If you're ever looking for a way to illustrate the saying "Timing is everything," you could do worse than use the story of Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
Two short years ago, Garrett found himself as the top coaching candidate in Atlanta and Baltimore. Neither team was in such hot shape, but, then, most teams looking for a head coach aren't knocking on the door of the Super Bowl. Jerry Jones, presumably less than thrilled with the prospect of Wade Phillips coaching his team for the long term, threw a pile of cash and, everyone assumed, assurances about replacing Phillips at the Princeton alum.
Garrett took that deal and passed on a chance to be head coach.
It was a reasonable choice. The Cowboys offense was excellent in 2007, the Ravens and Falcons had serious issues on that side of the ball and the chance to be head coach in Dallas is a pretty tempting plum. Plenty of coaches have flopped after taking a bad first job, and Garrett seemed to avoid that possibility.
Fast forward to today, though, and it doesn't look like it was all that wise. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL and Phillips is on the verge of getting a three-year contract extension. Garrett isn't any worse as a coordinator -- the Cowboys finished second in the NFL in yards and set a team record -- but the chance of his simply sliding into the head coaching job seem much slimmer today than they did two years ago. In fact, his overall chances at a job seem lower than they did in 2007.
If Phillips gets the Cowboys back to the playoffs next year it will almost certainly reflect well on Garrett, but you have to wonder how many other assistant coaches have moved ahead of Garrett in the line for head coaching jobs at this point. He didn't get a sniff in Washington or Seattle, although neither of those jobs were actually open, and the Bills didn't even bother to ask for an interview before hiring Chan Gailey. The Raiders are interviewing people right now, despite still having a coach, but Garrett isn't one of them and he'd be insane to take that job anyway.
If the Cowboys fall flat next season, however, Garrett will be a pretty tough sell as the right man to get things headed back in the right direction. Two down years in the next three would have many howling for fresh blood or there's the chance that Phillips's extension might mean he gets to come back in 2011. On top of that, Double J's mercurial eye might be tempted by Bill Cowher or some other flavor of the month and Garrett's outside options would certainly be less plentiful than they were 24 months ago.
Neither situation is the one Garrett thought he was signing up for, but that's why his story is a good example of why timing is everything.