sportsday.dallasnews.com
Tim Cowlishaw

Dallas Cowboys: Darkness closing in on the long tenure of Jason Garrett


ARLINGTON -- The only honest way I can begin a column about Jason Garrett is the same way the film Last Flag Flying ends, which is with a Bob Dylan lyric that the Cowboys head coach would appreciate (in other circumstances).

"It's not dark yet ... but it's getting there."

The lights are barely flickering on the Cowboys season after an embarrassing 28-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers which came on the heels of similar implosions against the Atlanta Falcons (27-7) and Philadelphia Eagles (37-9). At some point, everyone needs to step beyond a comfortable company line saying Atlanta is getting back to Super Bowl strength, the Eagles may already be there and the Chargers were better than their 4-6 record.

Who cares? The Cowboys didn't compete with any of them.

Owner Jerry Jones did all he could to avoid providing Garrett a vote of confidence because he knows how that sounds. Those tend to be the last words we hear from general managers or athletic directors before coaching searches commence.

"I really think this coaching staff is tops," Jones said. "I think Jason is able to do everything he's learned as a coordinator and coach the last few years. I feel good about the staff, and I'm not equivocating about that."

Jones said he must look in the mirror, which is a fair assessment of the overall situation. The Cowboys have lost three straight games without Ezekiel Elliott by enormous margins, and that's on the construction of this roster as much as it is the game management of it.

Still, the current numbers are alarming beyond any normal sense of things. The Cowboys went 10 quarters without a touchdown for the first time in club history. They scored in single digits in three straight games for the first time in club history.

Garrett got this position when Wade Phillips was fired after the Cowboys began the 2010 season with a 1-7 record. They were getting whipped at the end, but the current team has lost the last three games by more points (70) than Phillips' club did in his final three (62 points).

Bill Parcells' 2004 team lost three straight games by 20 or more and by a total margin of 71 -- a figure these Cowboys avoided only because in the final two minutes Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers did more kneeling than Jones ever thought he would allow in this stadium.

While Rivers shined with statistics that called into question whether Dallas even put a defense on the field -- 434 yards passing, three touchdowns, no sacks, 82 percent completions -- the Cowboys were sluggish once more and Dak Prescott was at his worst at the wrong moments, throwing two interceptions including another pick-six.

I can't say Garrett was in a reflective mood in his postgame news conference (that has never happened and presumably never will), but he seemed aware that this team had turned a dangerous corner.

When I asked how he viewed his role in this team's demise, he hesitated only a moment before saying, "Obviously we've got to get it right. That's my job and that's our job as a coaching staff. We haven't done enough on either side of the ball to allow our team to compete in the last 30 minutes."

Oh, those final 30 minutes. The Cowboys are setting records for dismal second-half performances, too. They led the Falcons and Eagles before being outscored 47-0 in the third and fourth quarters. On Thanksgiving, the Chargers held a 3-0 lead at the halfway mark before having their way in the second half by a 25-6 margin and, as mentioned, passing on a final touchdown at the 2-yard line which felt, in some sense, like the final insult.

On their way to a 5-6 record, Anthony Lynn's Chargers didn't want to run up the score on Dak, Dez, DeMarcus and the rest of the 'Boys.

While Jones tries to tell himself all is right with this staff, the career numbers suggest that this can't last forever. Garrett is one of nine head coaches who have been in their current post since the start of 2011, his first full season.

Six have won Super Bowls and a seventh (Carolina's Ron Rivera) at least made the trip.

The other two are Garrett and Marvin Lewis, and one role you want to avoid at all costs is being compared to how the Cincinnati Bengals do things. Garrett at least has a single playoff victory while Lewis has none in Year 15.

I don't think Garrett is going anywhere no matter how far the Cowboys miss the playoffs. But I also expect them to win a couple of games at some stage. And if that doesn't happen and the blowout losses mount and the Cowboys' record book continues to get rewritten and the home crowd boos grow even louder, then logic says inertia is not the answer. Change will happen.

In other words, it's not dark yet. But it's getting there.
Half bad

The Cowboys have been outscored 72-6 in second halves during this three-game losing streak. The rundown: