As the Dallas Cowboys currently sit at 8-7, eliminated from playoff contention, many fans have already turned their attention to the offseason. A week 17 loss to the Eagles and the Jason Garrett led Cowboys will finish 8-8 for the fourth time in seven seasons. Is it time for a coaching change? The staff here at FPC Cowboys will offer a two-part series presenting the case both for and against keeping head coach Jason Garrett. But why stop at just Garrett? We will also play devil’s advocate on both offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
Part one, found below will present the case on why the current staff should be retained. Make sure to check out part two where the staff will explain why it is time to clean house in Big D.
Will Steele: For all that Garrett lacks as an in-game manager or play caller, he excels in handling his players, motivating them and trying to build the correct way. Prior to Garrett taking over the team was in shambles. Dallas had far too many locker room cancers, was old and expensive. During his first 3 years of going 8-8, many could actually call that somewhat of a success given how much he had to turn around. The Cowboys were a team in cap hell with an offensive line and defense that were both among the league’s worst. If you surround Garrett with smart innovative or creative coordinators he could lead a group of men to successful seasons.
Big Harb: Jason Garrett is the PERFECT head coach for the Dallas Cowboys! Yes, you read that correctly. Garrett has been a member of the Dallas Cowboys organization for most of the past 20 plus years. He has developed a relationship with owner/GM Jerry Jones that makes him uniquely (and maybe singularly) capable of impacting the organizational structure in any meaningful way. Garrett has used this influence to remake the current Cowboys into a team with a vision for how to play the game on both sides of the ball. He is primarily responsible for allocating resources to its offensive line and its offensive personnel overall. Garrett’s major strengths include his ability to motivate his team through the adversity that always circles America’s Team. With very few exceptions, his teams are always ready to play and play hard for him. He is also very good at the strategy of setting his team up for success from Tuesday through Saturday. Garrett is a good, not great NFL head coach. The organizational structure of the Cowboys makes it highly unlikely that the team could find a better coach that would also be willing to work under that structure. His ability to manage the Texas-sized ego of his owner, Jerry Jones; to mitigate most of Jones’ worst instincts; and his ability to keep his own ego from causing problems with Jones makes Garrett the perfect fit for Dallas moving forward.
Jordan Newman: As someone who has been the head coach for eight years, Jason Garrett has proved himself to be a player’s coach. In the sense that Garrett always speaks highly of them. No matter what has occurred or how the individual performed, there is always a “but” in his comments. Despite a poor performance this “but” leads to “he has done good things for this organization that we feel like he can build upon”. Yes, players have left and stated that they are in a better place now (i.e. Martellus Bennett and Barry Church), there is always a mutual respect that is left behind. Even when players have found themselves in legal troubles, Garrett remains with positive reinforcement to help players out on not just returning to the football field, but in their personal lives.
Tony Iosso: Jason Garrett needs to remain the head coach of the Cowboys for probably one of the worst reasons – who else is out there to replace him? Despite his flaws, Dallas knows what they are getting in Garrett. He has had them on the cusp of the NFC championship game twice in the past four seasons. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Garrett has certainly proven he can guide the ship when the seas are calm, but it is his ability, or lack there of, to change course when the seas get rough that has led many in CowboysNation to call for a new captain.
WS: Continuity, injuries, and suspensions are about the only things that would save Linehan’s job in my opinion. The one thing you don’t want your young quarterback to do is recycle offensive coordinators. Keeping Linehan into year three with Dak Prescott gives them more time to work out kinks and adjust to what they do well. Injuries/suspensions also hurt Linehan, especially when you lose two of the best players at their positions in Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott. For an offense that is almost solely reliant on its elite players, losing those two becomes a big hit. Linehan has proved when he has his big guns the offense no matter how predictable works very well.
