Question of the day: Did Jason Garrett make that big a difference for the Cowboys or was it just happenstance? [Updated]
Writers from around the Tribune Co. weigh in on the Dallas Cowboys, who picked up a rare victory in Jason Garrett's debut as interim head coach Sunday. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Ken Murray, Baltimore Sun
There is very little in the NFL that is happenstance, but to suggest that Jason Garrett transformed the Cowboys overnight by putting pads on for practice, or drawing up a dynamic game plan, is missing the boat.
All Garrett did was give them a new voice -- the voice of authority. Wade Phillips was a lame duck, the easy fall guy for a horrendous start. His voice no longer resonated with the team. Garrett may carry the title of interim coach, but for all the players know, he may be the coach next year. And if that's the case, they better start playing like the professionals they are. It's about survival; if Garrett stays and the team continues to lose, players will be jettisoned en masse.
Perhaps they should be anyway. When you look at how they quit on Phillips and instinctively turned it on for Garrett, you see the soul of the team. It's not a pretty picture.
Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune
What happened when Jason Garrett took over the Cowboys last Sunday was not like the proverbial blind squirrel finding an acorn. Garrett had a vision for this team, and he began to implement it by shaking up the Cowboys and implementing the discipline that had disappeared over time in the Wade Phillips regime.
Garrett shocked his team by having them wear pads during practice last week. He made them adhere to stricter rules, like being on time and dressing appropriately on a road trip. And he made it clear no one was on scholarship. Every Cowboy would have to earn his spot.
It was exactly what this team needed. Everyone knew the Cowboys had enough talent. What was missing was accountability, structure and leadership. Jason Garrett can provide that.
[Updated at 11:26 a.m.:
Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
It’s impossible to know this early whether promoting Jason Garrett will have a lasting effect on the Cowboys, or if Sunday’s performance against the Giants was just an adrenaline burst from the shake-up in Dallas.
A more plausible explanation is the NFL is completely unpredictable this season, and a team can look entirely different from week to week. Take Denver, for example. The Broncos get blown out by Oakland, giving up 59 points, then turn around a few weeks later and crush first-place Kansas City. Does that mean Josh McDaniels has finally turned the corner? No, it’s a snapshot.
Likewise, we won’t know for weeks, months or maybe longer if Garrett is the right guy in Dallas. That –- and the uncertainty about the labor situation -– is why I think he’ll get a chance to stick around next season, as long as things don’t erode further in the second half of this one.]
Steve Svekis, South Florida Sun Sentinel
It’s not totally a coincidence that the Cowboys, a team many experts had ticketed to be the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium, put a spanking on the Giants, but it is close. The coaching shake-up occurring — period — was a good attention-getter, especially when the victim was a well-liked man such as Wade Phillips.
Jason Garrett, who stuck with the Cowboys when he was a hot property a couple of years ago, desperately needs the players to finish strong for him to have a chance to get the permanent job as head man. The Cowboys players, if they like him, perhaps feel a little bit of that urgency, but it was the removal of Phillips that had more impact on last week than Garrett’s ascension.]
Photo: Dallas Coach Jason Garrett celebrates with quarterback Jon Kitna after the Cowboys' defense returned an interception for a touchdown in the second quarter against the New York Giants on Sunday. Credit: Louis DeLuca / MCT