HOUSTON, Texas – It was only fitting that, on this momentous night for the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett added one more piece of hardware to the trophy case.
Team owner/general manager Jerry Jones was in the midst of accepting his nomination to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Dak Prescott had recently been named NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
Amid all that commotion, it was Garrett who heard his name called as the NFL's Coach of the Year.
"This is an extension of our football team. I really accept it on their behalf," Garrett said. "I coach with some great guys, and we're fortunate to coach so many great players who go about it the right way."
That's exactly the answer one would expect Garrett to give, after his ultra-focused, step-at-a-time approach helped the Cowboys to a 13-3 season. The sixth-year head coach said it himself on Saturday night: "focus on the day."
With all of that said, it'd be an injustice not to invoke exactly what Garrett's team overcame in 2016. The Cowboys lost their backup quarterback in the first week of training camp, only to lose four-time Pro Bowler Tony Romo just days before the start of the season.
With rookies starting at quarterback and running back, and with a defense depleted by suspensions and injuries, Garrett lost his first game of the season. That quickly became a distant memory, as they responded by reeling off 11-straight wins en route to an eventual division title.
"There were so many great moments, and so much of it goes back to the intangible things – the work that we put in," Garrett said. "How close everybody got. Fighting through some different adversities, everybody responding the right way – I think there are many examples of that."
[embeddedad0]The story of this 2016 Cowboys team is rooted in the work that was done in the early parts of the year, mere moments after this franchise endured a 4-12 campaign. True to form, Garrett called that to mind as he gave sweeping praise to those in the organization.
"Just the way everybody went about it," he said. "The commitment that was made in the early part of 2016, while our players were working out in January – the commitment to be part of something special."
A special season ultimately fell short in the divisional round of the playoffs in a 34-31 loss to Green Bay. But Garrett's award is a fitting reminder of what else the Cowboys accomplished – from improbable wins at Lambeau Field and Heinz Field, to an overtime thriller against Philadelphia and a tie for the best regular season in franchise history.
Garrett would never be one to single out something specific, but he said it was those types of moments that will stick with him forever.
"Those are exhilarating feelings, the connections you have and the bonds you have and getting through a lot of stuff together," he said. "You give each other a look after one of those situations – a hard-fought game – and those are special feelings. Those are bonds that you'll have for the rest of your life."
The Dallas Cowboys were in Houston for the annual NFL Honors. Photos courtesy of Ben Liebenberg/NFL, Todd Rosenberg/NFL, Perry Knotts/NFL.