By Matthew Postins
Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones had a chance to end the speculation Tuesday in Mobile, Ala. He had a chance to end the drama train once and for all and get the Cowboys started on 2013.
Instead, Jerry did what Jerry does.
Instead of announcing a firm decision about who will call plays in 2013, Jones talked around it. He talked about how head coach Jason Garrett has built a great foundation in his two and a half years as head coach. He talked about how he hired Garrett for his play-calling skills and insisted that he continue to call plays even as he became head coach. Then he talked about how he’s not satisfied with 8-8 the past two years, how there’s a need to get better, how he has to find a formula to get better in the short term.
He sure sounded like a man who was ready to put a new voice in quarterback Tony Romo’s ear on gameday.
So why didn’t he pull the trigger?
Tuesday was the first time Jones had commented publicly since the end of the season. His two-minute, scattershot analysis of the losses to Seattle and Chicago don’t count.
Jones has had three weeks to consider his options. It certainly didn’t take him long to figure out he needed a new defensive coordinator. He fired Rob Ryan in less than 10 days and hired Monte Kiffin just a couple of days after that. He canned Skip Peete before he got rid of Ryan. He quietly allowed Joe DeCammilis and John Garrett to go to other teams.
Why is this taking him so long?
It’s a big decision. As Jones pointed out he hired Garrett for his play-calling ability even though, to be fair, he had never been an offensive coordinator before he came to Dallas. He was a quarterbacks coach in Miami for two years. But it doesn’t require a great deal of deliberation. Either Garrett is your guy or he’s not.
Three reasons for Jones’ trepidation leap immediately to mind.
Perhaps Jones is having trouble convincing Garrett he needs to give up play-calling. You may agree or disagree about his acumen, but Garrett’s play-calling is his niche. Give that up and what is he? Good question. In that case he becomes a walkaround head coach, one that delegates and lets others coach while Garrett runs the program and manages the game. Some coaches are good at it, some aren’t. Garrett’s never really done it without being the primary play-caller as well. Maybe that worries him. He’s not been the best game manager in the NFL and there’s no guarantee that taking play-calling away from him makes him a better game manager. It’s a philosophical shift that Garrett may not agree with. Of course, with Jones, it’s not really Garrett’s decision. But Jones definitely wants his buy-in.
Perhaps Jones is truly conflicted about this step. He loves Garrett. He clearly loves the fact that he was able to hand the team over to a member of his glorious Super Bowl teams. I’ve always said that Jones desperately wants Garrett to be successful, not just for the bottom line of his team but for the bottom line of his own ego. Success for Garrett is validation that his way works – his coach calling the plays and Jones making the personnel decisions. Jones wants that validation.
Or, it could be simple. The Senior Bowl, taking plays this week in Mobile, Ala., is the NFL’s version of a job fair. It could be that Jones is taking this week to interview potential play-callers while scouting new talent. That comes with its own element of risk. In order to save face, Jones must bring in a play-caller with a better reputation than Garrett. It can’t just be some young gun quarterbacks coach.
Jones tried that already. And the jury is still out.