DALLAS — One question that has surrounded the Dallas Cowboys amid their 3-8 record is whether or not staying with Jason Garrett was the right call given the challenges COVID-19 has presented to the NFL.
Though the Cowboys had no idea COVID-19 would have this type of impact on the sport in January when they brought in coach Mike McCarthy, hiring their ninth full-time coach in franchise history presented a disruption in continuity, especially when the NFL canceled offseason workouts.
Aside from video conferencing, the first time McCarthy and his staff got a chance to be with the players on the practice field was in August during the month-long training camp that featured zero preseason games.
On "Shan & RJ" on 105.3 "The Fan" [KRLD-FM] Tuesday, Cowboys owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones mentioned that 2020 would have been "a year for some continuity." Instead, the 2020 season has been marked by unprecedented instability.
"Now, if you had continuity — this is not an excuse because you have some guys that have done great jobs adjusting to becoming a head coach, just put their staffs together this year," Jones said. "But this would have been a year for some continuity, to have your staff, to have your defense in, to have your offense in.”
“On the other hand, I don't want to talk out of both sides of my mouth,” Jones continued. “It could have been the year when you don't have all of your players there a lot. And, so, you needed to think like a new system, think innovatively, go to work saying, 'Man, I don't even have to think about changing anything. It's changing for me.'"
Garrett had been the coach since Week 10 of 2010 after coach Wade Phillips was fired in-season following a 1-7 start. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had also been on the staff since 2013. Even though the Cowboys have taken on an inordinate number of injuries with quarterback Dak Prescott and tackles La'el Collins and Tyron Smith on injured reserve, just to name the significant starters, Garrett's system, and culture should have been able to compensate during the lean periods.
Even during the first five games when Prescott was healthy, the defense wouldn't have been adapting to a new scheme with defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Instead, they would have been familiar with Marinelli's scheme and perhaps made a few more stops to help Dallas' record in a season where it wouldn’t take much to take the NFC East.
So while continuity clearly would have been a benefit, when pressed on whether Jones would have rather stayed with Garrett had he known the difficulties the Cowboys would face amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones declared he still would have gone with McCarthy.
Said Jones: "In any way that's fool-hearted. That's a question, but it's fool-hearted to dwell on that because you didn't know. And, consequently, you made the best decision at the time that you could make, and I wouldn't second-guess that decision. I know this. I like the fact that offensively we stayed in a lot of the fundamental things."
The biggest way the Cowboys kept some continuity on the offensive side was by retaining Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator and play-caller.
"Mike wanted to do that from the get-go, he wanted to keep Moore there," said Jones. "And one of the reasons he wanted to do it was because of the continuity and to keep it going that way. We didn't make the same call defensively, and no question changing our scheme, changing our techniques, changing a lot of that area over on defense has been quite an adjustment in these times under any circumstances."
What keeps Jones buoyed, even though his club is in the last place in the NFC East, is the overall disastrous state the division is in. The New York Giants are in first place thanks to their series sweep of Washington, though both teams are 4-7. The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-7-1.
"Everybody is adjusting," Jones said. "What is interesting is some of these guys that you see right now that look like they got it together. They could be a play away — a play away — from having to make major adjustments regarding availability to some key players. Much less than in this time that we are remaking some of these rosters because of the COVID. So, I think it's: stay tuned."
Do you agree with Jerry Jones that there’s still hope for the Cowboys even with them sitting at 3-8? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.