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Where Does Jason Garrett Rank in History of Dallas Cowboys Coaches?

The worst coach in your franchise’s history is usually the current one. Unless you’re a Patriots fan, it’s hard to avoid frustration and recency bias when evaluating the true value of your head coach. Jason Garrett has been dealing with that for some time, especially against the lofty expectations of Dallas Cowboys fans.

Garrett is only the eighth head coach in the 60-year history of the Cowboys. He’s entering his ninth full season, which gives him the second-longest tenure of any Dallas coach. Tom Landry, obviously, had the longest at 29 years. The next closest is Jimmy Johnson with five seasons.

Now that he’s been running the show for almost a full decade, where do Jason Garrett’s accomplishments put him in the history of Cowboys head coaches?

Any discussion like this starts with Super Bowls, so we can immediately vault Landry and Johnson to the top of the list. Nobody in their right mind would claim that Garrett has done anything to rival what those two men did to build (Landry) and resurrect (Jimmy) the Dallas Cowboys.

Landry and Johnson each won two of the franchise’s five Super Bowls. The fifth was won by Barry Switzer, and that’s where the debate about Garrett’s ranking gets a little interesting.

Barry Switzer
Barry Switzer shows off his championship ring from Super Bowl XXX

The knock on Switzer’s championship has always been that he did it with the team that Jimmy Johnson built. In fact, some blame him for the Cowboys not getting a fourth championship in 1994, or perhaps in 1996. Many have felt a great coach would’ve done more with the team that Switzer was handed.

That said, Switzer does have the highest winning percentage of all Cowboys coaches at 62.5%, with Wade Phillips (60.7%) and Tom Landry (60.5%) coming in behind him. Jason Garrett is fourth on that list at 56.6%.

Some might argue that Garrett, having to oversee the transition from the Tony Romo Era to the Dak Prescott Era, has been asked to do far more as a coach than Switzer was. He’s had to actually build a winner, and do it while pulling the Cowboys out of “salary cap hell.”

But if team-building is something you value, then Bill Parcells’ run in Dallas is something you also have to talk about.

Parcells took over after three consecutive 5-11 seasons under Dave Campo, getting the Cowboys to 10-6 and in the playoffs his first year. During his four-year tenure, “Tuna” brought iconic players like Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, and Tony Romo to Dallas.

Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones, War Room
Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones during the NFL Draft

While Parcells had some great drafts with the Cowboys, he also had some duds. The Bobby Carpenter pick in 2006 was awful, and the 2004 draft (Julius Jones, Jacob Rogers, Stephen Peterman, etc.) was almost a complete bust.

You could easily argue that Garrett’s drafts since 2011 have been better overall than Parcells’. He built the offensive line with Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. He found a franchise quarterback in the fourth round with Dak Prescott. And there are plenty others who’ve been to the Pro Bowl out of Jason’s drafts.

Building teams is great, but what has Garrett done with the talent? We already looked at the overall win counts, but what about the postseason?

Garrett has a 2-3 record in playoff games. The only Dallas coaches with winning playoff records were Landry at 20-16, Johnson at 7-1, and Switzer at 5-2.

Wade Phillips was 1-2 while Parcells and Chan Gailey were both 0-2.

Awards are subjective, but it’s also worth noting that Garrett is one of only three Cowboys coaches to be named the NFL Coach of the Year. Landry and Johnson are the other two.

Cowboys Headlines - LISTEN: Jason Garrett Joins ESPN San Antonio's The Blitz
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett

Taking all that into consideration, let’s go back to our list. Without much room for debate, you can quickly assign the top-two and bottom-two spots:

  1. Tom Landry
  2. Jimmy Johnson
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?
  6. ?
  7. Chain Gailey
  8. Dave Campo

While it’s fair to knock Barry Switzer for cooking with Johnson’s groceries, he still had to find ways to keep that team from imploding after Jimmy’s exit. He got them to the NFC Title game, then won the Super Bowl, and won a playoff game the following year. That’s enough success to justify the third spot on the list.

As far as I’m concerned, Jason Garrett would be fourth on the list after Switzer. I think he’s done a better job of drafting and team building than Bill Parcells, and I think he’s been a better leader than Wade Phillips.

Wade was like the poor man’s Switzer, being handed the team Parcells put together and getting little out of it. His lack of postseason success, coupled with the team quitting on him in 2010, is enough to sink him below Garrett.

So, my final list:

  1. Tom Landry
  2. Jimmy Johnson
  3. Barry Switzer
  4. Jason Garrett
  5. Bill Parcells
  6. Wade Phillips
  7. Chain Gailey
  8. Dave Campo

Talk amongst yourselves. I’ve already given you the topic.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

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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