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Next Day Rant: Jason Garrett Deserves Credit for Season Turnaround

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Blog - Jason Garrett: Born to Run 3
Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News

After three-straight victories and taking the lead in the NFC East, things are looking up for the Dallas Cowboys. Credit goes to a lot of different people, but none should get more than Head Coach Jason Garrett.

Three NFL weeks ago, the Cowboys came out of their bye week and fell flat against the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football. The drop to 3-5 felt insurmountable given their ongoing offensive woes, especially coming off a loss to the division-leading Washington Redskins.

We've seen this scenario go a different way so many times. A coach who's been in place for several years and a team that isn't performing; so often we see the players "tune out" and stop playing with effort or discipline.

Garrett's Cowboys have never been a team that didn't try their best. Even at their worst, the team plays hard. That is often lost in the miscues, mistakes, and mismatches that have led to losses along the way. You can't say that Jason doesn't have his guys motivated to win.

Ultimately, that's what being the head coach is all about. Scott Linehan, Rod Marinelli, and Kris Richard are in charge of calling the plays and preparing the game day strategies. But the team's overall mood and mentality, that's Jason Garrett's job.

That's why Garrett is constantly clapping, because it promotes a consistency of positive spirit and atmosphere. Nobody out there wants to fail and the average person doesn't respond to being berated. The days of treating your football team like a military unit are over; modern players don't tick that way.

Report: Jason Garrett "Not Going Anywhere" with Possible Extension Coming Soon

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, coach Jason Garrett

Jason was an NFL player until 2004. As a 38-year-old backup quarterback, he got to sit on the other side of the locker room and see the personality shift as players from the next generation came in. These weren't the same kind of guys he played with in the early 90s.

Now it's another 14 years later, and the kids on Garrett's current roster are even further down the road of societal change. After final cuts in 2018, the Cowboys had the third-youngest team in the NFL.

You can imagine how many times those players saw articles and ESPN segments about their head coach potentially being fired. And after those two ugly losses to Washington and Tennessee, even we were starting to believe that Jerry Jones might finally give up on Garrett.

But in Week 10, on the road in Philadelphia, the Dallas Cowboys didn't surrender. With two teams playing to preserve their season, it was Jason Garrett's team who outlasted the defending Super Bowl Champions.

A week later, on the road again, the Cowboys faced another do-or-die situation against the Falcons. Both teams were 4-5 and trying to stay alive, and Garrett's guys persevered in a slugfest.

Things were feeling up, but Cowboys Nation wasn't ready to believe just yet. Many thought yesterday's game would be the big letdown; all that talk about saving the season going out the window with an ugly disappointment against the Redskins.

Dak Prescott, Redskins

But the Dallas Cowboys didn't let you down yesterday. They put their foot on the neck of a division rival and took control of their own playoff destiny.

Credit Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard for coaching up one of the league's best defenses in spite of youth. Watching rookie Leighton Vander Esch shine out there is as much about his own natural ability as it is a testament to the men preparing him for games, which includes injured veteran Sean Lee.

Credit Scott Linehan for improving as the season goes along. He still makes you shake your head at times, but he seems to have finally found the right mix with this offense.

Featuring Ezekiel Elliott heavily works? Hey, what a surprise!

(Sorry, I had to.)

Speaking of, credit Zeke for taking a leadership role on offense. More of a comedian than spokesman in 2016 and stifled by his suspension in 2017, Elliott has stepped up majorly in the locker room this year. It's nice when one of your biggest personalities is a guy who can back it up consistently on the field.

Credit whoever was responsible for dumping Paul Alexander as Offensive Line Coach and promoting Marc Colombo. It's not easy to admit a mistake, especially just seven weeks into the year, but Alexander's style clearly wasn't working and the change has yielded clearly positive results quickly.

Credit Dak Prescott for not letting criticism and failure get the better of him. From the legitimate and objective complaints to the lingering animosity of Tony Romo truthers, Dak is up against it in one of the toughest jobs in professional sports. But the Cowboys QB has been getting better by the week.

