FRISCO, Texas — The awkward ending of Jason Garrett’s tenure is official, seven days after the Dallas Cowboys’ season concluded, with the team announcing Sunday it would not seek a new agreement on a contract extension.
“We are extremely grateful to Jason Garrett for his more than 20 years of service to the Dallas Cowboys as a player, assistant coach and head coach,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said in a statement. “His level of commitment, character and dedication to this organization has been outstanding at every stage of his career. … His tenure of leadership will be characterized by his ability to produce teams that always played with great effort, emotion and passion, and he represented our organization with great pride, loyalty and respect.”
The announcement ends a confusing weekend that saw the Cowboys interview Marvin Lewis and Mike McCarthy, even though Garrett was still technically employed. Garrett’s contract was set to expire on Jan. 14.
Garrett posted an 85-67 record as Cowboys coach, making the playoffs three times but winning just two playoff games and failing to make it out of the divisional round in 2016 as the top seed in the NFC. The Cowboys finished with an 8-8 mark in 2019, the fourth time in Garrett’s tenure they finished with a .500 record.
“Jason Garrett’s legacy with the Dallas Cowboys will always be that of someone who strived for greatness every day that he walked through the door, and as someone who instilled the virtues of enthusiasm, hard work and appreciation for the profession in all of the men who played with him and for him,” Jones said. “He is, and always will remain, a cherished member of the Dallas Cowboys family, and his contributions to the organization are greatly appreciated.”
During the season, Jones said he believed Garrett would coach in the NFL in 2020, but he never said where. With openings in Carolina, Cleveland and the New York Giants, it will be interesting to see whether Garrett receives any interviews. He played for the Giants from 2000 to ’03 and grew up in Cleveland.
Lewis had a 16-year run with the Cincinnati Bengals and helped make a moribund franchise at least respectable, although he failed to win a playoff game in seven appearances. Lewis has a connection to the Jones family, having served on the NFL’s competition committee with Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones.
McCarthy won a Super Bowl at AT&T Stadium with the Packers. He ended the Cowboys’ season twice in the playoffs in the most painful of ways in 2014 and 2016. His career record of 125-77-2 is impressive, and his Green Bay teams made the playoffs in nine of his 13 seasons.
After Bill Parcells opted to retire following the 2006 season, the Cowboys’ search for his replacement took about three weeks before they settled on Wade Phillips.
In addition to Phillips and Garrett, the Joneses interviewed Todd Bowles, Tony Sparano, Todd Haley, Ron Rivera, Norv Turner, Mike Singletary and Jim Caldwell.
Lewis and McCarthy might just be the start to the 2020 search.
Playoff team coordinators like Eric Bieniemy (Kansas City) and Greg Roman (Baltimore) would figure to be on Jerry Jones’ list, but he could have interviewed both this week while they had the wild-card weekend off.
While a source said the Cowboys are not yet ready to focus on college coaches at the moment, the team has been linked to the likes of Lincoln Riley, Urban Meyer, Dan Mullen and Matt Rhule. Late in the season, Jones noted on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that college coaches have the worst success rate in the NFL.
It should be pointed out that Jones’ Super Bowl wins came with former college coaches Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer.