DALLAS — It seems like every time the Cowboys host the Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas has a coaching change at the end of the year.
In 1997, Dallas beats Jacksonville at Texas Stadium 26-22. Barry Switzer resigns after a 6-10 finish.
The year 2000 was an off year. Dallas lost in overtime to Jacksonville, and first-year coach Dave Campo kept his job. Blame the Y2K bug if you wish, but 2002 was back on track. The Cowboys beat the Jaguars 21-19, and Campo was fired at the end of the year.
In 2010, Wade Phillips lost to Jacksonville at home. The next game, Dallas lost 45-7 at the Green Bay Packers and owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones fired Phillips that very Monday.
Okay, maybe it happens the next game after, but the theme is still there.
The 2010 game was no doubt the worst. The Cowboys were coming off a disheartening Monday Night Football loss to the New York Giants where franchise quarterback Tony Romo broke his collarbone in the second quarter, the defense blew a 20-7 second quarter lead, and ultimately lost 41-35 with rookie receiver Dez Bryant scoring some garbage time touchdowns. The worst part was Dallas was now 1-5 on the year in a NFC East race that had the Giants at 5-2 and the Eagles and Washington at 4-3 apiece. The Cowboys were quickly becoming the flunkies in the division basement.
With backup quarterback Jon Kitna of the 2008 Detroit Lions fame, the team that went 0-16, Dallas hosted the Jaguars at then-Cowboys Stadium for a noontime affair on CBS. Oh, it was easy to tell that arrangements were made surrounding the game far in advance of anticipating the drain-circling season the Cowboys were having.
CBS Sports moved A-team commentators Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the game. 60 Minutes spent time with Jerry on the sidelines and in his suite for a piece to be aired later. It wasn't glitz; it was glitter, like the kind that sprinkles off a kindergartner's art project and will never wash off. Ever.
The Jaguars were 3-4 and riding a two-game losing streak, but one could hardly tell. Quarterback David Garrard led Jacksonville on a five-play, 63-yard drive to respond to the Cowboys' 34-yard field goal booted by David Buehler to conclude the game's opening drive. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton picked off Kitna's dump off intended for running back Felix Jones, and Jacksonville was back in business at their own 39.
Garrard and the offense were driving again. However, at the Dallas 15-yard line, Cowboys linebacker Victor Butler sacked Garrard, forced a fumble, and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff scooped up the loose ball to kill the Jaguars' drive.
Seven plays later, Kitna was giving the ball right back to Jacksonville as defensive back Derek Cox intercepted Kitna, in true '08 Lions fashion.
It took the Jaguars' four plays to drive 77 yards. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew gained 24 yards rushing on the first play, and then Garrard found tight end Marcedes Lewis for a 42-yard touchdown.
While the wheels weren't exactly coming off, that was one lug nut that went flying from the wheel.
After trading a punt, the Cowboys had the ball with 2:20 to go until halftime and all three timeouts plus the two minute warning, ball at their own 42-yard line. Perhaps they could make a dent into Jacksonville's 14-3 lead. Kitna was methodically leading Dallas down the field. Kitna even hit the rookie Bryant for nine yards on a crazy comeback route on a third-and-7 from the Jags' 18-yard line to move the chains and setup first and goal from the Jacksonville 9.
The half's final drive came down to third-and-1. Dallas gave it to Barber for no gain, and called their last timeout. With 11 seconds until halftime, Barber tried to run it again and was stuffed. The Jaguars went into the half ahead 14-3.
Now, the wheels had come off.
The Jaguars got the second half kickoff and Garrard marched the offense in six plays with two passes to Mike Sims-Walker of 29 and 39 yards. 83 yards was nothing as receiver Mike Thomas capped off the drive with a 15-yard touchdown. Dallas trailed 21-3.
Then, another Kitna interception, just like he was at Ford Field and not Cowboys Stadium. Once again, it was Cox with the interception. Fun fact: Cox would be out of the league in three years.
Garrard converted the giveaway into a Lewis 9-yard touchdown five plays later. 28-3 Jaguars with barely nine minutes to go in the third quarter.
Barber finally did get that 1-yard touchdown with 12:34 to go in the fourth quarter, cutting into the Jacksonville lead 28-10. Dallas managed to even get the ball back after forcing Jacksonville to punt, but Kitna threw his fourth interception of the game in two plays on the ensuing drive, this time to cornerback Rashean Mathis.
First-and-goal from his own 7-yard line, it only took Garrard three plays, and he did it himself with a 2-yard touchdown to give Jacksonville a 35-10 lead.
Dallas would go on a 13-play, 74-yard touchdown drive the very next series. The curious thing was Kitna threw a pass on every play. No one intercepted him. Tight end Jason Witten caught the 8-yard score to settle the game's final score 35-17. It was way worse than it looked. The most telling stat is Garrard posted a 157.8 passer rating, which to this day is the highest passer rating ever against the Dallas Cowboys by a starting quarterback.
Not Joe Montana, not Dan Marino, not John Elway, not '91 Mark Rypien, '98 Randall Cunningham on Thanksgiving throwing to Randy Moss, not Peyton Manning, Tom Brady in '07 throwing to your choice of Moss, Wes Welker, or Benjamin Watson, not even Aaron Rodgers, who did carve up Dallas pretty good the very next week. Nope. It's David Garrard.
Along with Romo's broken clavicle, that was the performance that helped demotivate the team for the big give-up at Lambeau Field the next week. Another home game against the Jaguars, and another Cowboys coach gone.
Sunday, Jason Garrett hopes to not repeat the fate of his predecessors, whether Phillips, Campo, or Switzer. Win or lose, he hopes to get the team back on track. If not, we could all witness history repeating itself, and looking back on the Jags game as just another checkpoint on the pathway of inevitable outcomes.
Do you think Jason Garrett will survive the Curse of the Jags? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.