Credit the Joneses for going out and making the big move to help their offense by trading for Amari Cooper. So far, that decision is reaping big rewards.

Next Day Rant: Jason Garrett Deserves Credit for Season Turnaround

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

But in the end, all of that is a product of what Jason Garrett has been building in Dallas since 2010. Players want to give their best for him, even when things aren't looking pretty. The front office wants to keep making moves to support him, even if it costs them a future first-round pick.

That's how you get a three-game win streak in November, with two road games and two division rivals in the mix, after a 3-5 start.

Say what you want about Garrett's mastery of time clocks and challenge flags, but he's a natural leader. He knows how to set the mood for his group and also how to reach individuals. He's a master motivator.

We can argue all day about what the key merits of an NFL head coach are. You might still want that "in your face" guy, and that's fine. But just make sure your basing that on the modern era of football, and not your memories of Jimmy Johnson.

Jason Garrett has pulled one of the NFL's youngest, least experienced teams from the brink of disaster and put them in the driver seat of their division. That's a head coach you can believe in, much like Jerry Jones clearly does.

If it all goes to crap from here then, of course, we can revisit this topic. I'm not claiming the guy is perfect, and I was pretty close to jumping off the wagon earlier this year.

But these last three games have reminded me why I've stood by Garrett throughout his tenure. I believe in his overall message and handling of players, and I think it lays the right foundation for a winning team.

Hopefully, by the end of this year, that faith will be even more rewarded.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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9 Comments
  • Chuck Wright

    only reason the cowboys needed to “turn around” is an inept offensive game plan all year. We have left 2-4 wins due to our lack of offensive scheme. Why would we give JG credit for Cooper? And make no mistake, this team is different with Cooper.

    Steven Jones deserves more credit that anyone.

    • Kevin Black

      Before you give Steven too much credit, it was Steven who wanted to jettison Bryant. Garrett was the last one told about this move and he was dead set against it. He knew he needed a No. 1 receiver, but Steven, Will and Jerry out voted him, although I think Steven influenced JJ. So the Cooper move was an admission by Steven that letting go Bryant might not have been the best idea without a replacement in hand.

      • Chuck Wright

        Hmmmm, JG wanted to keep Dez? speaks volumes to me of bad judgement, the man was a freaking cancer. Only mistake there was not getting cooper earlier. Scotty L must go, he’s holding the team back. Good riddance to Dez, sign Cooper with the funds freed up letting Dez go.

        • Kevin Black

          Garrett wanted Daz to try and keep offenses honest. Steven felt he was a distraction. Both opinions have validity.

  • Ddenney1

    Garrett and Dak are NOT off the hook!!!! My main problem is the Cowboys doi NOT make adjustments at half time and the CREATIVITY is not consistent!!! Dak is a GREAT BACK UP and Garrett is a good OFF COORDINATOR but neither should in CHARGE!! Even IF they make the playoffs they are in a VERY WEAK DIVISION THIS YEAR! Stranger things have happened like a 9-7 Giants team making the SB and beat Tom terrific that went 18-1 but that IS STRANGE!!!!

    • Kevin Black

      There’s more creativity than people give Linehan credit for. There were several plays left out there that did what they needed to do, but the OL breakdowns kept some of it from happening and Dak missing the free man due to having people in his vision also contributed. Is he McVay? No. Not many are, otherwise every team would have one. Although if Linehan was McVay, he’d be tagged as a HC and you wouldn’t have him anyways.

      Now that we have Cooper, you are seeing more space and more creativity, but some of that is also due to the OL handling things up front much better than before. I think more credit needs to go to Columbo than any one else. Dak finally has more time and space to work with. Zeke definitely has benefited from the move.

