Cowboys Don’t Want Jason Garrett to Match Jeff Fisher’s Record with the Oilers and Titans

Nearly two years ago, I wrote a piece focusing on the comparisons between former Broncos/Bills/Cowboys coach Wade Phillips and former Bears/Redskins/Oilers coach Jack Pardee. Here was the introduction:

Pro-Football-Reference has a page that allows users to sort through coaching records, including playoff wins, champions, and so forth. According to this list, a total of 80 coaches have coached at least four playoff games during their career. Among those 80 coaches, Dallas coach Wade Phillips’ career record of 1-5 is tied for 78th in terms of winning percentage.

The other coach with a 1-5 playoff record? Um, that would be former Chicago, Washington, and Houston coach Jack Pardee. That doesn’t bode well for Wade.

In Pardee’s final season, the Oilers limped to a 1-9 start, which led to Pardee’s dismissal. Phillips’ head-coaching career in Dallas also didn’t last long enough for him to improve his 1-5 playoff record, as the Cowboys fired him after a 1-7 start in 2010.

The Pardee firing led immediately to the hiring of Jeff Fisher, who once served as a special-teams player and reserve defensive back for the Bears in the early 1980s. The Oilers didn’t improve in 1994 under Fisher, going 1-5 and finishing with a 2-14 record.

Plenty of changes occurred after that with the team drafting a franchise running back in Eddie George and a franchise quarterback in Steve McNair. The team also moved from Houston to Tennessee and became the Titans. Many remember that Fisher led the team to its only Super Bowl appearance and that he lasted 16 seasons with the Oilers/Titans after the team removed the interim label from his title. That record explains why several called for Jerry Jones to try to hire Fisher rather than Jason Garrett, the high-paid offensive coordinator who once served as a backup QB with the Cowboys and Giants.

There is a bit of irony that St. Louis ended up hiring Fisher. That was the same team that pursued Garrett in January of 2009 even after the Cowboys completely fell apart in a loss to the Eagles that ended the 2008 season. Garrett didn’t impress commentators in St. Louis at the time, with one noting that Garrett hadn’t shown much leadership in his role as offensive coordinator. Here’s a quote (and keep in mind that this was in 2009):

Garrett might well one day become a great head coach and a compelling leader, but he isn’t one now. Not even close. I see a young coach who has shown some very obvious and disturbing signs that he is unable to handle the rough stuff that a leader must cope with inside a locker room.

Because Garrett remained with the Cowboys, he is now in precisely the same position that Fisher was in after taking over for Pardee in 1994. We need to hope that the results are better, because I am not sure how many Dallas fans have the patience to wait four or five more seasons for the Cowboys to be constant winners.

Consider Fisher’s early records—

1995: 7-9

1996: 8-8

1997: 8-8

1998: 8-8

I know there is always a story behind a record, but there was nothing noteworthy about any of those teams other than that they were mediocre. The Titans remained in the playoff races during those 8-8 seasons until late in the year, but the team did not make enough of a late surge to finish with a winning record or a playoff berth in any of those seasons.

I think we all are fully aware of Garrett’s 8-8 record in his first full season with Dallas. That brings his overall mark to 13-11, which is better than Fisher’s 8-14 overall record after his first full season.

Fisher’s Titans improved to 13-3 in 1999 and reached the Super Bowl. Between 1999 and 2010, he had five seasons with at least 11 wins, and he compiled an overall playoff record of 5-6.

It’s certainly not bad, and it’s certainly better than what the Cowboys have done during the same time period. The problem is, however, that Cowboys fans not only can’t wait several more seasons before the team returns to the heights of a 13-3 record, but the fans probably wouldn’t settle for a coach who would fail to win a single Super Bowl during a 17-year period.

So I suppose that causes the dilemma—we want a coach who can turn around a franchise like Jeff Fisher did, and we want a coach who could have long-term success like Jeff Fisher eventually did. But we don’t want to wait for that success to occur, and we want the head coach to have even more success than Fisher actually had.

Sigh.

Have I mentioned that these offseasons are awfully long?


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