No amount of corporate finesse should save a man from this.
Here was a star-studded Cowboys team getting gut-punched in a must-win game against a division rival in the penultimate week of their most promising seasons in years. Here was their best wide receiver, Amari Cooper, on the bench for the most important play of 2019 (if you’re in the mood for a good laugh, check out the explanation). Here were the Eagles, missing Lane Johnson and Jordan Howard, hanging on by a thread at the wide receiver, throwing passes to Boston Scott, Greg Ward Jr. and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
It is a set of optics that even the closest owner-coach bond in the league can’t survive. Even if Dallas stumbles backwards into the playoffs with the hideous NFC East parlay of a win over Washington and an Eagles loss to the Giants, Dallas should be preparing their exit papers for head coach Jason Garrett.
Saying that Garrett will be fired is not brave or innovative at this point; Garrett’s removal has felt somewhat inevitable since Thanksgiving. But the set of circumstances that has led to this point—the team’s untimely malaise, the inability to realize potential in the players, the dated, “gut-feel” game management—can only fall on one person. Whooping the Rams at home last weekend does not counterbalance losing a sloppy arm-wrestling contest to a banged-up division rival.
It’s intimidating to move on from steady production and maybe that’s why, at the deepest levels of every Cowboy fan’s soul, it still feels a little premature to actually envision the moment when a press conference is held and a new head-coaching hire is announced. Garrett has only had one losing season in nine years, and he’s made the playoffs three times. He is the perfect sponge for Jerry Jones’ sprawling panache and unchecked expectations. He is a capable manager of coaching staffs and, through the years, has brought a lot of schematic talent into the building.
But after a while, that amounts to… what? Their roster was fattened this season with the hopes of accelerating from good to great, and the cost for reaping nothing is the hell they’ll pay on the other side of this Hail-Mary attempt at reaching the Super Bowl. Franchising Dak Prescott will be a debacle. Losing Amari Cooper in free agency will be disastrous. Competing for Byron Jones on the open market will be perilous. Tap-dancing around Ezekiel Elliott, who doesn’t have a navigable eject button on his contract for another three years, as he gets further removed from his prime will be difficult at best.
This was supposed to be a gift season for Garrett, like a Porsche competing in the box car derby. Garrett was essentially handed a limitless credit card for the better part of three seasons to assemble a roster that simply had to paw away the perpetually doltish Washington football team, the regressing Giants and an Eagles team that cycles through the anonymous bottom-roster churn like an Arena Football League team just searching for healthy bodies.
And yet, here the Cowboys are, staving off a full-blown meltdown with their last bit of strength. Here is a team that is running out of excuses. Here is a team that will top the list of ‘what-ifs’ over the last decade. Here is a team desperately in need of some new energy, something to prevent this painful staleness from creeping in again.
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