BH: Scott Linehan should get another year to lead the Cowboys’ offense. Linehan has a similar offensive philosophy to his head coach. This allows Garrett to trust Linehan explicitly in developing and implementing a game plan the coach likes. He is an experienced and accomplished play caller. He has also proven to be flexible in developing a game plan to fit different offensive strengths. The biggest question about him coming to Dallas was, “would he run the ball?” His offenses with the Rams and Lions were notorious for their inability to run the ball with any effectiveness or efficiency. His work, first with DeMarco Murray and, more recently with Ezekiel Elliott has shown his ability to create and implement a run-first system. Linehan has also proven his worth in getting his 4th round rookie quarterback ready to the tune of 13 wins in 2016. He has struggled with out-thinking himself at times, but his leadership of the offense has been much more success than failure.
TI: As Will just mentioned, keeping Linehan around could be key in the development of Dak Prescott. The two would be entering their third season together. When Linehan was in Detroit it was during his third season with Matthew Stafford where the two really took off. Stafford hit career highs in passing yards (5,038), touchdowns (41), and QBR (97.2). It is not far fetched to think with some adjustments Linehand and Prescott could reach similar heights in 2018.
JN: Since taking over as Cowboys passing game coordinator and given the play calling duties in 2014, the Cowboys offense has been ranked seventh or better twice under Linehan. Once a staple in the NFL, Linehan can be partially credited to returning the “power-running” style back to the NFL that continues to embrace the spread offense. As it wears down opposing defenses, the Cowboys have finished 12th or higher in average time of possession, finishing third in two of his four years. This not only keeps the ball in their hands, it has benefited the Cowboys defense more often than not.
WS: When this defense had its guys, mainly Sean Lee, it has been one of the better defenses in the league. Not dominant but pretty darn good. The overhaul in the secondary took some time but the young guys in Xavier Woods, Jourdan Lewis, and Chidobe Awuzie really came on. Defensive linemen like David Irving and Demarcus Lawrence also saw career years once healthy and with a few years under Marinelli’s tutelage. Not to mention the growth of Taco Charlton and Jaylon Smith started to show in the second half of the year. Marinelli should be given a lot of credit for these improvements on defense. If there is one thing these players do for him, it is play their tails off.
BH: Rod Marinelli should get a chance to finish what he has started in rebuilding the Cowboys’ defense. Marinelli is a pass rush coaching savant. He has proven many times over here in Dallas that he can create a serviceable defense out of mostly spare parts. He has been making a moderately effective pass rush out of below average overall talent for the past few years. Now the team has turned its focus to upgrading the defense in the same way they dedicated draft resources to build a dominant offensive group for so many years. There is no one better to get that influx of talent up to speed as quickly as possible, especially now that he has a “War Daddy” in Demarcus Lawrence and a group of young corners that fit his defense.
TI: Coach Marinelli certainly gets every drop of talent out of his players. The problem for him has been that up until 2017, there hasn’t been much talent on the defensive side of the ball in Dallas. With the front office finally dedicating serious draft assets to the defense, Marinelli deserves more time to mold and utilize this influx of young talent.
JN: Joining Dallas in 2013 as a defensive line coach, Marinelli was then promoted a year after to defensive coordinator. In his time with the Cowboys, they have instilled a philosophy to the defense that has aided them more times than not. A “bend but don’t break” defense. Yes, a team will be able to drive and collect yards throughout the game, but the defense is built in a way that does not allow big plays. They happen, but not to the scheme’s fault usually. Also, one major negative Marinelli has had to deal with is the lack of talent. However, he has maximized their abilities in a way. 2016 was a prime example. He coached a unit that would lead the league in rushing defense, even though it came at the expense of having the 26th ranked passing defense. Plus, no running back on the season would rush for more than 100 yards. That is how it worked though. Limit the run and do not give up big passing plays, while the offense gave opponents minimal time to catch up. In 2017 Marinelli was the only Cowboys coach to adjust. A secondary that struggled on the year, was moved around and threw certain individuals that are accustomed to starting most of the time, on the bench. Even to the point that Dallas started three rookies within the group. But it led to success on the season and potentially the future.