      • Bruce Hood

        Kevin Black you’re making great since. Ddenny1 please reevaluate what you’re seeing and saying. Dak will be better based on the OL getting its act together. I still don’t have confidence in Garrett because of 8 years at the helm with no real consistent success. He is what he is a coordinator. Our major problem is JJ who is so full of himself and wants credit for everything except being the problem. The only owner who wants and stays in the limelight and really doesn’t have a pedigree for football. That’s why smart owner hire football minds that can produce with consistency and win Super bowls. I believe Dak will be successful with the right football mind around him.

        • Kevin Black

          I agree with much of what you are saying, but know that Jerry Jones is going no where, I’m not sure there is a better HC than Garrett. Jason clearly knows how to navigate the Jonestown political scene. Steven, Will and Jason seem to have the team headed in the right direction given the limitation of having JJ at the top.

  • Kevin Black

    Sorry, but not every team can have a Bill Belichek. If a team plays hard for your coach, that’s a HUGE talent. Garrett might play a bit conservative in some situations, but he’s willing to be aggressive when he feels his team doesn’t match up well. He’s not perfect, but you won’t get perfect with Jerry Jones and JJ isn’t going anywhere. Garrett is the head coach here for a while. Might as well get used to it.

Game Notes

Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts

Sean Martin

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Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line depth will be tested as they play for a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles, Right Guard Zack Martin will not be able to play. In missing his first career start, rookie Connor Williams rightfully returns to the starting lineup as Martin's replacement.

The 50th overall pick from this year's AT&T Stadium hosted Draft has started eight games this season at left guard. Williams' last start happens to be in the last game Dallas lost, a week nine defeat to the Tennessee Titans. This opened the door for Xavier Su'a-Filo to become something of a sensation for Cowboys Nation as the starting left guard throughout the team's current five game win streak.

David Moore on Twitter

Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Rookie Connor Williams will start in his place.

Zack Martin being unavailable is hardly how Marc Colombo wants to prepare for the Cowboys first road game since week 11. Having both Su'a-Filo and Williams in the lineup will be valuable for the Cowboys moving forward though, as Williams could earn his job at left guard back from the right side.

While he won't nearly be expected to play at the level of Martin, Williams looked poised coming off the bench against the Eagles and helping the Cowboys offense score their final three touchdowns. Williams was on the field for all three of Amari Cooper's scores, as Dallas rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries with him in the game.

Williams flashed some of the traits that made him a top left tackle prospect out of college, flowing to the second level with ease and creating movement with quick feet at the point of attack. The Cowboys have forced him to remain game ready despite losing his starting position by finding a few emergency snaps for him in recent weeks, as well as special teams looks. The team has every reason to believe Williams is an ascending young player still.

The same cannot be said of Su'a-Filo, who simply has to focus on continuing to hold up at left guard again this week. With each passing win, Su'a-Filo's LG spot has become more of a liability in a Cowboys offense in need of a jump-start late in this 2018 season.

Consistent offensive line play is one of the few things that's clearly hurting the Cowboys as contenders in the NFC behind a stellar defense and game breaking wide receiver.

The Cowboys won't be at full strength against the eighth best rushing defense and 15th ranked passing defense in yards per game. With three separate chances to clinch the NFC East starting at the Colts and extending until the end of the regular season, the Cowboys stand to learn all they need to know about the offensive line that will start in the playoffs.

Martin, who's elevated his game to a new level this season despite this lingering knee injury, should be on track to return when the Cowboys come home to play the Buccaneers in week 16.

Tell us what you think about "Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Final Thoughts and Prediction for Cowboys vs Indianapolis Colts

John Williams

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#DALvsPHI: Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott Key to Clipping the Eagles Wings?

Over the last five weeks, the Dallas Cowboys have put themselves in a position in week 15 to clinch the NFC East with a win over the Indianapolis Colts or a loss by the Philadelphia Eagles vs the Los Angeles Rams.

My how things have changed.

Just six weeks ago, the Cowboys were coming off an embarrassing two touchdown loss on Monday Night Football at the hands of the Tennessee Titans and looked dead in the water sitting at 3-5. A month and a half later they are in position to win the division and potentially have little to play for the final two weeks of the season. That's an amazing turnaround. One that should have Jason Garrett in the Coach of the Year discussions.

