Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones said Thursday that head coach Jason Garrett’s job will not be on the line this upcoming season, despite back-to-back 8-8 seasons for the Cowboys.
It is a classic example of the control Jones wants as owner. Don’t get me wrong, Jones is a great owner. He has made the Cowboys maybe the most recognizable franchise in all the NFL and in sports altogether, and also made them the most valuable sports franchise in the United States — the second most valuable in the world only to Manchester United, according to Forbes.com.
But being a quality GM is a different story. Jones doesn’t have the greatest eye for talent, and loves to have control.
Only twice in his tenure as Cowboys owner, president, and GM has Jones worked with a coach with just as big of an ego as his.
The first was Jimmy Johnson, who coached the team from 1989-1993, winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1992 and 1993. Johnson had control over personnel decisions, and was responsible for the Herschel Walker trade to the Minnesota Vikings that brought back to the Cowboys an abundance of draft picks (18 players were involved total in the deal for the Cowboys’ star; it is the biggest trade in league history) that turned into running back Emmitt Smith, franchise lynchpin safety Darren Woodson and defensive tackle Russell Maryland.
Smith would, of course, end up as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, and Woodson became a career starter for the Cowboys, as one of the league’s best safeties and is arguably a Hall of Famer. Maryland would be the anchor of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl-winning defensive lines.
But Johnson’s tenure ended abruptly with the Cowboys prior to 1994, as he stated that he and Jones “mutually decided” that Johnson would no longer be the head coach.
It is now no secret that Jones’ ego got in the way of Johnson staying and possibly winning three straight championships. There was no other reason to let go of a coach that brought the team from 1-15 in his first year in 1989 to 12-4 and 13-3 in ’92 and ’93 other than personal disagreements and different philosophies on how to manage the team.
Johnson, as the smarter football mind, wanted to maintain control of roster decisions. The owner didn’t approve.
Then there was Bill Parcells – a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach with the New York Giants in 1986 and 1990 and soon-to-be Hall of Fame inductee this August – who was hired in 2003. Like Johnson, he wanted his share of input on roster decisions. While it worked for a while, Jones wasn’t having it long-term, and Parcells left after the 2006 season.
Then Wade Phillips was brought in in 2007, and Garrett, a former Cowboys’ backup quarterback in the 90s, was the offensive coordinator.
Phillips took a backseat to Jones on the personnel front, allowing the owner to have full general manager duties. Jerry got what he wanted and was content — up until the middle of the 2010 season that is, when he fired Phillips and promoted Garrett to head coach.
And as Cowboy fans can attest, Garrett is no different than Phillips. Not having a strong personality, he won’t demand things and won’t challenge Jones on personnel moves. Instead, he’ll say yes to Jerry, agreeing with him in order to avoid conflict and possibly losing his job.
Phillips and Garrett, though no fault of their own as it is their personal makeup, are not the confrontational type. Unlike Johnson and Parcells, who, with their superior knowledge of the game, challenged Jones’ thinking, they sit back and let the owner – the ultimate figure in the Cowboys organization – call the shots.
It’s exactly what Jones wants, maybe perhaps more than winning. Because if he truly cared about winning and getting the Cowboys back to being one of the most respected and successful franchises around the league, he would strike an ultimatum with Garrett.
He would say that this season is do or die — that Garrett either maximizes the talent on a super-talented Cowboys team, or he’s out. But he won’t do that. Because control, in Jerry’s mind, in the No. 1 thing.
And that’s just the way he likes it.