In honor of this past weekend’s birthday boy, and in effort to fill the offseason lull without senseless draft hype, it’s perfect time to take a few moments and appreciate the man largely responsible for the positive change that has been occurring for the Dallas Cowboys organization. Since becoming head coach in 2010, Jason Garrett has been an agent of change in regards to the way the Cowboys do business. Holding one of the most difficult jobs in professional sports, Garrett has found a middle ground between tradition and innovation, consistency and surprise. He has towed the line between being the Yes Man that makes Jerry Jones feel important and being the whisper of reason in his ear when he needs a nudge in the right direction. Working with Stephen Jones, he has had success in performing the GM duties that trouble the 21st-century version of Jerry Jones. Said success has further warranted the Jason and Stephen team to make more decisions. At this point, the perception has become that Jerry okays decisions before they are made, but that his crack team in the front office are performing a majority of the duties.
Jason Calvin Garrett was born on March 28,1966 in Abington, PN. He did his schooling in Ohio until attending college at Princeton to major in history. He became quarterback of the football team and earned the Ivy League Player of the Year Award. He still holds the record for completion percentage, displaying the focus on efficiency for which he strives.
The young Princeton grad signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent in 1989. When that didn’t pan out, he took the helm for the San Antonio Riders of the WLAF in 1991, but finished the season in Canada as a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders. Something happened in 1992 as Jason bounced back from a downward trend and, by 1993, had found himself not only in the NFL, but on the Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys. No doubt he uses stories from his experience that year to encourage young players not to give up.
Fulfilling the third string quarterback duties, Jason earned a Super Bowl ring that first year as the Cowboys ran over the entire league. He would attain a second one in 1995 when the team avenged their predecessors from the 70’s as they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers to win a then league-best fifth Super Bowl. He would hold the position for the rest of the decade, moving up to second string on the depth chart in 1998. He started five games, going 3-2, while Troy Aikman was out during the ’98 season. His shining moment came when he came in the traditional Thanksgiving game and led a 2nd half comeback over the Green Bay Packers in a game that has become a favorite memory of Cowboy historians. For a coach that preaches the importance of seizing oppurtunity, he sure set a precedent that day.
In a dark time for him, Garrett was the back-up quarterback for the New York Giants from 2000-2003. In 2004, he went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then the Miami Dolphins before retiring. It was in Tamp Bay that he first met and worked with Monte Kiffin and the whole Tampa-2 gang that he brought in to set the tone of the Cowboys return to the 4-3 scheme in 2013.
In 2005 and 2006 he broke into coaching as the quarterbacks coach for the Dolphins under Nick Saban. It was then that the two formed a bond, allowing Garrett to call on him to retrieve his opinion on players like Rolando McClain. When Bill Parcells retired, and Wade Phillips fell into the Cowboy head coaching spot, Garrett returned to the team with which he had spent the majority of his entire football career. He was made the offensive coordinator, and although the roster was built by Parcells, the unit soared to 3rd best in the league behind the red hot Tony Romo. This success brought several interviews and offers for head coaching positions around the league for Garrett, but he always stayed a Cowboy. It certainly didn’t hurt that he was being paid better than any other coordinator at the time.
After the team imploded in the fall of 2010, Jason Garrett was made the interim head coach when Phillips was shown the door. Finally, in 2011 he was made the official head coach and saw the team achieve increasingly frustrating 8-8 seasons capped with playoff teases. This past season the team broke out and won the division and a wildcard playoff game to earn Garrett a 5-year extension.
Jason Garrett is steeped in Cowboys history and can remind the fans from yesteryear of Tom Landry in his poise and influence. Bringing back the 4-3 defense and focusing on the running game show his focus on the past. Managing the media spin in his words and through his players’ indicate an understanding of the reality of the present. Stern cap decisions and commitment to drafting the right players show a focus on the future. Jerry Jones would love to have Garrett be the last coach he ever hires, and nothing looks like that can’t be true.
A unique aspect to Garrett’s style is the respect he shows to his players, while maintaining high expectations for them. He acts as a leader, not as a boss. To get a better understanding of his message, listen to the famous training camp speech from 2013. He speaks like a motivational speaker with some football coach flare. He is positive and demanding. The philosophy he lays out is applicable outside of football in most any industry or even one’s personal life.
Looking around the league, it’s hard to find too many coaches that are clearly better at their job. Bill Bellicheck has done what he does for a long time now, but any of the handful of others you would likely hear are mostly thought of because they have been to a Super Bowl or two. None of them could out-coach Garrett handidly. As the team has grown, so has Garrett’s in-game decision making. The days of icing his own kicker are over and as Garrett grows, so will the team. In many ways, it looks as if the sky is the limit for the red haired one.