There was way too much made about Jason Garrett's job security this season.
It was obviously a disappointing season that ended short of the playoffs, but there wasn't much reason to think that Garrett's performance peaked in 2011. It was his first full year on the job, he wasn't overwhelmed by the job and changing directions so quickly wouldn't accomplish anything other than send the team back to square one. Jerry Jones never wavered in his strong defense of Garrett and it was the right call.
That doesn't mean everything is perfect with the head coach, though. Garrett has some things to work on before next season and the biggest thing on the list is accountability. It's an essential trait for a strong leader and it is one that Garrett hasn't quite mastered at this point.
One example comes from his postmortem on the season this week. Garrett talked about the year and framed it in terms of being a rebuilding year that was designed to give young players a chance to prove themselves instead of giving playing time to veterans.
"Well, we've said it right from the outset, we made some decisions in our organization where we moved on from some older players that probably would have given us maybe a better chance to win right now because we wanted to take it in a different direction."
As Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com notes, that's a 180 degree turn from what Garrett said when they were making those moves in the offseason. When players like Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis and Marion Barber were shown the door, Garrett said every move was being made because the team felt they had better players to fill their spots.
And the Cowboys were right to make those moves. In those cases and others, the Cowboys were right to move on from those vets because the options were better. The fact that the season didn't work out exactly as hoped doesn't mean that you need to scramble for an excuse that contradicts what you said in the past.
It is a time to have the courage of your convictions and say that you remain confident that you made the best moves for the team. Be firm that there is no way the season would have played out differently with those players on the roster and that you have no regrets for the moves that you made.
Were this the only time Garrett displayed a tendency to change his story in midstream, it would be easy to overlook. But he's done it several times this season.
The most glaring moment was after Garrett iced Dan Bailey against Arizona and couldn't seem to stick with an explanation of why for more than five minutes in the week after the game. Nothing reached that level of inanity, but Garrett was equally weak when it came to owning his decisions in the losses to the Lions and Patriots. There was a constant search for excuses instead of a coach admitting that things didn't work out as he planned.
In coaching, as in most things, there's a learning curve that needs to take place before you can master the job. That Garrett needs work isn't a negative about him, it's just part of life. It will only become a negative if Garrett doesn't figure out a way to fix the issue.