Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett’s seat was as hot as it’s ever been coming off of an epic meltdown against the Green Bay Packers, and a Sunday report from ESPN’s Ed Werder that stated Garrett would likely be fired if the Cowboys missed the playoffs only turned up the heat. The Cowboys nearly suffered another shocking collapse against the lowly, rival Washington Redskins on Sunday, but an injured Tony Romo was able to cobble together some great throws, including a game-winning pass, to save the day. And oh yeah, the Cowboys finally started giving the ball to DeMarco Murray again.
Even though the Cowboys won, the narrow victory didn’t seem to do Garrett any favors. I mean, they nearly suffered a letdown against the friggin’ Redskins, and it wasn’t a pretty win. But a win is a win is a win, and a win over the Philadelphia Eagles this week would place the Cowboys into the playoffs despite their massive flaws on defense. It won’t be easy, of course, since the Eagles demolished the Chicago Bears 54-11 on Sunday night, but it’s going to get even harder due to Tony Romo’s back injury. It was reported by Adam Schefter yesterday that Romo will have to miss the rest of the season, but Jerry and Stephen Jones have done everything possible to refute that statement. Then again, they are also both refuting the notion that Garrett is on the hot seat, and Jerry Jones even gave Garrett a vote of confidence recently.
Although Romo will most likely miss next week’s game, the franchise QB obviously isn’t going to go down without a fight. Werder reported earlier today that Romo has already undergone an epidural injection in an effort to play, and his status for this week’s game looks like a toss-up. If Romo is out, then the Cowboys chances of winning are quite slim, which is bad news for Jason Garrett, right? I mean, if the Cowboys chances of winning are now very low, then Garrett’s chances of saving his job are also very low. But has Romo’s injury actually saved Garrett?
Here’s the thing. If the Cowboys lose against the Eagles, Jason Garrett can point to Tony Romo’s injury and not his lack of coaching prowess as the root cause for the team’s loss. Heck, he can point to the team’s awful defense, the injury to Sean Lee (and Anthony Spencer, but that was way early in the year), and the fact that Monte Kiffin and Bill Callahan are below-average coordinators. Heck, he can also say, “Look, you are already unpopular with the fan base, Jerry, so you can’t afford another damaging PR move. Since you’ve already given me two votes of confidence this season (one as recently as this week), then why would you fire me? Do you really want people to call you a liar? If I’m doing such a good job, then why fire me now? Why blame our loss on me instead of the injury to our best player and franchise QB? And if you fire me, you could end up regretting it, just like you regret firing Rob Ryan due to circumstances outside his control. I mean, can I REALLY control Romo getting a herniated disk?”
Those are all rhetorical questions that won’t be so rhetorical to the Cowboys brass, who will have to ponder every angle of the decision as closely as possible. There are a lot of people who want Garrett gone, because they are skeptical about what he brings to the table. If he’s such a good head coach, then why does he let Bill Callahan call all these bad plays? Or is it just him calling the bad plays? Or is he just such a useless coach that he doesn’t even call plays or coach?
While Garrett can point to Romo’s injury as a fully legitimate excuse if the Cowboys do lose to the Eagles and miss out on the playoffs, I’m not sure even that could save his job if the Cowboys come out flat. Yes, the defense sucks. Yes, Kyle Orton is probably going to be a below-average quarterback. But if the Cowboys play like they did on MNF against the Chicago Bears in what is an elimination game, then Romo’s injury probably won’t matter to the Cowboys brass, no matter how many votes of confidence Jerry Jones previously gave him. And remember Werder’s report on Sunday stating that there is friction between Romo and Garrett? I’m sure Garrett’s decision to essentially call out his “star QB” in front of the press after the Packers game doesn’t sit well with Jones, unless if Jones likes head coaches selling out players by making comments that are potentially divisive.
The Cowboys have a lot to mull over this week and after the Eagles game, but a win from the Cowboys without Romo would seal Garrett’s fate in a good way. Heck, he could even be regarded as a genius by Jones if the Cowboys prevail without Romo, and Jones can also say, “Remember my endorsements of Garrett? TOLD YA SO! SEE YA IN THE PLAYOFFS!” and get off scotch-free. Romo’s absence against the Eagles isn’t a guarantee either, since he’s still trying to play. It’s unlikely for him to play through a herniated disk, but Romo is an incredibly tough QB who knows just how high the stakes are.
If the Cowboys win without Romo, Garrett can hail himself as a genius. If Romo plays and they win, he can say, “How can you fire me when we made the playoffs?” If the Cowboys do have Romo and they lose, Garrett could still defend himself by stating that Romo’s injury caused the team to lose (or, he could just point fingers at the defense, Lee’s injury, and Kiffin). And if the Cowboys don’t have Romo and lose, then Garrett can say, “It’s unfair, you can’t fire me on those grounds.” By having more options to defend himself, it seems like Romo’s injury can only help him, especially since Jones has made plenty of positive remarks about his head coach. That could just be a misleading “kiss of death”, though, because you never know what is going on in Dallas. Why? Well, you never know what Jerry Jones is thinking, and I maintain that the Cowboys biggest problem will continue to be the fact that Jones is their czar.