Jason Garrett has some sort of Texas Rasputin thing going on. When the NFL season ended Sunday without the Cowboys in the playoffs, it was presumed that Garrett would be let go within minutes. In the four full days since, multiple media members have reported that Garrett has been told that he won’t be brought back as Dallas’s head coach. Yet every time that someone reports that Garrett’s Cowboys tenure has been poisoned, beheaded, chopped up into tiny pieces, ground into a fine dust, and sprinkled over a nearby river, Garrett simply drives up to the team’s practice facility with a functioning key fob to perform some other meaningless end-of-year task.
The reasons for the Cowboys to part ways with Garrett are obvious. He’s tied with Pete Carroll for fifth on the list of the NFL’s longest-tenured head coaches; Carroll and the four with longer tenures have all won Super Bowls, while Garrett hasn’t even reached a conference championship game. This season, Garrett took a team with the most expensive running back in NFL history and most expensive offensive line in NFL history and missed the playoffs despite being in the NFL’s worst division. He has now squandered the four-year window in which quarterback Dak Prescott gave the franchise top-tier production while playing on a fifth-round draft pick’s salary.
If the problem with the Cowboys is the roster, it really can’t be fixed. They have five players signed to contracts that will pay at least $10 million in each of the next two seasons, and will likely soon sign Prescott to the biggest deal of anyone on the team. Garrett, however, doesn’t have a long-term contract; if the Cowboys do nothing, his deal will expire on January 14.
However, NFL teams rarely let coaches’ contracts expire. Coaches are generally fired, with no regard for how much time is left on a deal, giving the team and the coach the opportunity to start over. For some reason, the Cowboys are bucking this trend. While other franchises interview potential coaching options—like the Giants, who interviewed Cowboys passing game coordinator Kris Richard—Dallas is doing nothing. In an article for Yahoo Sports, Charles Robinson reported that Garrett’s day-to-day is “so normal that it’s weird,” as he tries to do the job he’s being paid to do while in the next room over the bosses discuss whether he should keep the job.
At this point, all indicators point to the Cowboys moving on. For some reason, though, owner Jerry Jones just won’t say it. Even if the plan is just to let Garrett’s contract expire, the team probably should let everyone know that, so Garrett can begin pursuing his next job and the Cowboys can begin pursuing his replacement. After all, NFL coaching departures are typically announced within 24 hours of the season ending.
Instead, Garrett is coming to work every day and acting busy—holding meetings, asking what’s for lunch in the cafeteria, reorganizing his desk in ways he simply didn’t have time for during the season—while the NFL coaching carousel elsewhere turns.
Here is a timeline of Garrett’s week in NFL limbo:
The Cowboys get eliminated from the postseason despite routing Washington 47-16 in Week 17. Afterward, Garrett, his wife, and friends take the field at AT&T Stadium for a completely normal game of catch.
Jason Garrett has come back onto the field with his wife, Brill, and some friends a little before 10 o'clock. Garrett, in his suit, is throwing the ball to whoever wants to run routes.— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) December 30, 2019
Jason Garrett playing catch on AT&T Stadium field with family and friends hours after Cowboys’ season ended. Taking it in. pic.twitter.com/mQvPGSwO0V— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) December 30, 2019
Garrett was being treated like a beloved family dog scheduled to be euthanized in the morning. He was getting his last game of fetch in, and I fully expected follow-up tweets about how Jones fed Garrett an entire steak before he took him on a final trip to the park. I was so filled with pathos thinking about Dallas staffers softly rubbing Garrett behind his ear, right where he likes it, that I initially didn’t notice that Moore’s tweet mentions that Garrett’s wife is named “Brill.”
Cowboys reporter Mike Leslie tweeted that Garrett, along with the whole Dallas staff, had been fired.
I’m told entire #Cowboys coaching staff has been fired.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 30, 2019
However, Leslie later clarified that his initial report was merely the result of misunderstood text messages.
We’re told that a member of the staff texted a person close to him, and said “We’re fired.” The response was “All of you?” And the response was “Yes.”— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 30, 2019
A member inside the Cowboys organization says that this is not the case yet. It may be the case soon, but it has not officially transpired.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 30, 2019
Maybe the coach meant to text “we’re fried” after a long and arduous season, and autocorrect got him. Happens to the best of us.
However, the report apparently wasn’t far off. Jane Slater of the NFL Network reported that Garrett told his not-fired-yet staffers that they could seek work elsewhere while waiting for the guillotine to drop.
Multiple sources tell me Jason Garrett met w coaches/assistants today & addressed those with expiring contracts. He told them, “as you well know you can look for work elsewhere” & this would be “sorted out in the 24-48 hours”. Jerry Jones hasn’t informed anyone they’re fired yet— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) December 30, 2019
Meanwhile, David Moore of The Dallas Morning News reported that Garrett was being given the chance to conduct exit interviews with players before he met with Jerry and Stephen Jones on Tuesday.
Sources: Jason Garrett is scheduled to meet with Jerry & Stephen Jones again on Tuesday after the Cowboys head coach finishes conducting his exit interviews with players. The three also met briefly on Monday afternoon.— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) December 30, 2019
So Garrett survived Black Monday, but had an ominous meeting with ownership scheduled for Tuesday. The good news is that the team was apparently going to let him conduct each and every one of those exit interviews out of respect. Better make them last until 2029!
