‘It’s My Fault’: Is Coach Garrett’s Cowboys Mea Culpa Enough?
FRISCO - If Dallas Cowboys fans were waiting for Jason Garrett to directly take the blame for the failed attention to detail that contributed to last Sunday's loss to Minnesota, they surely view the coach's Wednesday hallway mea culpa as the result of a too-long wait.
"It's my fault,'' Garrett said in the Wednesday walk-off with the media here inside The Star. "And if I didn't make it clear that it was my fault, then that's my fault, too.''
Maybe the blame-taking apology wasn't said soon enough or often enough or loudly enough; indeed, the walk-off "It's my fault'' wasn't delivered in front of the microphones or the cameras. Or maybe, for a Cowboys audience (seemingly including the media, too) that wants a (red)heads to roll, there is no "enough.''
Ten defenders on the field and no timeout called and the Vikings get a splash play. RPOs called but receivers appearing to be blocking and therefore unaware. A 57-yard field-goal try deemed wise but a 58-yarder deemed "too far.''
And then the "What did you know and when did you know it?'' moment that is being crystalized into Garrett's signature failure, the play projected to be etched on his coaching gravestone, the unforgivable sin of the coaching staff ordering that a late-game returnable punt be fair-caught.
This single play is being magnified and studied and scrutinized as if "Tavon Austin's Fair Catch'' pulled the trigger on the Grassy Knoll. What actually happened, though, is infinitely more simple than that: Garrett suggested that Dallas' return team err on the side of caution, given the last-gasp chance about to be set up. Young special-teams coach Keith O'Quinn communicated that thought down the line. Veteran return man Austin was left with impression the order was "fair-catch it.'' (Or, O'Quinn flat said exactly that.)
What did the chain of botched decisions cost Dallas? On the field? Probably 10 yards. That's not quite worthy of a Warren Report. Off the field? Some friction in the locker room, centered on the idea that Garrett's coaching staff (hopefully unintentionally) made Austin a fall guy.
The mistakes are largely about "details'' and "communication,'' ironically two of the things for which even Garrett's harshest critics generally give him positive marks. The issues piled up in the 28-24 loss to the Vikings, largely because of the hot-seat scrutiny that comes with Dallas' 5-4 record, Garrett's long, title-less tenure here, and, well, because they lost.
The truth? Communication challenges are part of coaching football. For every team at every level. I asked Garrett about the volume of apparent errors in the Minnesota game compared to a "normal'' game and he noted that there were far more such gaffes in early-season games because of the newness of it all.
Dallas was 3-0 in early-season games.
So really, this is less about "details'' and "communication'' than it is about a) the final score and b) public bloodlust.
Garrett's in-house acceptance of responsibility for the gaffes will likely soothe the fellas in the locker room who love Austin. Tavon himself is trying to let it go, too, telling us in a voice purposely without inflection, ''I definitely feel comfortable with (the private conversation he had with Garrett), it's between me and him, and I'm done with it.''
Garrett's media-walk-off acceptance of responsibility for the gaffes? Maybe he would do himself a favor with a more public "It's my fault'' pronouncement.
Or maybe, what the Cowboys have here, as "Cool Hand Luke's'' warden once said, is a failure to communicate ... and maybe it's too late for Jason Garrett to fix the coming ramifications of that failure.