Garrett Finally Gets His Chance

Former backup quarterback takes over in Dallas.

Former backup quarterback takes over in Dallas.

By Charean Williams

Jason Garrett has never been a head coach, but he’s been in this position previously. Garrett made only nine starts in his 12 NFL seasons as a backup quarterback. But he always was ready when his number was called, going 6-3 as a starter for the Dallas Cowboys in place of Troy Aikman.

Garrett, 44, was promoted from assistant head coach/offensive coordinator to interim head coach Monday when the Cowboys fired Wade Phillips.

“When I was a player, I was No. 3 for a while, and I was No. 2 for a while,” Garrett said, “so there’s a little bit of an analogy there for me when you have to step in and assume someone’s role. I’ve leaned on those experiences.”

Garrett has been given the rest of the season to prove he’s worthy of the job. He is in the last year of his contract.

He once was the hottest assistant coach in the NFL. The Ravens offered him their head coaching job in 2008, but Garrett turned it down and informed the Falcons, too, that he was staying in Dallas after owner Jerry Jones gave Garrett a raise to more than $3 million per season. Garrett interviewed for the Rams job in 2009, but they hired Steve Spagnuolo instead.

Garrett’s star has been falling since.

Some defensive players in the league have called his play-calling predictable, though the Cowboys have averaged 268.8 yards and 24.9 points in his 3-plus seasons as their offensive coordinator. His offensive players have earned 20 Pro Bowl berths.

In his first week as the interim head coach, Garrett has put his stamp on the Cowboys. They have a new, earlier schedule, a new practice tempo and a new philosophy. They were in full pads for practice Wednesday, something they rarely did under Phillips. Their practices are faster and more intense, with players are required to run even when they are leaving the field. They no longer are allowed to sit on coolers on the sideline.

“Regardless of who is leading us, you have to come to work each day with that lunch-pail mentality every day,” Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking said. “I believe in Jason Garrett. Obviously, his experience as a player, a coach, the stuff he’s had in both of those areas, it’s very evident when he stands up in front of us and talks and delivers his message.

“There is zero gray area there. It is black and white, very direct and to the point, concise, no misunderstanding. I’ve been hit in the head a lot, but I could understand what he is saying when he stood up there and communicated to our football team. I believe in anybody like that.”

The question is whether all their changes will pay off in victories. The Cowboys are 1-7, their worst start since the 1989 season when they went 1-15.

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