The Cowboys want their players to perform up to their potential, but not only them.
Owner Jerry Jones said that includes head coach Jason Garrett.
“We need him to be coaching at a level that can get us where we want to go next year,” Jones said last week at an OTA practice at Cowboys Stadium. “If he can do that, and I think he has the potential to do that, it’s almost unthinkable of what he could become over the years as a head coach.”
Garrett will be entering his second full season as Cowboys’ head coach.
He took over in mid-season in 2010 for Wade Phillips, who was fired after a 1-7 start. Under Garrett – a first-time head coach – the Cowboys finished that year 5-3 and went 8-8 last season.
“I think Jason is just in the first steps out of the box,” Jones said. “With his intellect and with his passion and his temperament – he’s an overachiever, but a smart one – I think the sky is the limit for him. Lou Holtz told me he’s got a real challenge, talking about Jason. He said, ‘I made my early head coaching mistakes at Appalachian State. Nobody cared.’ With all due respect, nobody cared. When Jason makes one it’s with the Dallas Cowboys. Big difference.”
Garrett drew criticism down the stretch, when the Cowboys lost four of their last five games, including the season finale that would have given them the NFC East title and a playoff berth.
Against Arizona, Garrett used a timeout that interrupted a field goal that would have won the game. The next week, in a home game against the Giants, Garrett was late with a timeout that could have saved time for a last-minute drive.
Garrett said Wednesday he knows improvement is important, and that there is no area where he cannot improve.
“Every phase of my job, I have to get better at,” he said. “I have to get better at the leadership phase. I have to get better at the organizational phase. I’ve got to get better at what we’re doing on offense, how we’re doing things on defense and in the kicking game. I never look at any part of my job and say, “Boy, I’ve got that down.”
Garrett said he judges his success like everyone else in professional sports – by winning.
“Everybody who is in our business knows it’s a bottom-line business,” he said. “You have to win. If you don’t win, you’re not going to be here for very long. I understood that early on as a player. I certainly understand that as a coach. Having said that, if you’re so focused on the bottom line or the result in what you do, in or out of football, you’re not going to be your best, in my opinion. I think you have to focus on the process. I think you have to focus on whatever you’re doing, doing it to the best of your ability and doing it with the best people you can do it with and then constantly evaluating what you’re doing and improving upon on what you’re doing. That’s the approach that we take in this organization.”
Garrett, 46, played 12 years in the NFL, was an assistant coach for five years and is the son of a 21-year veteran scout for the Cowboys, Jim Garrett.
But even with that background, he must learn on the job as a head coach and yet deliver results.
“That’s the challenge for him,” Jones said. “He’s up to it. He’s got the right stuff to effectively learn as he goes and, at the same time, coach at a level that will get us to where we want to go next year. He’s very up to it. I don’t know of anybody else in the country that has that upside potential, yet is capable as he is to get the job done this year. That’s why I’m excited about him being our head coach.”