Jason Garrett Is Fired by Cowboys After Week of Uncertainty

Jason Garrett Is Fired by Cowboys After Week of Uncertainty

Over his nine-plus years as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett, like nearly every coach not named Bill Belichick, has been on and off the hot seat.

Things looked up at the end of last season, when Dallas went 10-6, won its division and a playoff game. With young stars in quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, there was reason to think the Cowboys could have many more successful seasons ahead.

But this season’s mixed results fueled dark speculation about Garrett’s future early and often. On Sunday, more than a week after Dallas finished the season at 8-8 — and out of the postseason — the Cowboys confirmed that they had parted ways with Garrett.

“We are extremely grateful to Jason Garrett for his more than 20 years of service to the Dallas Cowboys as a player, assistant coach and head coach,” the Cowboys’ owner, Jerry Jones, said in a statement quoted on the team’s website. “His level of commitment, character and dedication to this organization has been outstanding at every stage of his career.”

The decision came after several meetings and days of speculation and news media reports that Garrett would be fired, but the writing on the wall this season has not looked promising long before then.

The Cowboys had three consecutive wins to start the season, but those came against the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins — hardly the N.F.L.’s elite. Even at 3-0, there was no offer of an extension of Garrett’s contract, which is set to expire Jan. 14.

“I just think he’s so focused on the task at hand,” the Cowboys executive Stephen Jones, Jerry Jones’s son, told the radio station KRLD-FM in September. “It’s nothing that’s come up.”

During Garrett’s tenure, the Cowboys were consistent winners, with an 85-67 record and only one season below .500. But they reached the playoffs just three times and never made it past the divisional round.

Disquietingly for Garrett, Stephen Jones also said during that interview: “We’ve had some nice seasons where we’ve made the playoffs and won a game. We all know we want to take the next step and be playing for a championship.”

The Cowboys were not able to keep it up, losing three straight: two reasonable losses to the Saints and Packers followed by a shocking defeat against a winless Jets team.

Despite the Jets debacle, Jerry Jones had good things to say about Garrett in the aftermath: “I have felt that we have a lot invested in Jason Garrett. He’s evolved into what I think is a top coach. He would be a very sought-after coach if he were out here in the open market. There are a lot of pluses there. He brings a lot to the table.” But he again said that a final decision would be made at the end of the season. Wins were clearly imperative.

A 37-10 win over their main rival for the N.F.C. East title, the Philadelphia Eagles, put the Cowboys back in a good position.

The team got to 6-4, but then hit another three-game skid. It started with a 13-9 loss to the Patriots. It was seemingly an understandable defeat, but Jones seemed annoyed. “With the makeup of this team, I shouldn’t be this frustrated,” he told reporters after the game.

Garrett had been a 2-1 underdog to keep his job when the season began, according to sportsbetting.ag. As this bad run continued, the odds became 4-1, and then 7-1.

The three-game skid was capped by a loss to a weak Bears team that left the Cowboys at 6-7. The news media was now openly speculating about who Garrett’s replacement would be. Sports Illustrated: “Who Will Coach the Cowboys in 2020?” CBS: “Cowboys have interest in Urban Meyer, Chris Petersen as possible candidates to replace Jason Garrett in 2020.” NFL Network reported that only a “deep” playoff run would save Garrett’s job.

Despite the bad losses, the Cowboys rebounded to trounce the Los Angeles Rams and had the opportunity to win the division and a playoff berth by beating the Eagles again, this time in Philadelphia in Week 16. They were 2-point favorites. They lost, 17-9. “It’s very disappointing,” Jones said after the game. “We all expected to leave here as N.F.C. East champs. We’re not.”

A win over the woeful Redskins in the finale was not enough. The Cowboys finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. The Garrett-is-fired watch went into overdrive.

Garrett played quarterback at Princeton, and his time with the Cowboys dates to 1992, when he was a member of the practice squad. He made the regular roster the following season and spent seven seasons as a backup quarterback for the team. After short stints elsewhere, he retired as a player and then returned to Dallas as offensive coordinator in 2007.

Garrett, 53, replaced Wade Phillips midway through the 2010 season, when the Cowboys were 1-7. Working on an interim basis, he led the team to a 5-3 record the rest of the season, then was named the head coach.

One of the biggest disappointments of Garrett’s reign came in 2016, when the Cowboys had the best record in the N.F.C. at 13-3 but lost their first playoff game to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. That was the postseason debut for Prescott and Elliott, dynamic young players who raised expectations for a new golden era for the Cowboys. But in the three seasons since, the team has a single playoff win.

Prescott finished second in the N.F.L. in passing yardage this season, and Elliott was fourth in rushing. The defense wasn’t bad either, and the Cowboys’ point differential was better than that of seven of the 12 playoff teams.

But the whole was less than the sum of the parts. Garrett was a mainstay for the Cowboys for an eternity in N.F.L. years. But there was one too many seasons around .500, and the big playoff wins never came.

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