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by Mike Fisher    Thu, Jan 17, 2008, 09:14 am
My impression all along has been that Jason Garrett – as loyal as he is smart – will come to the conclusion that being the coach-in-waiting in Dallas is a better gig than being a 41-year-old rookie head coach most other places. I stick with that belief (call it an “educated guess’’) as I keep my ear to the Valley Ranch ground and read the Thursday morning tea leaves. …


From the Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston: Garrett “walked away from (Baltimore’s) offer, one of the most coveted jobs in professional sports.’’

My tea leaves: I think everybody should be proud of their hometown. But all the Baltimore Ravens’ job is, is “one of the four most coveted jobs in the AFC North.’’

Seriously, when Jason “walked away’’ from the Ravens’ offer, he did so with the organization’s permission, with its offer in his pocket. And then he went to Atlanta and with its thoughts (and I believe, an offer) in his pocket. And then he came home to Dallas, to collect his thoughts. … and one more offer from Jerry.

I hear that’s exactly what happened Wednesday night. Jason met with Jerry. Up came “one more offer.’’ And what’s wrong with that? Especially when being the specially-tailored-to-Jason “assistant head coach of the Dallas Cowboys’’ (or something like that) sounds like a pretty damn “coveted’’ job to me?

From the Baltimore Sun beat writer Jamison Hensley: “Garrett could be the eventual successor to head coach Wade Phillips. But giving Garrett a hefty raise could complicate matters in Dallas. To keep Garrett with the Cowboys, Jones might have to pay Garrett as much – or perhaps even more than – Phillips, who reportedly makes about $3 million a season.’’

And from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram beat writer Mac Engel: “Jones is pushing hard to keep Garrett, but it’s uncertain whether he would or could guarantee his first-year assistant the head coaching position whenever it’s next available.’’

My tea leaves: League rules (the minority interview policy, for one) prohibit a team promising an assistant that he’s a head-coaching heir. And league salary structures haven’t yet accounted for a $3-mil assistant.

But Jerry Jones is really gifted when it comes to. … ah. … er. … um. … stretching the rules. And stretching his budget.

From the Baltimore Sun’s Preston:  “This all has to make Garrett nervous. He has never been through anything like this. I’m sure he wants to play all these teams against each other, but I’m not sure he has been around the league enough to pull it off.’’

My tea leaves: Based on this, I’m not sure Mr. Preston has been around the league enough to pull it off. Garrett has been a “decision-maker’’ of sorts since joining the 90’s Cowboys clubs that would become the Team of the Decade. As a backup QB, he was Troy Aikman’s sounding board and Norv Turner’s confidante. He later became the Giants backup to Kerry Collins, and is credited with counseling Collins to Super Bowl-level play. He’s learned from some of the finest minds in the game. And, folks in Bal’mer should know, he and his coaching brothers have been “football guys’’ since berth because father Jim Garrett has been involved in pro football for SIX decades.

Jason Garrett is connected. For example. …

From the Dallas Morning News beat writer Todd Archer: “Garrett met with new Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff on Wednesday after talking with owner Arthur Blank and team president Rich McKay, among others, on Jan. 4 in Irving. Dimitroff's father, Tom Sr., and Garrett's father, Jim, were teammates with the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League in 1957.’’

My tea leaves: In short, this is a who-you-know business. And a what-you-know business. Who does Jason know? Everybody. What does he know? Put it this way: Not only is Garrett capable of being an NFL head coach, he’s also received offers in his life to become a network broadcaster and to go into politics.

To suggest Jason Garrett is in any way naïve is. … well, naïve.

From the Dallas Morning News columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor: “Jerry has blown it when it comes to taking care of his coaching staff.’’

My tea leaves: JJT does it again. Moronic, is what that is. JJT is trying to be controversial and contrarian, and instead makes himself look foolish. The Cowboys’ priority was to retain Jason Garrett. That’s going to get done. Sorry, but their priority cannot be to retain their defensive line coach.

From the Star-Telegram columnist Jen Engel: “Having him ready just in case, with Coach Wade on shaky ground, is a recipe for disaster. … This would be chaos, every week speculation if Coach Wade had done enough to stave off Owner Jones tapping his arm and going to the bullpen. …’’

My tea leaves: Congrats to Ms. Engel – finally a criticism that actually makes sense!

This is indeed a concern. It’s workable, and it’s been done. And Wade and Jason are not territorial types. But I am reminded of Jerry’s invite to Barry Switzer to stay at Valley Ranch as a consultant. As Switzer explained to me when he declined the offer, “That’s the last thing a head coach needs, is to have other people who think of themselves as head coaches looking over his shoulder.’’

From the Baltimore Sun’s Preston: The kid from Princeton didn’t seem to have a real clue about what was going on.’’

My tea leaves:  “The kid’’ has a Princeton education. He’s a football lifer. His dad is a football lifer. His wife is a Princeton-educated lawyer. That circle of advisors (including veteran agent David Dunn) helps Jason to know EXACTLY what he’s doing. And if RedBall is smart enough to actually say “no’’ to an offer to run his own program because a) he’s aware that he’ll be more ready later, b) being the assistant head coach in Dallas might be a better gig than being a head coach elsewhere, and c) Jerry can offer him a secure future if he stays, then that will be the wise decision.

And that’s what I believe he’s going to do.


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written by Tom Pauken , January 17, 2008

Good exclusive, Mike. Now, if Jerry can just put Jason in charge of getting Romo to set his priorities right and not go flying off to Mexico with Jessica Simpson prior to the biggest game of his career, perhaps we can go the distance next time. Wade seems like a nice guy, but he acts too much like the indulgent parent. We need someone like a Tom Landry or a Bill Parcells to bring greater discipline to the team when these post-season opportunities--which don't come along all that often for pro football teams, including the Cowboys--present themselves.

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