IRVING, TEXAS (AP) - Jason Garrett has never been a head coach before at any level. Yet the new leader of the Dallas Cowboys sure seemed ready for the challenge, judging by the confidence he displayed at his introductory news conference.
“Wade is no longer the coach. I am the coach and what we’re going to do going forward (is) get ready to have a great meeting, a great walkthrough and a great practice on Wednesday and give ourselves a chance to beat the Giants on Sunday,” Garrett said.
Coach Wade Phillips was fired Monday and Garrett was promoted from offensive coordinator to interim coach in hopes of salvaging a season headed toward becoming the worst in franchise history. Dallas is 1-7, its worst start since 1989 and a huge collapse for a team that won its division and a playoff game last season. The Cowboys were considered preseason favorites to make the Super Bowl, which happens to be coming to their new home stadium.
Owner-general manager Jerry Jones steadfastly supported Phillips throughout the team’s tailspin, even saying late last week that he wouldn’t make a coaching change this season. He said Monday he’d been “in denial” about how bad the club really is.
Jones decided enough was enough following a 45-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. It was the Cowboys‘ fifth straight loss and the third in a row that wasn’t even close. The defense has been mostly to blame, and that was Phillips‘ specialty. Defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni was promoted to replace Phillips as defensive coordinator.
“I told (players) they should not think this an admission of defeat or finality in this season,” Jones said. “We have eight games left and we have one goal _ to win.”
This is the first time Dallas has made an in-season coaching change. Garrett also becomes the first former Cowboys player to take over the job previously held by the likes of Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells.
“There’ll be some changes that I think will be tangible that people in our organization will notice right from the start,” Garrett said. “I think over time those changes will be implemented into our football team. They won’t be drastic changes. I just think the personality of the leader will come through a little bit.”
Jones was clearly unhappy and uncomfortable during the news conference announcing the change. He spoke slower than usual, with longer pauses, and fiddled with his glasses.
He called Phillips “somebody we thought so much of” and “a good friend, as well.” He wouldn’t provide details of his conversation with Phillips, and became emotional as he described breaking the news to the team. He said the focus of that speech was accountability.
“I spoke of the realization that it’s not just about yourself,” Jones said. “It impacts others.”
However, Garrett was No. 2 on the coaching depth chart and Jones has always thought highly of him. He’s been viewed as the team’s coach-in-waiting since he was hired _ days before Phillips came aboard, in fact. He’s among the highest-paid assistants in the league at $3 million.
“I do believe Jason has the temperament, he has the disposition to affect a culture change,” Jones said. “I think this is important. We know all men’s styles are different. His style is one that I feel can be very effective.”