Jerry Jones might as well be a NASCAR owner, watching a bumbling driver careen his pristine car over an embankment. He is an architect building a mansion, only the contractor bought the wrong cement. He is an Oscar-winner producing a blockbuster, but the director lost the script.
It's hard to fault Jones for his loyalty to Jason Garrett. In a microwave society, where results must be instant or must be damned, that Jones has hitched his star to one of his former players for a decade is commendable.
But after a winnable 13-9 loss to the New England Patriots dropped the Dallas Cowboys to 6-5 on the year — despite a loaded lineup that comes with the receipts to prove it — Jones finally said what needed to be said: “With the makeup of this team, I shouldn’t be this frustrated.”
It was a simple sentence but brutal in its sentiments.
It’d be one thing if the Cowboys were star-crossed, if Dak Prescott were banged up and Ezekiel Elliott shelved. Yes, Amari Cooper is less than 100 percent, but the Cowboys are generally healthy and have ample talent all over the field. They’re no underdogs.
To watch it go to waste — and, at 6-5 with six wins over teams under .500, it most assuredly is going to waste — must be killing Jones.
He has done everything in his power to take Dallas back to the mountaintop for the first time since the team’s 1990s heyday. He drafted well and signed big names. He ponied up for homemade heroes and traded for instant stars.
Well, not everything in his power.
He’s held on to Garrett for too long. What was once commendable now seems end-able — maybe inevitable.
It’s one thing to vent about frustration. It’s another thing to call into question the very aptitude of your coaching staff, as Jones did after the game.
He reserved his harshest words for a special teams unit that ultimately doomed the Cowboys, as a Brett Maher missed field goal and a blocked punt gave the Patriots early momentum.
Jerry Jones on Dallas' special teams problems: "To me, special teams is 100 percent coaching. It's 100 percent coaching. It's strategy. It's having players ready...Special teams is nothing but coaching. Special teams is effort. Special teams is savvy. Special teams is thinking."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 25, 2019
If you’re Garrett — or certainly special teams coach Keith O’Quinn — you’re sweating right about now. You’re at least thinking about real estate agents, if not looking at Zillow comps.
O'Quinn's failures were laid bare on Sunday, but Garrett’s mistakes were no less glaring.
His offense lacks imagination against good defenses, almost as if he out-thinks himself. On a day when his defense was true and Tom Brady proved mortal, Garrett failed to capitalize.
Great coaches are bold, and they in turn embolden their players.
Garrett waffles. Eventually he folds, and so too do the Cowboys.
How can you defend his decision to kick a field goal with Dallas down seven and at the Patriots’ 11-yard line with 6:04 left? Facing a 4th-and-7, Garrett took the three points — no certain three points, either, considering Maher’s season-long inconsistency — rather than try to tie the game. Even if the play does not succeed, the Patriots would be stuck with disadvantageous field position. Take the points, and you’re looking at marching down the field for another score, instead of needing a field-goal drive to win it.
Garrett defended the decision after the game, rather than reconsidering his faulty decision.
"[If] they go ahead and kick a field goal coming back, it's still a chance to be in the game," Garrett said. "Then, what did we get it back with, just under three with a chance to go win it? So just felt good about that decision."
That sums it up.
It was another missed opportunity and another squandered shot at a signature win, something sorely lacking from Garrett’s résumé. In just over nine years of tenure — including half of the 2010 season, after inheriting the team from Wade Phillips following a 1-9 start, and 10 games this year — Garrett has two playoff wins to show for it, three 10-win seasons and no appearances in the conference championship game.
In football, nothing is more important than signature wins. This was a signature loss.
It had Garrett’s name written all over it, and as the decade nears its end, the Cowboys' longtime head coach may go with it.