The emotional mood swings that define Jerry Jones usually peak immediately after a loss, when surrounded by reporters he delivers his take on the state of his Dallas Cowboys. He’s the only owner in the NFL who routinely makes himself available in such moments.
It’s then that he talks about frustrations and failures, and hints at the need for change. Headlines ensue, seemingly more than ever lately about the job security of coach Jason Garrett, who here in his 10th season is still looking for a deep playoff run.
If nothing else, it appears cathartic, like “Jerry from Highland Park” calling into 105.3 The Fan to unload. First time, long time.
What Jones says after games matters only so much. He admitted once that he, as team owner, should fire the general manager.
Since he’s also the general manager ...
Then by midweek, the hurt has worn off and he is more circumspect. Comments get walked back. Everything returns to normal. Garrett, and everyone else, keeps their job.
This time may be different, what with a Cowboys team stocked with Super Bowl-level talent sitting at 6-5 and about to host a very good, 8-3, Buffalo team for its traditional Thanksgiving Day game. It’s a big spotlight even for a franchise that lives in a big spotlight.
Dallas shouldn’t be flailing about like this. Jones built up the trenches on both sides of the ball. He drafted an excellent quarterback in Dak Prescott and watched him flourish. He signed Ezekiel Elliott to a huge deal in the preseason, caving on a training camp holdout.
It’s all there. And yet it isn’t.
Jones’ comments after a 13-9 loss Sunday in New England didn’t point to immediacy bias.
“I shouldn’t be this frustrated,” he said.
Instead he noted that losing in the cold November rain of Foxborough was hardly a surprise. It’s that this was a season-long failure, particularly a road loss to the New York Jets that made the game more desperate. And as Yahoo Sports Charles Robinson reported, sources say most of this has been building since a January 2017 playoff defeat to Green Bay.
While Jones was more reasoned by midweek, it sets the table for more Thanksgiving drama than normal.
Could a Thursday afternoon embarrassment finally be enough to move Jones to act upon his anger?
No one knows, probably not even Jones. For Garrett though, this becomes a high stakes contest.
Jones is a savvy businessman but when it comes to football he often fails to make the merciless decisions needed, namely doing now what needs to be done eventually.
Garrett could have been rightfully fired after the 2013 season, which was a third consecutive 8-8 campaign. Back then everyone was worried about wasting Tony Romo’s prime. They were right to worry.
Or he could have been dumped after a 4-12 record in 2015, or that demoralizing Packers playoff loss that ruined a 13-3 season behind Prescott, or many other points in between.
Jones’ fondness for Garrett has left him with the same coach, the same comments, the same treading of water. If not for Philadelphia’s failures this season, Dallas wouldn’t even be sniffing the playoffs in the loaded NFC. Instead, it still clings to first in the division, which probably bought more time for Garrett.
A late November coaching change is almost unheard of for a team that is likely headed to the playoffs. That’s usually reserved for bombed out seasons where losing (and thus moving up the draft) is acceptable.
Who knows who would even take over on the fly? And in doing so, would Jones get handcuffed to an interim coach if there was some measure of success like a playoff victory in what would be a home game?
These are the Cowboys, a coveted job should Jones go looking for a replacement. The roster is strong. The franchise is first rate. And Jones has proven that he’ll pay big and then give coaches more than enough time to prove themselves. It would be a coveted spot in both NFL and college circles.
Jones hasn’t tested the interested yet. Not after disappointing seasons. Not after painful loses.
Instead he fumes and then returns to the plan, allowing Garrett more time to get it done.
Garrett hasn’t gotten it done.
So now here comes Thanksgiving, a day when having family feuds erupt are as much of an American tradition as downing turkey and watching the Dallas Cowboys play. This time with some extra spice.
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