As we get ready for the Colts on Sunday, let me give you my final thoughts on the week 15 matchup.

Will Key Injuries Tell the Tale?

By week 15 of the NFL season, pretty much everyone is dealing with injuries and most teams are dealing with injuries to key players. The Dallas Cowboys and the Indianapolis Colts are no different.

All-Pro Right Guard Zack Martin has already been ruled out of Sunday's contest, as he's been battling a knee injury for several weeks. It was worsened on Sunday vs the Eagles when he took a bull rush from Fletcher Cox and fell awkwardly. This will be the first start that Zack Martin has missed in his illustrious five-year career. He's been an iron man for the Cowboys at a position that makes it extremely difficult to stay healthy.

On the plus side, it looks like the Cowboys mat get All-Pro Linebacker Sean Lee and Wide Receiver Tavon Austin back for Sunday. Both Lee and Austin will likely be in reserve/rotational roles if they suit up this week, but if they're active, they'll make important impacts to their respective units.

Indianapolis is struggling with an injury to a very important player in their own right as Wide Receiver T.Y. Hilton has not practiced this week. He's dealing with an ankle injury and Colts Head Coach Frank Reich doesn't sound optimistic about his chances of playing.

The Colts will also be missing their Right Guard Mark Glowinski, who has started the last eight games for Indianapolis. Glowinski suffered an ankle injury during the Colts win over the Texans last Sunday. That's a key loss for an offensive line that has played as well as anyone in the NFL this season.

Can the Cowboys Limit Andrew Luck?

The Cowboys defense has been one of the best units in football in 2018 as they've put on a show against really good offensive teams like the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. They'll have another tough test this week against Andrew Luck and the Colts.

According to Pro Football Reference, Luck sits second in the NFL in touchdown passes, sixth in passing yards, third in completions, second in attempts, 12th in quarterback rating, and ninth in QBR. At 7.1 yards per attempt, he sits 22nd in the NFL in and 20th in the NFL in air yards per attempt at 7.3.

Luck has been one of the best passers in the NFL, but he's also thrown the second most interceptions this season. On the flip side, among quarterbacks who have started 13 games, Luck has been sacked the second fewest times. Only Drew Brees has taken less sacks. Luck has only been sacked 16 times in 13 games and has been sacked multiple times in only five games. Over the last three weeks, Luck has taken an average of two sacks a game.

In that four week stretch, the Colts have gone 3-1, and Luck has averaged 321 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception per game.

The Dallas defense has come on strong and is finding ways to get pressure with four rushers. Taking advantage of the injury at right guard and getting to Luck with their front four is a huge key to the game as it is against most quarterbacks. Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence are playing as well as any defensive end duo in the NFL this season and I expect that to continue this week.

Big Games from Explosive Duo?

The Dallas Cowboys have been getting huge games from their two most important skill position players; Running Back Ezekiel Elliott and Wide Receiver Amari Cooper. Over the last five weeks, Elliott has averaged 116 rushing yards a game, 55 receiving yards, and at least one touchdown per game. During the same stretch, Cooper has averaged seven receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown per game.

Elliott and Cooper may find it difficult to reach their respective 100 yard milestones against the Colts. As Patrick Conn of WFAA.com illustrates below.

Patrick Conn on Twitter

Colts haven't given up 100 yards to a single rusher. 2-100 yard receiving games vs Texans in first matchup (Hopkins/Coutee). Other than that, no other 100 yard performances

Now, it could be argued that the Colts have only played three games against teams with good to great offenses. The Houston Texans (twice), and the New England Patriots. They went a combined 1-2 in those three games and the defense allowed an average of 32 points per game. The Colts have played better defense over the last seven games than they did earlier in the season. Over the last seven, they went 6-1 and allowed an average of 17 points per game. Of course that stretch of games doesn't feature any offensive juggernauts. They played the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, and the Oakland Raiders. The best team they played in their last seven games was the Houston Texans and they allowed 21 points. The Cowboys only allowed 16 points in regulation to the Texans.

