Sources: Jason Garrett is talking with players as if he's still going to be with the Dallas Cowboys

Charles RobinsonNFL columnist

In the building ambiguity of Jason Garrett’s future with the Dallas Cowboys, one more oddity is being added to an opaque picture as Garrett finishes “exit” interviews with players: Those familiar with some of the meetings say Garrett is operating like he’s going to be a part of the organization moving forward.

According to multiple sources familiar with a handful of Garrett’s exit interviews, he conducted himself in the same manner as past seasons — thanking players for their contributions in 2019 and then talking about their offseason outlook. Several sources added that in some cases where players had expiring contracts, Garrett went as far as expressing that the Cowboys would have interest in the players returning in 2020.

“The interview confused [the player],” one source said. “[He] went in thinking it was going to be a goodbye and maybe he’d hear a ‘this is a business’ speech and it turned out to be more of a ‘good job’ and ‘see you later’ feeling. It’s normal to the point of being weird, given everything [he] was expecting.”

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Added another source familiar with the exit interviews: “Jason is so myopic. I think he’s just doing his job like everything is normal because his contract hasn’t expired yet. He’s still under contract so he’s still doing his job like he normally would.”

Not all of the Cowboys’ players have chosen to meet with Garrett for exit interviews. Sources have told Yahoo Sports that a handful of veterans left town without sitting down with the coach. But the status quo in at least some exit interviews appears to be just another extension of a situation that has seen Garrett meet with ownership multiple times since the season ended without a clear sign of Garrett’s fate.

His head coaching contract is set to expire on Jan. 14 and Dallas has yet to reach out to a single outside candidate for an official interview.

ESPN’s Ed Werder reported on Thursday night that the Cowboys will move on “with Garrett not part of the organization.”

Since the end of the regular season, Jerry Jones has been radio silent on the status of Jason Garrett. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Since the end of the regular season, Jerry Jones has been radio silent on the status of Jason Garrett. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Sources inside the organization have consistently expressed a lack of any defined decision or even an indication of what could happen next with Garrett. One source, who spoke with Yahoo Sports on Monday, suggested that the team had interest in a handful of potential head coaching candidates in the college ranks, but said there was no guidance on when or if any of those interviews would take place. He added that Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman also had some interest with Dallas, but a source with the Ravens said on Tuesday that there had been no call from the Cowboys about Roman.

That lack of movement with any outside candidates, combined with Garrett continuing to show up for work with Dallas, has created an odd void that is drawing speculation from all corners. It has also fueled a perception that Cowboys ownership is attempting to craft a scenario that would keep Garrett in the fold, either as head coach or potentially moving to some other part of the franchise. Dallas hasn’t given a solid indication of either outcome, with Jerry Jones and son Stephen failing to speak since the end of the season — and even cancelling their normal radio appearances.

The vacuum and unprecedented lack of leaks in the situation has left fans, media and even other NFL sources to come to varying conclusions, most driven down one of two tracks.

Taken down the first track, the pause in Garrett’s status can be perceived through a lens of speculative logic, which would suggest that ownership has a head coaching candidate in mind who is simply not available for interviews at this point, thereby removing any need to push Garrett out the door before his contract expiration. Such a candidate would likely be involved in wild-card playoff games and off the grid until at least next week. That would give Dallas the time to continue assessing Garrett’s status while waiting for an interview window with other candidates to open.

However, that doesn’t account for the availability of some college coaches like Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley or Baylor’s Matt Rhule, whom Dallas could seek for interviews immediately now that they aren’t part of college bowl or playoff games. That reality is especially glaring for Rhule, who is already on the radar of the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants, while having turned down an interview opportunity from the Cleveland Browns.

And the second track? That one is more about the evidence that is playing out in front of our eyes, which suggests that, taken at face value, Garrett is still in play to return as head coach (or in some other capacity) for the Cowboys. That evidence includes the reality that Garrett could have been dismissed immediately but wasn’t. It includes sources who say that he has done exit interviews with players as he normally would, including looking toward the 2020 season. And it includes the fact that Dallas has been tied to no “above board” interviews of candidates, nor have there been the types of leaks that usually define an obvious next candidate. While Ron Rivera was quickly tied to and eventually landed the Washington Redskins job, there has been no such “hot” candidate that has arisen for Dallas. Nor has there even been a strong No. 1 target, like Rhule with the Giants or the trio of Mike McCarthy, Josh McDaniels and Kevin Stefanski in Cleveland. Even Carolina has shored up an interview list.

That activity elsewhere has left the Cowboys on an island and increasingly looking more and more odd by the day, a theme that will only intensify if this lasts to the very conclusion of Garrett’s deal on Jan. 14. If that’s the case, Dallas will not only have missed out on multiple candidates, but it will likely see all the other jobs filled before it does its first interview.

That is, unless Garrett is going about his job because he’s the actual No. 1 candidate in Dallas. And the interview everyone is waiting for is actually happening right now, every day, when Garrett keeps showing up for work.

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