing of Tony Romo's and led the team into the Dak Prescott Era. He has instilled a culture into the organization that has players giving their best and seemingly fighting for one another and the franchise they represent.
This Sunday, Jason has a chance to separate himself from Wade Phillips, Bill Parcells, and every other Cowboys coach not named Landry, Johnson, or Switzer. A win would be a new milestone in his career.
As always seems to be the case, though, Garrett and the Cowboys will have to go through the Packers first.
Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?
The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.
The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.
All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?
Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.
In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.
That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.
So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.
Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.
It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.
Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.
Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.
Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?
Without Looming Suspension, RB Ezekiel Elliott Should Shine In 2018
NFL Films typically does a good job of exposing some truths around NFL teams. Whether through "Hard Knocks" or Amazon's new "All or Nothing" series, these documentaries do an excellent job of giving fans an inside look of their favorite teams.
If anything was revealed through the Cowboys' All or Nothing series on their 2017 season, it's that Ezekiel Elliott's suspension weighed heavy on his mind all year.
The Pro Bowl running back did not look, act, or play like himself while awaiting decision on his incoming suspension. And, once it was finally announced he would serve the six games, the entire team collapsed in Atlanta.
Despite the clear and detrimental effects Elliott's suspension had on the Cowboys' season, Zeke still put up more-than-respectable numbers; rushing for almost 1,000 yards and averaging a league leading 98.3 yards per game.
Now, Ezekiel Elliott enters a season with no doubts about his own availability. Scott Linehan gets to coach an offense that knows they will have their best player for the entire season barring major injury. And, Jason Garrett can lead his team without addressing questions about Elliott's future day in and day out.
Of course, these effects aren't quantifiable. We can't sit here and say that without the pressure of court appearances and suspensions that Elliott will be worth "X" amount of more yards and "Y" more touchdowns.
But I do believe we can say, without question, that playing with a clear mind and without a looming suspension will breed the type of production we saw from Zeke his rookie year.
We can say that Elliott has had a weight lifted off his shoulders, and could be looking for revenge on a league he feels did him wrong.
And, for the Cowboys sake, I hope this is true. Because they are going to need Ezekiel Elliott to be even better than he ever has been if they hope to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2018.
Cowboys en Español: El Regreso de Randy Gregory
A sólo días de que los Dallas Cowboys aterricen en Oxnard, California para dar inicio a su training camp como todos los años, el equipo recibió excelentes noticias respecto a la selección de segunda ronda del 2015: Randy Gregory. Después de pasar todo el 2017 suspendido, el ala defensiva ha sido oficialmente reintegrado por la NFL.
Gregory, quien tuvo muchos problemas debido al uso de marihuana, ha pasado los últimos meses rehabilitándose para poder volver a vestir la estrella y volver al emparrillado. Los Cowboys, quienes siempre apoyaron a su joven jugador, sin duda estarán felices de verlo de vuelta en el equipo por motivos más allá que el football americano.
Sin duda alguna, antes de estar emocionados y felices por verlo en el campo intimidando a quarterbacks rivales, deberíamos estar alegres por el logro personal de Randy como un ser humano. Realmente hizo un esfuerzo consciente en un lugar en el que muchos se hubieran rendido y dejado sus sueños de ser parte de la NFL. Pero no lo hizo, y ahora, todos sus esfuerzos han valido la pena.
El siguiente paso en su lista por-hacer, es volver al campo y poco a poco, ganarse su puesto en el equipo y después, la titularidad. La última vez que vimos a Gregory en el campo, fue contra Philadelphia, en el final de temporada del 2016.
En este juego, Gregory mostró muchos destellos de lo que sería capaz de hacer semana tras semana en la liga y porque valió la pena nunca dejarlo ir, lo cual no hubiera tenido sentido hacer, dado que los Cowboys no les costaba nada (literalmente) mantenerlo en el equipo.
Sean Martin escribió un artículo recientemente en el que analiza este partido a fondo.
El potencial de Gregory es inmenso, suficiente incluso, para aventurarse a decir que se convertirá en el defensive end (ala defensiva) derecho antes de lo esperado. El reto más grande para el jugador de 25 años será regresar a una condición física óptima para la NFL.
Afortunadamente, a diferencia del 2016, Gregory no estará regresando a media temporada. Su llegada toma lugar justo a tiempo para el training camp, dándole tiempo para regresar a la forma en la que tiene que estar.
Una vez ahí, ¿qué tanto le tomará ganarse un rol más importante que el de Tyrone Crawford y Taco Charlton? A pesar de que prácticamente no lo hemos visto jugar en Dallas, sabemos el potencial que tiene para convertirse en un defensivo de suma importancia para los Cowboys.
Un año después de ver la mejor temporada en la carrera de DeMarcus Lawrence, los Cowboys tendrán el potencial de una estrella similar en el lado derecho de su línea defensiva. Gregory tiene una montaña que escalar para cumplir las expectativas de los aficionados, pero no será una sorpresa si lo logra.
Vaya, no olvidemos que si no fuera por sus problemas fuera del campo, hubiera sido seleccionado en el Top 10 del Draft del 2015. Tiene el potencial de conseguir diez sacks por temporada.
Con un poco de suerte, no nos equivocaremos en tenerle fe al jugador que ha tenido un gran viaje para llegar a este punto. El punto de ponerse el casco e ir a trabajar con su equipo.
Incluso si sólo llega a ser un jugador de rotación, sin duda será importante para el éxito del equipo. Entre DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Randy Gregory y el resto del talento que los Cowboys tienen en la línea defensiva, el equipo podría tener un frente de muy buena calidad.
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