Fast start by Cowboys raises questions for Jerry Jones over contract for coach Jason Garrett

Add Jason Garrett to the list of questions about new contracts facing Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Dallas is already watching the price go up for receiver Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray, the first running back in NFL history to start a season with seven straight 100-yard games.

And now Garrett has his first six-game winning streak after the season started with him on the hottest seat in the league coming off 8-8 records in all three of his full seasons, extending the Cowboys' playoff drought to four years.

Jones said plainly during the preseason that he had no intention of extending Garrett's contract before the end of the year. The answer wasn't quite as clear after a 31-21 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.

The Cowboys (6-1) are off to their best start since winning six of the first seven in 2007, when they went 13-3 and were the top seed in the NFC under Wade Phillips. They play their second straight NFC East opponent when Washington visits next Monday night.

"We've got so many contracts that we're supposed to be needing to be talking about now that things are going good," Jones said after the Cowboys moved a half-game ahead of idle Philadelphia atop the NFC East. "I'm not even going to begin to start anywhere."

Neither is Garrett.

"I just know where I need to focus, where our team needs to focus and it needs to focus on playing our best football," he said when reporters brought up the subject Monday. "That's really what I think about."

Garrett wouldn't address whether his agent and Jones will talk during the season about extending his four-year deal, or if he wants that to happen.

"That was the last answer I'm going to have about my contract," he said. "Seriously, I'm thinking about getting ready for the Redskins."

Jones heaped considerable praise on Garrett a week after the Cowboys dominated statistically in a 30-23 win at Super Bowl champion Seattle.

"I've always thought he had the potential to be a serious consistent winning coach in the NFL and still think that," Jones said. "I'm just proud that he has structured his staff the way that he has, the way he's coaching them the way he has. I'm glad he's coaching the coaches the way he is."

Jones hired Garrett, a backup quarterback on Dallas' Super Bowl teams in the 1990s, as offensive coordinator in 2007 before he brought Phillips in as head coach. Garrett kept the play-calling duties when he replaced the fired Phillips after a 1-7 start in 2010.

At Jones' urging, Garrett tried to step away from calling the plays last year, but re-inserted himself when the offense sputtered with Bill Callahan in that role.

Then came the offseason hiring of Scott Linehan, who worked with Garrett in Miami and hit it off with quarterback Tony Romo from the beginning. The passing game coordinator, with a history of running quarterback-first offenses, has Murray on pace for just the sixth 400-carry season in league history.

What does that mean for Garrett? More time in defensive meeting rooms, where Jones says he tells coaches how he would attack their scheme. And more time for game management, which he struggled with early in his career.

"He's very driven. Extremely driven," Jones said. "He's deceivingly competitive, but when you have an opportunity to be a part of a team or in that role, that stuff really comes out in Jason Garrett. He's really good in front of a team. They see he's very genuine."

Jones has long praised Garrett for how he handled the death of practice squad player Jerry Brown in an intoxication manslaughter case that landed defensive tackle Josh Brent in jail. The Cowboys won three straight games in the midst of that crisis to stay in playoff contention.

But that season ended the same way as the one before it and the one after: with a loss to an NFC East foe with a playoff berth on the line. Dallas started 2014 at risk of matching the franchise record of five straight years without a trip to the postseason.

"Jason has certainly shown even in .500 situations that he's got a lot to bring to a football team and a lot to bring to the NFL," Jones said. "He's had those pretty unfortunate things that didn't go his way as far his record is concerned as a coach. I'm glad to see it going his way for him now."



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