When you hear that a head coach only has two winnings seasons in six years, you probably assume that guy is on the hot seat. You may be surprised he even still has that job.
In the case of the Cowboys’ Jason Garrett, though, he now has one of the most secure jobs in the NFL.
With Dallas picking up their ninth win of 2016 over the Baltimore Ravens, Garrett is guaranteed only his second winning record since 2011. It’s a testament to allowing a coach to see his vision through, which Jerry Jones has done, and not panicking over disappointment.
What Garrett is accomplishing this year goes beyond motivating and strategizing. Time and again, and perhaps never more than last Sunday against the Ravens, Garrett’s football philosophy is palpable in the way that his players are performing in the face of adversity.
Rookie quarterbacks aren’t supposed to be as unflappable as Dak Prescott. Rookies aren’t supposed to have the mental fortitude of Ezekiel Elliott. Sixth-round picks aren’t supposed to play as confidently as Anthony Brown.
These young players continue to thrive with huge responsibility on their shoulders. For Prescott and Brown, far more responsibility than they ever anticipated when they first joined the Cowboys last April. Their consistent performance is thanks in large part to the consistent message of their head coach.
Jason Garrett doesn’t get caught up in narratives or big pictures. When asked after the Ravens game what it meant to give the storied Cowboys franchise its longest-ever winning streak, Garret dismissed the question quickly.
“We’re not going to spend a lot of time on that.”
Garrett approaches football like a scientist; eliminate waste and focus on what gets results. He doesn’t spend time talking or worrying about superfluous issues and promotes the same mentality throughout the roster.
That “stay in the moment” focus was evident on Sunday. The Cowboys’ rookie-led offense got smacked in the mouth by Baltimore’s top-ranked defense early, punting it away three times.
Earlier this year, other teams have come into a game against Dallas with good defensive rankings. The Cowboys exposed those defenses quickly on the way to wins, but this time the ranking was legitimate. The Ravens were for real, and Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were going to have to wipe their noses and punch back.
With the pressure rising, the youngsters didn’t try to do too much. They stuck to the science of smart, consistent football. Over time, the Ravens’ defense eroded and the Cowboys broke through.
Jason Garrett’s message was loud and clear. While these rookies are certainly special talents, that talent is being honed by a coach who played the game alongside legendary teammates and has seen what greatness involves.
Every time Thanksgiving comes along, I can’t help but remember Jason Garrett’s greatest day as a player. In 1994, Garrett went from third-stringer to headline-maker in a thrilling victory over the Green Bay Packers. You know he’s talked about that day with Dak Prescott, who went from third-string to starting QB almost just as quickly.
Garrett returned to the bench quickly after that game, but for that brief moment he practiced what he’s always preached.
“Be your best.”
The question has been asked to Jason Garrett and the Joneses more than once and in various forms; did you expect to be winning like this when Tony Romo went down?
The honest answer, of course, is that nobody saw this coming. But a guy like Garrett will tell you he doesn’t think that way.
If you go into each game practicing, coaching, and playing to win then you don’t ever expect to lose. To a football scientist, nine-straight wins isn’t a feat. It’s just a sum total.
Garrett focuses on the hard work and perseverance it takes to win a single NFL game. He approaches every week the same way and his players are following his lead. That is the real story here; leadership and mentoring setting the basic foundation for grand results.
As of now, Jason Garrett should be running away with the Coach of the Year award. If he wins it, it will likely be something he says very little about. “Being your best” isn’t about awards to Garrett, it’s about the things that are accomplished as a team.
In 2016, Garrett is leading the Cowboys to do things that no Dallas team ever has. He’s leading Dak Prescott to play like few, if any, rookie quarterbacks ever have.
Garrett’s science is rewarding the faith of Jerry Jones and many Cowboys fans. There’s a lot of season left, but even through 10 weeks it’s been one of the greatest coaching jobs I’ve ever seen.