Is Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett in the hot seat?
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By Cameron Hogwood
Last Updated: 28/11/19 9:16pm
The pressure is mounting for Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett after thinly-veiled criticism from owner and general manager Jerry Jones on Sunday.
Jones left little to dissect with some scathing words after seeing the Cowboys struggle against the elements in their 13-9 defeat to the New England Patriots.
Coaches can often be cut some slack when playing at the home of the defending Super Bowl champions and against arguably the greatest head coach of all time in Bill Belichick. But for Cowboys fans, and perhaps Jones as well, it proved another damning reminder of the mediocrity that has hindered the organisation in recent years.
Sucker-punch in Foxborough
Divisive play-calling returned as a familiar theme, the stand out case coming in the fourth quarter with the score at 13-6 and over six minutes remaining. Garrett opted to kick a short field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-seven from the Patriots' 11-yard line, admitting after the game he hadn't consulted with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore before making the decision.
The Cowboys might have been granted an opportunity to make amends had center Travis Frederick not been wrongly penalised for tripping linebacker Dont'a Hightower with around two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Dallas were pushed back to third-and-11 as a result, ultimately leaning the game in New England's favour.
That shouldn't disguise what had been an uninspiring display in which Dallas gave up over 280 yards in the rain and finished 2-13 on third down.
Earlier in the game, the Cowboys were forced to accept a delay of game penalty after being left confused by New England not featuring a returner in their punt formation. That all but summed it up for the visitors.
Jones told reporters: "It's frustrating just to be reminded that some of the fundamentals of football and coaching were what beat us out there today.
"With the makeup of this team, I shouldn't be this frustrated."
"I don't think there's a game where a coaching staff couldn't do better. I don't like that we've got so many [this year] as I'm standing here tonight."
No longer Jones' man?
Alarm bells begin to ring louder when Jones so openly questions his coaching team having been the man to put his faith in Garrett as his Wade Phillips successor back in 2010. It is Jones' long-term loyalty in Garrett that has become a recurring frustration for Cowboys fans. Is that loyalty finally burning out?
Garrett retained Jones' faith across three consecutive 8-8 seasons after his permanent appointment, in none of which the Cowboys made the playoffs. The first real sign of reward arrived in 2014 when Garrett led his side to post-season football, where they were eventually beaten by the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round match-up.
He was then awarded a new five-year deal worth $30m in 2015, since which he has lost two playoff games and failed to reach the playoffs twice. Three NFC East titles in 10 years, and the potential for a fourth in 2019, may not be enough to keep him his job.
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Garrett is one of seven head coaches to have been with his team since 2011, with all but him having reached the Super Bowl in that time.
The 53-year-old is in the final year of his contract after Jones opted not to extend his deal on the back of last season. If change is in the offing it looks more likely to be in the new year rather than mid-playoff push.
Asked if he was thinking about sacking Garrett in a radio interview, Jones told 105.3 The Fan: "The answer is no, period."
Talent being wasted?
The future of Dak Prescott looms as an interesting sub-plot in the conversation surrounding Garrett's job security.
Prescott, a 2016 fourth-round pick, is in the last year of his rookie deal and vying to become one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league. When it comes to putting pressure on the Cowboys to stump up the money, he is doing a pretty good job.
The 26-year-old currently leads the league with 3,433 passing yards, is second to Matthew Stafford with an average of 312.1 yards per game and also has 21 touchdowns. He had even propelled himself into MVP contention prior to the defeat in New England. The longer the Cowboys allow negotiations to ramble on for, the more expensive he is going to become based on 2019 performances.
One question for Prescott and those advising him is whether to wait on a deal before knowing whether Garrett will be around next season. Can he progress in a Garrett-led side? That's something to think about.
The power is in his hands, particularly with the struggling Jared Goff's four-year, $134m deal serving as a precedent to refer back to.
To be boasting one of the NFL's most gifted rosters and still be clinging on to top spot at 6-5 in a dreadful NFC East (combined 15-29 record) is where the major concerns lie for Garrett.
The Cowboys have a No 1-ranked offense consisting of a top-performing quarterback to lead their franchise, an elite running back in Ezekiel Elliott, one of the most adept offensive lines in the league and a solid wide receiver tandem in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. This team should be out of sight in their hunt for a playoff berth heading into Thanksgiving.
Jones must be edging closer towards testing whether a fresh face can take his side to the next level.
The franchise history is there, the money is there, the roster talent is there and the world class facilities are there to lure most names in the game, whether it be coach or player. Right now, the benefits to sacking Garrett are outweighing the risks.
While the Cowboys gear up to face the Bills (8-3), the Eagles (5-6) have a far kinder match-up with the Miami Dolphins (2-9) awaiting them on Sunday.
With five games of the regular season remaining, Garrett cannot afford to miss out on playoff football. Even then, Jones may have already made up his mind.