Needing a win over the injury-ridden Philadelphia Eagles to clinch the NFC East championship, the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday managed just nine points and shuffled away with a lackluster, 17-9 defeat at Lincoln Financial Field. The Cowboys still have a chance to win the division, if they defeat Washington next week and the Eagles lose to the New York Giants. But according to a report after the game by The Ringer, Sunday's loss looks like it spells the end of head coach Jason Garrett's nine year run in Dallas.
In that time, Garrett has managed to guide the Cowboys to just three postseason appearances, losing in the divisional playoff round each time, including last season when the Cowboys fell 30-22 to the eventual NFC champion Los Angeles Rams.
According to the Ringer analysis, Garrett on Sunday went with a "misguided" offensive game plan "that did not focus on attacking the the Eagles' main weaknesses." Namely, passing outside the hash marks, rather than up the middle. The outside passing game has been especially difficult for the Eagles to defend this season. But the Cowboys failed to throw outside the marks "until it was too late."
"I'm very disappointed. We all expected to leave here as NFC East champs," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, quoted beat reporter Jon Machota on Twitter. Jones gave what Machota called one of his shortest postgame interview sessions following the loss.
According to ESPN stats, the defeat marked the fourth time in Garrett's nine seasons that he took the Cowboys into a game that would decide the division in Week 16 or 17 — and lost.
"A season gone wrong is just about lost for good," ESPN reporter Todd Archer wrote of the Cowboys, who stand at 7-8 heading into the season's final weekend.
Ringer analyst Danny Heifetz had an even gloomier assessment, however. A fourth blown divisional decider in nine years "is probably the charm for Garrett." The 53-year-old coach — who played as a backup quarterback for the Cowboys from 1993 to 1999, appearing in 39 games — reaches the end of his five-year, $30 million contract after the current season.
"Signing him to an extension is unthinkable," wrote Heifetz, though the Ringer writer allowed that Garrett may be able to retain his job if he somehow not only wins the division after all, but takes the Cowboys all the way to the Super Bowl.
According to reports circulated in the media earlier this month, Jones has "a very real interest" in bringing on former Ohio State University coach Urban Meyer to Dallas, to take over the coach's job once Garrett is gone.