Monday, January 16, 2017

Rooting For Jason - But Not His Team

TigerBlog wasn't sure if he should be writing today.

It's Martin Luther King Day. For the first time at Princeton, this federal holiday is also a day off from work. TB does not write on Labor Day and Memorial Day, so perhaps he could have gotten away with not writing today.

He probably wouldn't have, until the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys yesterday.

Dallas, of course, is coached by Jason Garrett, a Princeton alum and the 1988 Bushnell Cup winner as the Ivy League Player of the Year.

TigerBlog was in Jadwin Gym a long, long time ago when he saw a quarterback working out on the track area. At first he had no idea who it was, until he got closer and saw that it was Jason Garrett. Yes, Jason may have been a back-up for his career, but make no mistake - he could throw a football.

To this day, TB can still see how Jason threw it, with perfect spirals and deep passes that seemed to go the entire width of the building.

Also, TigerBlog can tell you that there are few people he's ever met who are the class act Jason Garrett is. He is humble. He is personable. He works hard. He gives a ton of his time and money to charity. He is one of Princeton football's most loyal fans.

You can't have any easier person to root for than Jason Garrett. And yet, it's the Cowboys. The Dallas Cowboys. Can TB ever root for them?

TigerBlog's NFL rooting interests go this way: 1. Giants. 2. Redskins. 3. Almost everyone else. 4. Eagles. 5. Cowboys. 7. Every other possible scenario in the world. 8. Patriots.

It's hard enough to root for the Redskins if you're a Giants fan, but TigerBlog does, for several reasons. Actually, as he thinks about them, it's harder now to root for the Giants, with Odell Beckham as both the face of the franchise and the face of almost everything that's wrong with professional sports.

Root for Dallas? That's tough.

Mike Condon can get TB to root for the Canadiens and now the Senators. Chris Young can get TB to root for the Royals. Seth DeValve can get TB to root for the Browns.

Jason Garrett and the Cowboys? Hmmm. Nope. How about putting it this way: If anyone could ever get TigerBlog to do it, Jason Garrett would be the one.

This year was his best as the head coach of the Cowboys. With fourth-round draft pick Dak Prescott forced into the role of starting quarterback, Jason led the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, with losses only to the Giants (twice) and the Eagles (once, in the final week of the season, in a meaningless game).

Dallas had homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, but it also had to contend with Aaron Rodgers in the first game. It started out as a rout. It didn't end up that way.

Jason is in a very tough spot. The team owner is also the GM. He hasn't always given Garrett the best hand with which to compete. In addition, the expectations of the franchise, from the owner to the fans, is to win a Super Bowl every year.

Unfortunately for Dallas, it hasn't done so since Jerry Jones decided to become GM as well as owner. Dallas won three in four years from 1993-96, but since then, nothing (it's worth noting that the Giants have won two since then).

Since its most recent Super Bowl, Dallas is now 2-8 in playoff games. Jason Garrett is now 1-2 in the playoffs in his six-plus years as head coach.

Still, was the loss yesterday his fault? Hardly. First, Dallas was down big quickly in the game, and it was Jason Garrett who kept his team composed and focused and able to make the move it made to get back into it.

Then there's the fact that Rodgers is on quite a roll. And that it took two field goals, of 56 and 51 yards (Dallas had one of its own from 52 in between, all of this in the last 93 seconds), and one of the great clutch throw-and-catch moments in recent history to do in the Cowboys. And when the game-winning kick left Mason Crosby's foot, it looked all the world like it was going to fade badly to the left.

Unfortunately for Jason and the Cowboys, that's not what happened. It broke back to the right and through the uprights, and the great season that Dallas had ended abruptly.

One thought TB had during the game was to wonder who the Atlanta Falcons would rather have seen in the NFC title game, Dallas on the road or Rodgers and the Packers at home.

Anyway, maybe one day, after he's done coaching, Jason Garrett will go into television. TigerBlog is positive that he - and John Thompson - would be great TV analysts.

And maybe there is a Super Bowl title in his future.

If he got there, it would be hard for TigerBlog to root against him - especially if the Cowboys were playing the Patriots.

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