Tick, tock. Tick, tock. That is indeed the sound of the clock as the NFL village on the whole awaits a tolling of the bell regarding the future of Jason Garrett with the Dallas Cowboys, but apparently a crow has flown into the timing gears.
Now three days removed from the unceremonious end to their once promising 2019 season, owner Jerry Jones has still not publicly made known his decision on Garrett. The longtime head coach has now met with team brass on two separate occasions, Monday and again on Tuesday, but still no announcement comes. Sources with knowledge of the situation tells CBS Sports a third and seemingly final meeting will occur at some point in the very near future -- date and time to be determined -- to seemingly nail down the verdict, along with what will come after.
So, just what is the hold up?
Is this all simply a long, drawn-out way for the Cowboys to announce Garrett will return as head coach?
Put nothing past Jones, admittedly, but the expectation remains the same, in that Garrett will not receive a new contract to remain head coach of the Cowboys -- barring a miracle rivaling the one that occurred on 34th Street.
The more likely scenario is that Jones is having a hard time doing what will ultimately be done anyway, and for understandable reasons, regardless of who agrees. The Hall of Fame owner has a mountain of time, money and energy invested in the growth of Garrett as an NFL mind, and it goes back much further than when the latter was brought to Dallas as offensive coordinator in 2007. Even when Garrett served as backup for Troy Aikman during the Jimmy Johnson era, he was allowed to sit in on coaches' meetings to get a better understanding of what it took to truly lead an NFL club.
Adding in the 9.5 years spent in the head coaching position for the Cowboys -- 2010 interim included -- along with 3.5 years as a coordinator and assistant head coach for the club, that's 26 years of history between the two. Add in the close relationship Jones had with Garrett's late father, who served as a longtime scout for the Cowboys from 1987 (two years prior to Jones taking ownership) all the way to 2004, and you'll quickly begin to understand why Jones' handling of Garrett's future is so apropos.
If it sounded like he was losing a best friend when discussing Garrett following the meaningless victory over the Washington Redskins, it's because that's exactly how he views it. to make a decision on Garrett, and he wasn't bluffing, but also because the logistics of it all doesn't call for the Cowboys to put a boot to Garrett's bottom.
Instead, they feel they have the time they need to send him off with a hug, of sorts, considering his contract is set to expire in the next few days anyway. This includes allowing him to finish out his coaching duties that includes exit interviews with players, and while those were scheduled to be wrapped up on Monday, some ran long and forced players to return on Tuesday to complete the task.
For those concerned the team is losing out on possible top candidates to succeed him, well, they aren't, or at least not in the eyes of the Joneses.
Granted, Dak Prescott from their time together at Mississippi State -- Mullen having been the hand that molded Prescott into an NFL caliber quarterback in the first place., but there's still a slew of candidates the Cowboys can and do have their eye on. and have potent interest in Lincoln Riley and Matt Rhule. I'm told they'll put a feeler out for former University of Washington head coach Chris Petersen and then there's Dan Mullen, who has a standing relationship with
At the NFL level, there's Mike McCarthy and a handful of talented coordinators on both sides of the ball who will make it to their final list of candidates, which is still being fleshed out and likely includes some who are in the NFL playoffs. With no pressure to act right this moment, or the moment before, or the moment before that moment, Jones has opted to let things simply time themselves out with Garrett -- versus firing him with only days remaining on his deal.
That said, remember the part about not putting anything past Jones? Keep that in mind, because there's also a possible curveball he could throw to keep his longtime friend (read: family) around going forward.
A separate source confirmed to me prior to the conclusion of the season that Jones could find a role for Garrett in the front office, which would open the door for a needed successor at head coach while not allowing another NFL team to benefit from the aforementioned investment he's put into Garrett. There's obvious interest between Garrett and a team like the New York Giants, as one example, and owner John Mara and general manager Dave Gettleman have already begun lining up interviews for their vacancy at head coach.
It'd be disingenuous to pretend Jones is oblivious to that possible marriage, because he isn't, at all. It's a scenario he'd prefer to not see materialize, yes, but this isn't to say he's holding up the train in a way that harms Garrett's chances of finding gainful employment. It simply furthers the point that the Cowboys could simply be working to carve out a seat for him in Dallas that doesn't involve Garrett being on the sideline anymore.
That could be maneuvered in a myriad of ways, so while Garrett (nor anyone in Jones' lifetime) will likely be not named general manager, granting him a chair as a consultant/advisor with power to help shape football operations is not out of the question. Furthermore, the topic has likely been broached between the two sides, although a clean cut is still the expectation.
Garrett has said his goodbyes to many within the building in Frisco, and jotted down the numbers of some to remain in touch going forward. A large chunk of his coaching staff is no longer under contract either, and even passing game coordinator Kris Richard -- the most notable free agent -- is slated to interview with the Giants. All things considered, it's never been more clear that this is the time for the Cowboys to move on from Garrett as head coach, and there's nothing right now that indicates they won't, unforeseen miracles aside.
What happens after that, in one way or the other, is what they're still talking about.