By and large, Jason Garrett needs the Dallas Cowboys to reach the NFC Championship Game to return as head coach in 2020, scoring a new contract in the process.
That pipedream likely died on the proverbial vine Sunday, along with the Cowboys’ playoff hopes, following an ugly 17-9 road loss to the rival Philadelphia Eagles.
After the team’s fourth defeat in its last five games, owner Jerry Jones did not throw support behind Garrett nor did he publicly blast him, courses of action he’s vacillated between this season. He didn’t say he’s sticking with the 53-year-old. But he didn’t not say that, either.
“It leaves, from my perspective, a lot to consider here,” Jones told Jarrett Bell of USA Today. “This was a little bit of a surprise. I didn’t see the Chicago Bears game coming (a 31-24 loss in Week 14) and this one was a surprise. I thought we were prepared to play. I thought we could play better out here. I’m disappointed.”
Disappointed was a word muttered by Jones multiple times during his extremely brief postgame press conference, which lasted just over two minutes. But that singular word couldn’t possibly encapsulate his true feelings after witnessing Dallas no-show in the de facto NFC East title tilt, one of the club’s biggest games of this decade.
“When you get yourself technically in a spot to come in to a Philadelphia team that has the players they got even though they have been missing a lot of them, you give yourself a chance to be real disappointed. We are,” Jones said, via ESPN’s Ed Werder.
Technically, the Cowboys still have a pulse. They’d capture the division with a win against the Redskins and an Eagles loss to the Giants in the Week 17 finale. Hey, stranger things have happened.
But, barring a miracle, their once-hyped 2019 campaign ends in seven days. Which puts the spotlight squarely on Garrett, who entered the year to some surprise as a lame-duck.
Jones claimed to Bell that the Cowboys’ impending coaching search “hasn’t been a focus of mine” over the last month, as he gave Garrett every chance to earn his keep despite mounting — and often inexplicable — losses. It appears as if the undertaking finally is beginning to creep into his mind.
That sound you hear is the door being cracked open for Garrett’s successor, be it an NFL retread or a college-level rookie.
“It’s not hard for me to go in two areas, regarding coaching, whether it be coordinators, position coaches, or for that matter, head coaches,” he said. “Generally, my radar is turned on. It’s not hard for me to get into thinking about coaching.”
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Jerry Didn’t Outright Blame Garrett for Loss
Fresh off its Week 15 domination of the Rams, facing an injury-racked Eagles club with everything on the line, the Cowboys were outhustled and outcoached essentially from the opening whistle. Stop me if you’ve heard that before.
Once Philly mounted a 10-0 first-quarter advantage, it felt like an inescapable hole. It might as well have been 100-0, because the Cowboys’ body language — a noticeable lack of intensity — smacked of a coach who didn’t have his squad prepared to play.
The offense, led by injured quarterback Dak Prescott (25/44, 265 yards), couldn’t find the end zone, its rushing attack (54 yards; 47 by Ezekiel Elliott) grounded. The defense couldn’t contain the likes of Miles Sanders (156 total yards, one touchdown) and Dallas Goedert (team-high nine receptions for 91 yards, TD). The play-calling was flat. Amari Cooper went M.I.A. Tony Pollard fumbled.
This is up there with their losses to the Jets and Bears in terms of the wow-factor. Nearly everyone was responsible for the result, though the blame ultimately falls at the feet of Garrett, the Cowboys’ not-so-fearless leader. Surprisingly, however, Jones wasn’t looking to pin the tail on the donkey, so to speak.
“It’s what it is. We’re past the point of who’s it on,” he responded when Bell asked if Garrett’s the main culprit for Philly’s victory. “We’ve just got to look at what it is.”
Garrett Discusses Loss, Job Security
A Saturday report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport seemed to confirm Garrett’s tenuous, at best, hold on the Dallas job. Even with his seat blistering hot, though, he reacted to the Eagles letdown in typical Garrett fashion.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the job done,” he said, per The Athletic. “We all have to own it. I have to own it. The coaching staff has to own it. All the players and staff members have to own it.”
Next Sunday’s game may mercifully represent the capper in Garrett’s decade-long reign, save for a stunning Philly collapse to the basement-dwelling Giants. The Clapper had little to offer except for predictable coach-speak as Dallas limps into its finale.
“The biggest thing we have to do is to try and process this game, learn from it, and move forward,” he said, per The Athletic. “Go and have a great practice on Wednesday and preparation for Sunday.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL