Jason Garrett had second interviews with the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons about their head coaching jobs. But, come on, he never really had second thoughts about actually leaving the Dallas Cowboys.
Garrett’s decision to stay in Dallas and become the team’s unofficial head-coach-in-waiting shocked absolutely no one with even a remote understanding of his M.O. Garrett is intelligent, loyal, dedicated, reliant upon his wife, Brill, and -- most of all -- smart enough to know he’s not quite ready. Don’t get me wrong: The raise to a $3 million salary and added title of assistant head coach didn’t hurt, but Garrett and his Ivy League noggin’ know a good thing when he sees it. And that thing is right here with the Cowboys.
“These are great experiences to go through and it was great to totally investigate the opportunities,” Garrett said moments ago at Valley Ranch. “But when we got back to Dallas, for a variety of reasons, we realized this is the best place for us. It’d be disingenuous for me to say at some point I didn’t want to be a head coach in the NFL, but this is a great situation for obvious reasons. The decision had a lot to do with what the Dallas Cowboys accomplished in 2007 and what we can accomplish in 2008.”
Tempting? Sure. Flattering? Absolutely. Garrett would’ve been ignorant to not at least give an audience to each team’s courtship. There are only 32 NFL head coach jobs on this planet, and he was a leading candidate for two of them.
Said Garrett of his head coaching future, “You’re never ready to do something until you’ve done it.”
Cool. Now, back to reality.
At only 41 with just three years’ coaching experience, Garrett knew his coronation was premature. He’s still learning how to handle Tony Romo. How to best utilize Marion Barber. How to -- in the face of Sunday’s kamikaze blitzing by the Giants -- slow down a pass rush with a screen pass, a designed roll-out or an out-and-out waggle or bootleg.
“We made great strides this year,” he said. “We didn’t achieve all our goals, but we’re headed in the right direction.”
Despite the shocking upset loss to New York, Garrett realizes he’s set up to succeed. Whereas in Baltimore and Atlanta he’d be searching for a quarterback and rebuilding offenses that ranked 22nd and 23rd, in Dallas he’s an offensive coordinator already in charge of a third-ranked unit blessed with seven Pro Bowlers, including Romo.
He said, in retrospect, his decision was made Monday morning when he got choked up addressing players in the locker room.
“It was hard for me to get through it,” Garrett admitted. “It told me more than anything else about my true feelings for this place and this team and this organization.”
Give Garrett credit for being admirable, but look closer and his decision to stay put is a no-brainer. First of all, the guy has his feet planted firmly on the ground. He’s not motivated by fame or fortune, but more so comfort, quality of life and success. Again, it doesn’t hurt that he’s now the NFL’s highest-paid assistant. I seriously doubt if he was offered that much by the Ravens. Furthermore, head coach Wade Phillips is 61. Owner Jerry Jones can’t formally guarantee Garrett the job when Wade leaves, but trust me, that sonofabitch sure knows how to wink. (And for those of you wondering about Wade’s attitude toward an assistant making as much as him, I betcha Jerry very quietly also upped Wade’s contract to at least $1 more than Jason. Controversy nipped in the bud.)
With Garrett’s decision, the Cowboys are basically set for next season. Sure, Jerry has offered new contracts to secondary coach Todd Bowles, linebackers coach Paul Pasqualoni and defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers. But, let me repeat, the only thing in sports more overrated than coaches (see: Phil Jackson, Joe Torre and Bill Parcells -- when they have Hall of Fame players, they are Hall of Fame coaches. When they don’t, notsamuch) are assistant coaches. Remember the '90s Cowboys and how their coaching staff just had to be full of budding geniuses? How are Norv Turner, Dave Wannstedt, Butch Davis and Dave Campo looking these days?
Which -- very indirectly, I admit -- brings us 'round to a potentially juicy and not all that far-fetched conspiracy theory. Follow me on this one:
Other than the Giants, whose new team stood to gain the most from the Cowboys’ loss last week?
Who recently snared the reins of an organization and immediately began plucking scouting directors and head coaches from Dallas’ staff?
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Who has a valuable working knowledge of Cowboys’ personnel and the smarts to devise a game plan to attack it?
Who has long, deep, traditional ties to the Giants?
Who wouldn’t think twice about calling New York with some advice, if only to stick it to a Dallas team he could never lead to a playoff win?
If you answered Bill Parcells, congrats, you have been paying attention after all. --Richie Whitt