Jason Garrett is three wins away — at the least — from ensuring he returns to his post as the Dallas Cowboys‘ head coach.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport made official Saturday what had been floating around, unconfirmed, over the last two months: Anything less than an appearance in the NFC Championship Game will result in Garrett’s dismissal this coming offseason.
Unsigned beyond 2019, the longtime head man’s road to a new contract begins Sunday in the de facto NFC East title tilt against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Obviously, they have to beat the Eagles on Sunday and they have to get into the playoffs,” Rapoport said. “Jerry Jones has been clear; they need to finish first in this division. Then, when they get to the playoffs, they need to win — and keep winning. Remember, last year they got to the divisional round. That was not enough.
My understanding is, it needs to be the NFC title game or further for Jason Garrett to keep his job. Otherwise, the Cowboys are going to be looking for a new coach for 2020.”
To be sure, this is nothing groundbreakingly new from Rapoport, who reported on Dec. 8 that Dallas is “heading to a divorce with Garrett” barring a deep postseason run. In October, former Cowboys quarterback and current FOX broadcaster Troy Aikman similarly speculated it’s conference-championship-or-bust for the 53-year-old coach.
Even Cowboys owner Jerry Jones himself, despite being a “Jason Garrett man,” hinted as much. Except he took it a step further, seemingly challenging the decade-long head man to win the Super Bowl … or else.
“Let me tell you: No one in this country has earned the right to say ‘I’m a Jason Garrett man’ more than me. I am his man,” Jones said on Nov. 27, via SB Nation. “And we want the very same thing and that’s for our players to play at their very best, and we want his staff to coach at their very best. The bottom line is we get graded- I’m in business. I don’t have to win the Super Bowl in business every year. I can come in sixth and have a hell of a year. But in this business you’ve got to come in first. You’ve got to come in first. And so fundamentally you’ve asked for something that’s a very narrow window to begin with. I want Jason to get it done.”
With no margin for error, Garrett likely is approaching his job one challenge at a time. The first order of business requires 7-7 Dallas vanquishing the 7-7 Eagles in Philadelphia, which would clinch the division crown.
After that, things really get interesting.
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Cowboys Tried Replacing Garrett With Super Bowl-Winning Coach: Report
This would explain why the club allowed Garrett to enter this season with lame-duck status. Rapoport reported last Sunday the Cowboys, using “back channels,” reached out to New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton last year to gauge his interest in leaving the Big Easy for Big D.
Payton, obviously, declined after some brief hemming and hawing. And earlier this season, he formally signed a monster five-year extension to remain in New Orleans, where he won a Super Bowl — an extension catalyzed by Jerry Jones’ courtship.
“Last year, after the season — through back channels, nothing official — the Cowboys made it known that they would be interested in Sean Payton if he was interested in them,” Rapoport said. “And obviously a lot of things would have to happen. Payton considered it; he helped use that leverage to land a massive contract extension that was actually agreed to last winter, not before the season.”
Not that you’d expect him to utter anything else, but Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones shot down Rapoport’s report during last Monday’s appearance on 105.3 The Fan, refuting “just untrue” conjecture.
“Obviously, we don’t comment on rumors like that,” Jones said. “Everybody knows what we think of Jason. If anything, we’ve been criticized to a fault for what we do think of him. He just did a great job getting this team back on track yesterday, and we’re focused on beating the Eagles.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL