IRVING, Texas – Cowboys owner Jerry Jones still believes in the partnership of Wade Phillips as head coach and Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator, even if they flubbed a critical play in the season-opening loss at Washington.
It was a mistake, Jones said Thursday, and they're going to happen.
"In 22 years, I've seen what's perceived as some of the best we've had make mistakes," Jones said.
Jones' defense included a reminder that Dallas has won division titles in two of the three years the coaching staff has been structured this way. However, the fact questions are being asked about the arrangement — after a mere 0-1 start — is a reminder that the pairing of Phillips and Garrett is a forced marriage that's constantly being scrutinized.
Jones hired the offensive coordinator days before picking the head coach. Garrett makes $3 million per season, among the most of any assistant in the NFL. He carries the title of assistant head coach and is viewed as a head-coach-in-waiting. Phillips is under contract as head coach and defensive coordinator through next season.
Asked whether Phillips has veto power over Garrett, Jones said, "He has more than that," then emphasized the head coach is completely in charge on the sideline.
"Wade can call anything he wants to out there, or stop any call," Jones said.
The play that triggered all this was a Hail Mary with 4 seconds left in the first half and Dallas trailing Washington 3-0. The pass had little chance of producing points, so it would've made more sense to take a knee. It ended up being a fumble that led to a touchdown for the Redskins, the only one they'd score in a 13-7 victory.
Garrett initially called the play when the Cowboys were on the 46. After a penalty moved them back 10 yards, he didn't change the play — and Phillips didn't either.
"I don't know if you can call it confusion as much as making a mistake," Jones said. "Certainly, Wade has the ability at any time to stop the music and make the call if he wants to make the call. We all logically know the consequences of that. That didn't happen, so it's what it is. I'm not concerned about it being some type of pattern."
Jones also said "it's immaterial" which coach is more to blame. Jones later seemed to have a half-joking reference to Phillips and Garrett each saying it was their fault when he said, "I'm not trying to be another one of these guys who throws myself under the bus around here."
Jones added that immediately after the game, Phillips told him, "Man, I should have overruled the call."
The owner-general manager addressed other topics, too, such as:
— His confidence in Garrett's offense after Dallas gained 380 yards but scored only one touchdown, continuing a problem from last season.
"I like the potential that we have to correct that because we're moving the ball. We've got parts of the field that we need to move the ball better in, because when you move it there you go into the end zone and get points. ... I can clearly see that we have a chance to have a top offense for the reason that we have some playmakers.
— His faith in David Buehler as a placekicker after seeing him miss his first career attempt from only 34 yards out.
"I like his mental makeup under pressure. It will be there under pressure in my mind. I know how sound our guys think he is kicking right now, and all of that bodes well for us. ... I'd say there is a lot of rope."
— The ramifications of the loss to Washington:
"I have never been a part of a team, Super Bowl or otherwise, that didn't have its ebbs and flows during a season. It's disappointing that one of our ebbs hit us in the very first game. That's happened before in my 22 years here and we've gone on in many case to have a really good season. ...
'We're going sweat it out by not having that win against a division opponent. From the standpoint of can we play better, and do I look at this team as one that has a chance to get on a roll and really be playing at a top level, I think we can. You'd like to put as many wins up as you possibly can. I think we can play much better as far as winning the ballgame. We did some things out there that would tell us you can play better."