Garrett had his meeting with the Joneses … and, uh, nothing came of it.
Jason Garrett has finished his meeting with Jerry & Stephen Jones, a source said. No announcement at the moment.— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) December 31, 2019
In fact, Moore reported that the end result of Garrett’s meeting was that Garrett and the Joneses had agreed to have another meeting. What a loophole! If you just schedule a new meeting in every meeting that was called with the intention of firing you, then you can’t actually get fired.
Still, it seemed like Garrett’s time in Dallas was nearly up. Slater reported that Garrett said his goodbyes and exchanged numbers with Cowboys staffers, like a kid on the last day of sleepaway camp.
A source inside the Star tells me #Cowboys HC Jason Garrett has said goodbyes to several staff members while exchanging information to keep in touch. Late with Christmas cards or the end inevitable? Stay tuned.— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) December 31, 2019
2019 ended, and Garrett went into 2020 as the Cowboys’ head coach.
There was no news out of JerryWorld on New Year’s Day, as the Joneses went to Aspen. Can’t billionaires just take one day to act like billionaires without having to worry about the looming decision to potentially get rid of the most important employee at their $5 billion company? Sheesh!
Slater reported that, somehow, Garrett had not finished all of his exit interviews with Cowboys players.
One other update. #Cowboys HC Jason Garrett hasn’t finished all his exit interviews either. There are players who have not yet met with him.— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) January 2, 2020
Were Cowboys players really sitting around in the lobby for four days, just waiting for the chance to talk with their soon-to-be-former coach? More importantly—was this strategy working for Garrett? Siri, remind Jason that his exit interview with Dallas’s fifth-string long-snapper is set for the day before the 2020 season opener.
On Thursday morning, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that Garrett could potentially return to Dallas, not as head coach, but in an alternate role.
I’m live on #NFL Live in 90 minutes. As Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett resume their series of meetings, I can tell you this: people inside the building have begun to wonder if Garrett is going to have a role with the 2020 #Cowboys - whether as head coach or in another capacity.— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) January 2, 2020
By Thursday night, however, Werder issued a new report. After moving slowly with an “abundance of care and respect” for Garrett, the team was going to move on. However, Werder’s report was presented in such a way that you had to read it a few times to figure out what he really meant.
Source: #Cowboys Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones have moved slowly and with “abundance of care and respect” for Jason Garrett. That phase expected to conclude soon with Garrett not part of organization. Next phase to involve candidate interviews will begin quickly thereafter.— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) January 3, 2020
Indeed, the Cowboys had a “phase expected to conclude soon with Garrett not part of organization.” This is how you’d say “the Cowboys are going to dump Jason Garrett” if you were a college sophomore who started writing a three-page paper on Garrett’s future 30 minutes before it was due. Werder may have felt the need to word things in this way to clarify that his earlier report about Garrett staying in an alternate role no longer applied.
Despite the awkward phrasing, Werder’s report was the firmest indicator yet that Garrett was, in fact, going to be let go. ESPN began to tweet as if a decision had been made.
Breaking: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones have decided that Jason Garrett will not be part of the organization moving forward, a source tells @WerderEdESPN. pic.twitter.com/zXf4n1I8kc— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 3, 2020
Other outlets followed suit.
But NBC’s Mike Florio countered that ESPN rushed to play up Werder’s report before the move was official.
Meanwhile, Charles Robinson of Yahoo tweeted that Garrett was still speaking to players as if he would remain the Cowboys head coach. Robinson reported that a source said a player sat down with Garrett “thinking it was going to be a goodbye” and “it turned out to be more of a ‘see you later.’” Robinson confirmed that his report didn’t necessarily conflict with Werder’s; it was possible that the Cowboys had made their decision and that Garrett was neither informed nor self-aware enough to realize that he was on the way out.
We are now almost a week removed from the NFL regular season. Not only have the Cowboys not announced a move, but the single widespread report that suggested they have even made a decision was tortuously worded, and did not indicate that action was imminent.
I don’t understand what the point of all this is. Garrett has been the Cowboys head coach for nine years, and was with the team for three years before getting promoted to the head gig. It’s absurd that the Cowboys need more time to evaluate his performance. What could Garrett possibly say in a face-to-face meeting (or seven face-to-face meetings) that could outweigh a decade’s worth of results? The Joneses have all the information they need to make a decision.
There is some notion that the Cowboys are merely doing right by Garrett and treating him with respect after his decade-plus with the organization. I fail to see how that is the case. If the Cowboys truly respect Garrett, they should be honest with him. Nobody wants to get dumped, but if a relationship has no hope, it’s better than being strung along.
NFL coaching changes are macabre, as we make news out of a man losing his job. But the end of a coach’s life with one team begins multiple rebirths: The team finds its new man, who launches his vision for the organization; the coach moves on to his next gig and begins considering how to be better. Garrett hasn’t gotten that chance yet. He’s Texas Rasputin, and I’m sure he’d rather just be done with it at this point.