Only one team on the Colts schedule to this point is in the top 10 in rushing; the Houston Texans. And only one team on their schedule is in the top 10 in passing; the New England Patriots. Again, in three games against those teams, they went 1-2.

They haven't faced an offense this season that is playing as well, and as balanced, as the Cowboys have over the last five weeks.

Rookie Linebackers Dominating

We've all witnessed the standout play of rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, as the "Wolf Hunter" has taken the NFC by storm during Sean Lee's absence. Vander Esch is third in the league in solo tackles this season. The two players in front of Vander Esch are perennial All-Pro Luke Kuechly and the guy who will probably run away with Defensive Rookie of the Year award, Indianapolis Colts rookie Darius Leonard.

Leonard is leading the NFL in solo tackles and combined tackles per Pro Football Focus. He's tied for the lead league among linebackers with seven sacks and is second in the NFL in Pro Football Focus' "stops" metric. Leighton Vander Esch is fourth.

Both linebackers have been huge contributors for their teams, at times taking over games and coming up with big plays to turn the tide. Throw in Fred Warner in San Francisco and 2018 has been the year of the rookie linebacker.

Prediction

Since I've been writing this column, the Dallas Cowboys have enjoyed a bit of a win streak. I haven't always picked them, as you can see in the New Orleans Saints edition of Final Thoughts, but when I have picked the Cowboys, they've made me look smart and I'm going to go with them again this week on the road.

Indianapolis isn't really known as a tough place to play and in the Jason Garrett era, the Cowboys have generally been a really good team away from AT&T Stadium. I believe this game will be a close one, as most have been this year, but I think that Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott continue their impressive string of performances and are able to do enough to keep Andrew Luck on the sideline and limiting his impact on the game. If T.Y. Hilton is limited in the game or unable to go, that gives the Cowboys a huge advantage as they then can focus on touchdown maker Tight End Eric Ebron and we know what Byron Jones does to tight ends.

This is going to be a tough game, but I like the Cowboys to come out on top. Randy Gregory continues his sack streak and they get to Luck multiple times in the game and are able to force at least one turnover. Dak Prescott is efficient and doesn't turn the ball over this week and finds ways to beat the blitz. So, I've got it...

Cowboys 24 - Colts 20

Be sure to leave us your prediction in the comment section. 



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Jaguars Waive Barry Church; Could Cowboys Bring Him Back?

Jess Haynie

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Barry Church

Veteran safety Barry Church was released today by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Could he return home to the Dallas Cowboys, where he spent his first seven seasons?

Despite his leadership and consistency on defense, Dallas allowed Church to leave in free agency when Jacksonville gave him a lucrative deal. But if he clears waivers, could the Cowboys consider bring him back for depth and support during their likely playoff run?

Jane Slater of the NFL Network reported on this potential reunion:

Jane Slater on Twitter

Cowboys haven't reached out to S Barry Church but I'm told they are discussing the possibility of bringing him back to Dallas according to a source informed. Church, 30, was released by the Jags today and is familiar with the system having played there from 2010-2016.

The Cowboys have had solid play from their current starting safeties, Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. Neither is a star, but the duo has not been a liability during the team's current five-game winning streak.

Church was a similar player, reliable if never exceptional, during his time in Dallas. He could be a nice insurance policy for the playoffs if something happened to one of the starters.

Barry knows the system. He never played for Kris Richard, but he was with Rod Marinelli for three seasons before leaving in free agency.

According to reports out of Jacksonville, Church is being released because the team wants to go with younger, cheaper players now that their season is over. There is no known injury keeping Barry from playing.

Of course, Dallas would have to make room on the roster to pick Church up. They could third-year prospect Darian Thompson, who is the current fourth man at safety.

Barry Church must now go through the 24-hour waiver process. A team may claim him, including the Cowboys. We'll see what the future holds.



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