Jason Garrett Ruined My Decade

I live in Des Moines, Iowa, where if you want to root for a professional sports team, you get to pick literally anyone. Because my mom married my stepdad in the mid-90’s, at a time when his childhood Dallas Cowboys fandom was reinvigorated thanks to their big success, that’s the team I picked — America’s Team, the most profitable sports team in the country, the symbol of everything that’s wrong with the world.

For being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I deserve nothing but grief. I know this. But I feel like the very least I could ask for is to have this grief foisted upon me through the woes of a well-run team that ultimately fails. What I cannot accept, but have been forced to accept for the last decade, is a type of grief that is monotonously painful — like a barrel of molasses spilling out and rolling down a hill, boring as can be but still ruining everything in its path.

That barrel of molasses has taken the human form of Jason Garrett. The backup quarterback to Cowboys great Troy Aikman through most of the 90’s, Garrett became an offensive coordinator for the Cowboys after he retired as a player. Head coach Wade Phillips, a good man and much better coach than Garrett, was fired midway through the 2010 season because the team wasn’t living up to expectations. In retrospect, Jerry Jones’s reason for firing him is hilarious, if by “hilarious” you mean “makes me want to jump out of a window.”

What followed, from November 2010 until mere days ago, was a rollercoaster of brief highs, crushing lows, and a whole lot of lukewarm molasses trickling down the pavement on a 59 degree day.

Before I continue, I should point out two things:

  1. I do not possess the knowledge of even a third-tier NFL analyst. I have watched a lot of football and understand lots of things about the game, but I don’t know everything.

But the head coach gets that job for a reason: to be the one person upon whose shoulders the success and/or failure of the team rests. And for 9 1/2 seasons, Jason Garrett proved that he never, ever deserved to be that head coach.

The entire maddening run of Jason Garrett as the coach of the Cowboys can be summarized in a game that happened toward the tail end of 2011, Garrett’s first full season in charge. They were in Arizona playing the Cardinals, with the Cowboys very much needing to win in order to stay alive in the playoff race. The game was tied 13–13. With 25 seconds left, Tony Romo connected with Dez Bryant at Arizona’s 32-yard line. The Cowboys had two timeouts left.

Reader, I ask you, as someone who presumably has at least some knowledge of clock management within an NFL game: would the next correct move be to call a timeout and attempt at least a rushing play, in hopes of getting a shorter field goal? And then to call another timeout, since you have another one left, and run another play to get an even shorter field goal?

If you answered “Yes” to all of that, which you should have, then congratulations, because you officially know more than a real life NFL coach! Instead of doing any of that, Jason Garrett instructed Tony Romo to run the clock all the way down to 7 seconds, and then spike the ball. This left them kicking a 49-yard field goal, with a kicker who had already missed a 50-yard kick earlier in the game. And THEN, right before Dan Bailey was about to attempt this game-winning kick, Garrett called a timeout. Why? WHO FUCKING KNOWS, THAT’S WHY. And you know what makes this insane decision even better? Bailey made the kick that didn’t even count! And THEN, Bailey attempted the actual kick, and he missed it! And they went to overtime! And on the Cardinals’ first possession, Kevin Kolb connected with Larod Stephens-Howling on a 52-yard pass to win, 19–13!

I need to remind you again that this happened in Jason Garrett’s first year as a coach. They finished 8–8 and missed the playoffs. AND HE COACHED FOR EIGHT MORE SEASONS AFTER THIS. Such an astounding show of coaching malpractice should have been it for Jerry Jones, but it wasn’t. It super, totally wasn’t.

As we found out, Jerry Jones had a lot more patience for ineptitude. The 2012 season brought more great play from Romo and Bryant, yet also more failure. In Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens, the Cowboys were presented with a situation strikingly similar to the 2011 Cardinals game. After having recovered an onside kick, which teams almost never do, Dez Bryant caught a pass at Baltimore’s 36-yard line with 20 seconds left. The Cowboys had one timeout left. STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE. Against, rather than call a timeout and try for one more play to get them closer, Jason Garrett, the world’s most pathetic coward, called it good and put every bit of the pressure on his kicker to seal the win. Dan Bailey did not. He missed it, and the Cowboys lost 31–29.

The Cowboys finished 8–8 again. Jason Garrett kept his job again.

2013 was more of the same. I don’t remember a similar clock management blunder (though if someone researched it I’m sure it could be found). My main memory of that season is the Cowboys losing to the Green Bay Packers 37–36, in the same game in which the Cowboys led at halftime 26–3. I wanted to die at the end of this one. It was a monumental collapse. Yes, Tony Romo threw two consecutive interceptions at the end of the game, but I’m still pinning this on Jason Garrett. When the pressure was on and big decisions needed to be made, or in this case, the nail in the coffin needed to be hammered shut, Garrett was never able to motivate his team to do it. They wilted because their coach was a literal wilting flower.

The Cowboys finished 8–8 again. And Jason Garrett kept his job again. This was inexcusable. Three consecutive seasons of 8–8 should have given Jerry Jones the right to fire Garrett out of a goddamn cannon into the sun. But, as has been established by media members in the know, Jason Garrett was the perfect puppet for Jerry Jones: a guy who never complained, did as he was told, kept things somewhat competitive and gave fans just enough hope that something good was coming around the corner. Jerry Jones got to continue drinking Johnnie Walker Black and stepping on the throats of us peasants while assuring them that he too wanted to get back to the glory days of the 90’s.

This horrific complacency ended up almost paying off. 2014 was a great season, somehow. They finished 12–4, Garrett won his first playoff game, then the Cowboys lost to the Packers in the Divisional Round due to Dez Bryant’s miraculous catch being called incomplete because nothing good is ever allowed to happen in the godforsaken town of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Was any of 2014’s success the product of good coaching work by Garrett? For the sake of this piece, let’s say it wasn’t, because, come on, it probably wasn’t.

Either way, the unexpected success bought Garrett at least another year. That year was 2015, which saw Dez Bryant go down with a big injury in Week 1, followed by Tony Romo going down with an even bigger injury in Week 2. The Cowboys were mostly undermanned for 2015, to be fair, but the team withered and died quickly, finishing 4–12. As a comparison, the 2017 Eagles lost their starting quarterback, offensive lineman, and various other players, and then won the Super Bowl. Had Jason Garrett been dealt the same cards as Eagles coach Doug Pederson was, the team would have fallen apart and ended up killing each other.

Instead of cleaning house and firing Garrett after he showed no ability to coach successfully under difficult circumstances, Jerry Jones apparently wrote 2015 off as a mulligan that had nothing to do with the shittiness of Garrett. So he kept him.

2016 brought us the rise of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, two electrifying rookies who gave me real hope for the first time since I could remember. They finished 13–3, with the top seed in the playoffs. And then wouldn’t you know it, the goddamn Packers beat the Cowboys in the Divisional Round, in typically agonizing fashion. Yes, Aaron Rodgers was playing like a goddamned wizard, but still, with a bye week and home field advantage, Garrett’s team was outplayed and outcoached, as had become routine.

But because hey, the team was good again, Garrett was brought back for 2017.

2017 sucked. I barely remember anything from it other than how it was documented on the Amazon Prime TV series, All or Nothing, where unprecedented behind-the-scenes access showed Jason Garrett as a perfectly affable guy who knew how to say the right things, but had all the charisma of a bag of socks. He clearly did not have the stature or gravitas needed to motivate a room of millionaires.

Oh wait, I just remembered that game against the Falcons when starting left tackle Tyron Smith was out with an injury, and his backup gave up SIX sacks to the same player, and this trainwreck happened the entire game with Garrett doing absolutely nothing to adjust or fix the situation. It was like your family getting murdered in front of you, and just being like, “Huh! Someone oughta do something about that. Oh well.”

The Cowboys finished 9–7, missing the playoffs. Jason Garrett was brought back for 2018. Why? BECAUSE WHY ANYTHING, THAT’S WHY.

2018 was one game better than 2017, with the Cowboys finishing 10–6. They ended the year on a surprising run after most people (myself included) had counted them out, so hey, Garrett kind of did a good thing! Also they won another playoff game! Two in eight seasons, wow! But then they were roundly defeated by the Los Angeles Rams 30–22, in a game that was never as close as that score indicates. In yet another huge moment, the Cowboys did not even approach the look of a team that could rise to the occasion.

Jason Garrett was brought back as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

The chatter before 2019 was how Jason Garrett’s contract would be ending after the season, so he really needed to prove his worth as a coach. Guess what? He did not. The Cowboys finished 8–8 in a completely stupid season that I can’t wipe from my memory soon enough. The best moment came in an unacceptable loss to the Jets, when a GIF went viral showing Garrett trying to get someone, anyone, to high five him after a failed drive, and no one would. It was yet another perfect picture of a guy who never truly got his players to believe in him. In this moment, he was just a dead-eyed schmuck with his head hopelessly stuck up his ass.

All season, the Cowboys continuously dropped games they should have won. And in each game, there were baffling coaching decisions that in years past would have had me furious, but this time it was different — there was credible chatter from midseason on that if the Cowboys didn’t make at least the NFC Championship Game (which they never did under Garrett), then Jason Garrett would be fired. This made me strangely at peace with every ridiculous Cowboys loss. If it was getting us one step closer to never having to look at that goddamn guy wandering the sidelines, then so be it.

When the Cowboys traveled to Philadelphia in Week 16 to play an Eagles team decimated by injury, my secret wishes were granted. The Cowboys were terrible, and so were the Eagles, but their coach isn’t a total fraud, so they won. The writing was on the wall. Garrett was out.

Apparently, in the three days of meetings Jerry Jones had with Jason Garrett after the season, Jones was trying to get Garrett to accept a different role within the organization. Basically anything other than being the coach. And this tool, this walking mistake of a professional, insisted that he should still coach this team. The gall of this man will never cease to amaze me. Jason Garrett went that whole decade, never doing a truly good job, yet he believed he deserved to still have his job. Incredible. I wish I had that type of clueless confidence.

So Jason Garrett is gone. Excellent news! Now let’s see who they’re going to hire! Maybe a smart college coach like Lincoln Riley or Urban Meyer? Or someone who doesn’t suck? We’ll see!

Oh wait, they just hired someone? Who?

Fuck. Looks like the 20’s are going to suck as much as the 10’s.

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