If Jason Garrett loses his fourth game in a row, “bye week” might take on a whole new meaning in Dallas.
Garrett’s Cowboys started 3-0, but their offense sputtered and they lost three straight. A fourth loss -- at home, in the JerryDome, in prime time, on Sunday night, against their only legitimate rival, entering a bye week -- could spell the end of the Jason Garrett Era.
Such as it is.
Even T.O. thinks he’s got to go.
Terrell Owens might not be the best judge of, well, anything, but make no mistake: The atmosphere in the Metroplex is poisoned for The Clapper (Garrett applauds incessantly on the sideline).
He’s in the last year of a contract, and in the 10th year of his tenure. With a deep, talented team that won the NFC East last season, Garrett is coaching with a mandate to win the Cowboys their first Super Bowl since before Prince Charles and Diana got divorced.
The problem: Garrett has never even advanced past the divisional round.
Underachieving redheaded coaches seem to bewitch NFC East owners.
Garrett has been Jerry Jones’ Ivy League golden boy -- a brilliant mind and a buttoned-down presence, an Establishment face that offsets Jones’ maverick manner. Garrett has faced negative polling before -- he was embattled in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018 -- but charisma saved him time and again.
This time, though, it sounds as if Jerry finally might be ready to switch style for substance.
After the abysmal loss to the Jets last Sunday, Jones said: “I was a lot happier with what he had done the first three games than what’s happened the last three games."
During his weekly radio show Tuesday, Jones said of firing Garrett, “I can genuinely say that that is not a thought that I am having.”
He also told the station that he expects the Cowboys to reach the playoffs and win multiple postseason games.
You know what Jones never said?
“Jason Garrett will be our coach for the rest of the season.”
The chief arguments against dismissing Garrett if the Cowboys lose to the Eagles: First, it would drop the Cowboys only to 3-4, which would be just one game out of first place in the conference with nine remaining, including a rematch in Philadelphia; and second, there is no logical replacement who might be considered an upgrade on the Cowboys staff.
The better arguments for dismissal: First, the tenor at One Cowboys Way lacks the typical Cowboy cockiness associated with the Star; and second, since they are entering a bye week, the Cowboys would have 14 days to restructure, the first seven days without players underfoot.
If Garrett loses and survives, clearly, then, Jones will be grading on an injury curve. The Cowboys’ top two tackles, top two receivers, and two of the three top cornerbacks either didn’t fully participate or didn’t practice at all Wednesday and Thursday, the two most important work days. Zack Martin, the All-Pro guard, took Thursday off, and they lost defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford to hip surgery.
That’s eight of Garrett’s top 23 players, or 34 percent.
Then, on Thursday, Dak Prescott sprinkled them with the Elixir of Desperation and Shame, saying his teammates needed to be more committed in their preparation. Suddenly, on Friday, everybody felt better.
The Eagles are 3-3, too, they have dropped some clunkers, and, with significant injuries all over the roster, they’re watching the 2019 season slip away. And now, an anonymous player says the front office choked and Carson Wentz is the problem.
How bad are things in Frisco?
“We have seen hell. We done dug out of the pits of it,” said Lawrence, Doug Pederson’s biggest fan.
Apparently, panic smells the same in Texas and Pennsylvania.
Garrett has spent the week flashing his Teflon smile, his heart rate ticking along at its usual 24 beats per minute, or whatever. He says he isn’t fretting about his future, as brief as it might be.
“He’s been the same guy through and through, and he always will be,” Prescott said Thursday, and vowed: “We’ve all got his back in this locker room.”
They didn’t seem to have his back on the sideline Sunday against the Jets, when players seemingly ignored him as they left the field in the fourth quarter.
But sideline snubs happen all the time. Everybody daps when you win. You need healthy players to win.
The most significant absence would be Eagles killer Amari Cooper, who aggravated a thigh injury in the first series against the Jets. Cooper, in his fifth season, averages 119.3 yards per game against the Eagles, his best against any team he has faced at least three times.
He showed off a nasty bruise on his leg Thursday afternoon, and he has battled both plantar fasciitis and an ankle injury already this season. With the bye next week, letting him get healthy might be prudent.
Garrett can’t afford prudence. The centerpiece in the lobby at The Star, the Cowboys’ opulent practice facility, features the franchise’s five Lombardi trophies.
The last one came when Ezekiel Elliott was 6 months old. Prescott was 2. Garrett was a backup quarterback on the last two Super Bowl teams, in 1993 and 1995. He’s a part of the fabric of Cowboys Nation.