Sports Outside the Beltway

Jason Garrett a Wanted Man

Mickey Spagnola explains why those of us criticizing Jerry Jones for hiring Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator before settling on a head coach are wrong, wrong, wrong.

The Cowboys and then newly-named head coach Dave Campo tried to hire Garrett in 2000 when he became a free agent after spending eight years with the Cowboys. Instead, Garrett decided to make several more millions playing four more season with the Giants.

In 2004, Norv Turner tried to hire Garrett as his quarterbacks coach in Oakland. Garrett decided to milk one more year playing in the NFL, splitting his final year (2004) with Tampa Bay and Miami.

In 2005, Nick Saban quickly added Garrett to his staff when he decided to finally call it quits playing. Then offensive coordinator Scott Linehan tells the story about meeting Garrett for the first time at the Senior Bowl that year, and that 10 hours later they hired him.

In 2006, Linehan, St. Louis’ newly-named head coach, tried to bring Garrett, with just one year of coaching under his belt, with him as offensive coordinator but was denied permission by the Dolphins.

In 2007, after Saban left the Dolphins for the University of Alabama, he wanted Garrett to be the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator. Butch Davis wanted him in the same capacity at North Carolina. Les Miles wanted him at LSU. No go, said the Dolphins, who had him under contract for another season and at the time were unsure of how they would fill their head coaching vacancy.

In 2007, Cleveland tried repeatedly to seek permission to speak with Garrett about its offensive coordinator’s position, but the Dolphins told the Browns, hands off.

In 2007, Miami’s newly-named head coach Cam Cameron offered Garrett an extension to his one-remaining year with the Dolphins as the quarterbacks coach, putting a Thursday deadline on Garrett’s decision.


Obviously the Dolphins didn’t have to grant Garrett permission to talk with the Cowboys since he was essentially being interviewed for a lateral move while under contract. But they knew how much time he had spent with the Cowboys. They knew how long his daddy had worked for the Cowboys. They knew they were bringing in Ken Zampese to interview for the offensive coordinator’s spot. They knew how much it would mean to Garrett to return to Dallas.

For that, Garrett said he is eternally grateful to the Dolphins organization to grant him this permission. Said he couldn’t say enough about the people he had worked for the past two years and how classy they were.

Consider Jones and Garrett lucky.

“Jason is someone who is held in high regard as a bright offensive mind throughout the NFL,” Jones said in a statement. “The nature and timing of this hire is unique in that we were dealing with a limited window of time in which to talk to Jason about returning to Dallas.

“We are grateful to the Dolphins for granting the Cowboys permission to explore this opportunity. Jason will now proceed further in our head coaching search as an in-house candidate.”

Not armed with such knowledge, there surely will be some out there criticizing the Cowboys for hiring a potential offensive coordinator or assistant head coach before hiring the head coach. They will be telling you Jones is back to his old tricks, minimizing the power of the head coach now that Bill Parcells has retired by forcing a staff on the new guy.

But hey, when the opportunity knocks, you had better react when good people are involved. I mean, can all these people be wrong? Me, I’m guessing if Garrett was good enough for Campo and Saban and Linehan and Saban and Davis and Miles and Romeo Crennel and Cameron – did I leave anyone out? – then he must be good enough for Cowboys-head-coach-to-be-named-soon. Garrett must have something they all wanted.


[W]e’ll see where all this goes. Just understand what happened on Thursday was an extremely good thing for the Dallas Cowboys.

Bet on it.

That’s pretty comforting, I must admit. And another indication of the graciousness of Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga, who has handled both Nick Saban’s departure and Jason Garrett’s situation (both, oddly, to teams that I root for) with class.

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