The failure to make the playoffs after a season in which Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expected his team to make a deep postseason run — that's what it took for Jones to part ways with Jason Garrett as Dallas' head coach.
Garrett's contract expires Jan. 14, and the team announced Sunday night it will "not seek a new agreement on a contract extension."
The Cowboys announced their letting go of Garrett with the following 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,” said Cowboys Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones.
“His level of commitment, character and dedication to this organization has been outstanding at every stage of his career. In his nine full years as a head coach, he guided our team to three division championships while also having them in position to play for the NFC East title in the last game of the year in four other seasons. His tenure of leadership will be characterized by his ability to produce teams that always played with great effort, emotion and passion, and he represented our organization with great pride, loyalty and respect.”
“Jason Garrett’s legacy with the Dallas Cowboys will always be that of someone who strived for greatness every day that he walked through the door, and as someone who instilled the virtues of enthusiasm, hard work and appreciation for the profession in all of the men who played with him and for him.”
“He is, and always will remain, a cherished member of the Dallas Cowboys family, and his contributions to the organization are greatly appreciated.”
Jones, 77, will conduct a head coaching search for the first time since 2007, when he hired Wade Phillips. Garrett, 53, was named interim coach when Jones fired Phillips in 2010 and had held the title ever since. The coach Jones hires will be the ninth in franchise history.
Garrett’s exit as Cowboys coach comes on the heels of widespread speculation that his time in Dallas was coming to an end in the absence of a deep Cowboys playoff run. The contract that paid him $6 million per year was set to expire at the end of the 2019 season.
Garrett’s record in 10 seasons as Dallas’ coach was 85-67, not including a 2-3 mark in five playoff games.
Garrett had just one losing season, a 4-12 record in 2015 when injuries to quarterback Tony Romo, among others, derailed the Cowboys. He produced winning records in five of his previous nine seasons and .500 records in four.
Including Garrett and his final stats, below is the complete list of coaches in Cowboys history.
Jones figures to have a virtually endless pool of candidates to replace Garrett as Cowboys coach, one of if not the most coveted job in American sports. BetOnline for weeks has had odds on who will be Dallas' coach in 2020, and the list includes big-time names like Urban Meyer, Josh McDaniels, Lincoln Riley, Sean Payton, Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Jim Harbaugh and Chris Petersen.
The Cowboys reportedly have interviewed former Packers coach Mike McCarthy and former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.
In the months (and years) leading up to this move, Jones had mastered the art of claiming to be committed to the head coach while not actually committing to the head coach. Jones' comments before the 2019 season, when Dallas was coming off a divisional playoff loss to eventual NFC-champion Los Angeles, were a good example.
"I think I've made clear how I feel about Jason in terms of where he is right now as far as our ability to help us win football games," Jones said in a radio interview. "I think if you look at what we've done over the last few years, you'll see a pretty good winning record there.
"(But) it's not enough, not enough."
Added Jones last summer when asked about the status of Garrett's contract: “There’s no secret that I want (Garrett) to be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for as long as I’m around to spell it. Let’s see what’s ahead. I expect us to be a better team (in 2019). I think our personnel supports that. Our experience gained supports that. I am real impressed with the staff that Jason has put together. So I expect us to be better, and as a part of that should result in maybe advancing our record, or if you will, our place in the playoff.
"It should result in that. That’s the assumption you make that if you’re a better team and you’ve put together a sound one that can stay healthy, then you should be able to do better than you did last year."
So the message — get to the conference title game, or else — was clear. And it was not an unreasonable expectation.
When the Cowboys lost games this season to the Saints and Vikings, some pointed to Jones' compliments of New Orleans' Sean Payton and Minnesota's Mike Zimmer as passive-aggressive criticism of his own coach. After the Cowboys' loss to the Patriots in Week 12, Jones abandoned any and all subtlety.
"Special teams is a total reflection of coaching," Jones said after a blocked punt contributed to Dallas' loss. “With the makeup of this team, I shouldn’t be this frustrated."
Added Jones, via the Fort Worth Star Telegram: "It’s frustrating to be reminded of the fundamentals of football and coaching that beat us out there. So, yeah, I’m frustrated."
As for Garrett, NFL Media reported last month he could be a head-coaching candidate for the Giants, who fired Pat Shurmur last week.
UPDATE: This story has been updated from its original version.