FRISCO, Texas – It was a winding road that took a week to reach its conclusion, but the Cowboys have officially opted to part ways with Jason Garrett.
News came down on Sunday afternoon, as reports surfaced during the Eagles-Seahawks wildcard game that the Cowboys had ended Garrett's nine-year tenure as their head coach.
Team owner/general manager Jerry Jones confirmed the news in an official statement.
"We are extremely grateful to Jason Garrett for his more than 20 years of service to the Dallas Cowboys as a player, assistant coach and head coach," Jones said. "His level of commitment, character and dedication to this organization has been outstanding at every stage of his career."
The news gives some clarity to a story that has gotten quite confusing since the Cowboys were eliminated from the postseason last weekend. Following that win against Washington, Jones declined to comment on Garrett's future, stating he had no timetable for a decision.
That proved to be accurate – for the time being, at least. In the days that followed, not much in the way of news surfaced while Garrett conducted exit interviews with players and met with members of the front office.
The speculation reached a fever pitch this weekend, though. Despite no update on Garrett's status, reports surfaced that the Cowboys were conducting interviews with former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy and former Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis. That news seemed to confirm the inevitable, though the announcement didn't come for another 24 hours.
The decision ends the Cowboys' longest coaching tenure since Tom Landry and sets the stage for them to hire their first new head coach in a decade. It's a change that has been speculated about for quite some time – especially after Jones opted not to extend Garrett's contract last offseason, setting him up for a show-me season in 2019.
Garrett didn't shy away from the expectations, listing his goal for the season during the Cowboys' annual Kickoff Luncheon back in August.
"On Sunday night, Feb. 2, 2020, there's going to be a platform on the field down in Miami. We want to be on that platform," he said at the time. "That's our goal. If we don't have that goal, then you shouldn't be a part of this team."
Clearly, this Cowboys team fell short. After a 3-0 start to the season, they battled inconsistencies the rest of the way. They followed that start with a three-game losing streak, and ultimately traded wins and losses to an 8-8 record.
Garrett's time as the Cowboys' head coach actually began on an interim basis, as he replaced Wade Phillips on Nov. 8, 2010 following a 1-7 start to the season. He rallied the Cowboys to a 6-10 finish and was named the eighth head coach in franchise history on Jan. 5, 2011, after the conclusion of the season.
From that point, Garrett held the position for the last nine seasons, amassing an 85-67 record with three NFC East titles, three postseason appearances and two playoff wins.
There were all the ups and downs that might be expected from a head coach that has been under as much scrutiny as Garrett. The Cowboys failed to make the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, as they lost cruelly in the last week of the season and fell to 8-8 in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Garrett appeared to break through in 2014. After losing the season opener to San Francisco, the Cowboys ripped off six-straight wins en route to a 12-4 record and just the franchise's second playoff win since 1995. Of course, that wild card win against Detroit set up the most memorable moment of Garrett's tenure, as the Cowboys were knocked out of the playoffs in controversial fashion after a Dez Bryant catch at the Green Bay goal line was ruled incomplete, helping the Packers advance to the NFC Championship Game.
The performance earned Garrett a five-year, $35 million extension, which was set to expire this month.
Heartbreak at the hands of the Packers grew to be a theme for the Jason Garrett Cowboys, though. In 2016, riding the emergence of rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, Garrett coached the Cowboys to a 13-3 record – their best since 2007 and tied for the best mark in franchise history. Garrett's efforts were enough to earn him the AP NFL Coach of the Year award.
It ended in disappointment, however, as Green Bay traveled to AT&T Stadium for another divisional round matchup and kicked a walk-off field goal to win a classic.
Garrett made one more playoff appearance after that, engineering his most impressive turnaround when he guided a 3-5 team to a 10-6 record and a division title in 2018. But, as has been the case, the divisional round has proven problematic, as the L.A. Rams defeated the Cowboys, 30-22, and eventually advanced to the Super Bowl.
That would be his final trip. Heading into the final year of his contract, it was clear that the goal was to reach the organization's first conference championship game since the 1995 season.
The goal wasn't met, and now the Cowboys' goal will be to find their ninth head coach.