In early February of 2006 I ran into Jason Garrett. It had been years since we had seen each other but exchanged man hugs and laughed about the past. This was the week of Super Bowl XL. After chatting with him for a while, I asked if we could turn on the camera and reminisce some more. He looked around sheepishly and said, “No I am not allowed to talk to the media.” At the time Jason was quarterbacks coach for the Dolphins and under the oppressive thumb of his head coach Nick Saban.
I tell that story as a way of reminding you who Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett is. He is a compilation of all the coaches he has played for and worked under in the past 30 years. That is a lot of coaches, a lot of influences, and when you are as smart at Garrett is, a recipe for success.
From the moment he arrived here in 2007 I told people he would be a great head coach. Remember the circumstances of that arrival? He was hired and named offensive coordinator before the head coach, Wade Phillips was hired. Jason handled that with class and respect and forged a good relationship with Phillips. In those days I did Cowboys Game Night on Fox Sport SW with two of “Red Ball’s” former teammates, Nate Newton and Rocket Ismail. They marveled at the play calling and we were all thrilled by the results. The Cowboys went 13-3 that year, won the NFC East and got a first round bye.
My suspicions that Garrett was a good coach waiting to happen were immediately confirmed, and I was not the only one that thought so. In January of 2008 he turned down the Ravens and the Falcons both of whom offered their head coaching position to Garrett. Instead he stayed with the Cowboys and was paid $3,000,000 – the highest salary ever paid to an assistant coach. I thought it was a brilliant move by Jerry Jones, since there’s no salary cap for coaches and Garret was going to be great.
In November of 2010 he finally got a chance to prove it. Phillips was fired at halftime of that season after a 1-7 start. Garret lead the team to a 5-3 record the rest of the way and was rewarded with one of the most coveted positions in all of sports. In the three years that followed there were, what could kindly be called, growing pains. The team was 8-8 each year and didn’t seem to be making much progress. Garrett made some clock management and in-game mistakes that belied his intelligence and experience.
And yet here were are. The Cowboys are 3-1, but more importantly they have been built in the image of the 90’s Cowboys. It all starts up front and with three first round draft picks on the offensive line the Cowboys can dominate the line of scrimmage. Against the Saints on Sunday they used the run to set up the pass. They have balance and skill on offense.
There are still warts on this team. The defense is exceeding expectations greatly. But Jason Garrett is not. He is not exceeding my expectations anyway. I was certain he would be a great head coach. I don’t know that he has proven me correct yet, but he is well on the way and I still say he will be a great head coach someday. If his team keeps playing like it has for the first four weeks, his greatness will be realized with the Cowboys.