As Jason Garrett heads to the Giants, let's close out his Cowboys era

Raanan: Giants respect Jason Garrett (1:18)

Jordan Raanan breaks down the Giants' interest in hiring former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as their offensive coordinator. (1:18)

FRISCO, Texas -- Turns out, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was right. Jason Garrett will be coaching in the NFL in 2020.

Jones made the comment late last season when Garrett's future as Cowboys coach was tenuous at best, and it seemed intentional that Jones did not clarify the statement by saying with whom.

Now we all know: Garrett has been named the offensive coordinator of the New York Giants, joining Joe Judge’s staff.

Garrett has always been well thought of by Giants ownership since he spent four years (2000-2003) with the franchise as a backup quarterback. Now, he will help Judge in his first go-round as a head coach.

But first, let's officially close the Garrett era with the Cowboys.

In Garrett's nine full-time seasons, the Cowboys never got out of the divisional round of the playoffs. Three times, Dallas had chances to win the NFC East in head-to-head matchups in Week 17 and lost all three. Two other times, the Cowboys made it to Week 16 with a shot at the playoffs and missed out, including the 2019 season that effectively ended with a loss to the undermanned Philadelphia Eagles.

In the end, Garrett’s tenure was not good enough, and that's why Mike McCarthy is now the head coach.

That does not mean there was not some good from Garrett.

The Cowboys were a 1-7 mess when Garrett took over as the interim coach in 2010 with quarterback Tony Romo out because of a broken collarbone. Garrett earned the full-time job by directing the Cowboys to a 5-3 finish down the stretch with Jon Kitna at quarterback, bringing a level of discipline that fell off late in Wade Phillips' tenure.

Garrett, 53, helped set the Cowboys' agenda in his first NFL draft as coach when Tyron Smith was selected in the first round in 2011. Before taking Smith with the No. 9 overall pick, the Cowboys had not selected an offensive lineman in the first round since 1981. In 2013, the Cowboys took Travis Frederick in the first round. A year later, they drafted Zack Martin.

Smith has been named to the Pro Bowl seven straight years. Frederick was named to his fifth last month. Martin has been named every season, in addition to being a first- or second-team All-Pro.

Perhaps Garrett's most memorable moment as Cowboys coach came in 2012 before his second straight 8-8 finish. Hours before the team boarded a plane to Cincinnati, Ohio, for a December game against the Bengals, Cowboys practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in a car accident in which teammate Josh Brent was driving.

The Cowboys won on a last-second field goal to keep their playoff chances alive. After the game, Garrett spoke for nearly six minutes straight about Brown, about Brent, about his players. He was emotionally spent, as were the players.

"Football is very different than life," Garrett said then. "We try to make that very, very clear to our team. This is a life situation. We lost a 25-year-old young man who had his whole life in front of him, a teammate, a friend. It's a real tragedy. All we asked our team last night was to understand as best they could what happened, somehow, someway to try to channel all the emotions they have into honoring Jerry today in their performance, and that's a hard thing to do."

In 2016, Garrett led a team with a fourth-round pick, Dak Prescott, at quarterback (who was starting in place of an injured Romo) to an NFC-best 13-3 record, but like the 2014 season that ended controversially after Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant's catch was overturned, the Cowboys' season ended in the divisional round after the defense allowed a third-and-21 conversion.

What the Cowboys did on the field under Garrett was there for everybody to see. He truly believed in what he told his players all the time: It is a privilege to play and coach for the Cowboys.

He never took it for granted.

Even as the Cowboys' 2019 season turned into a weekly referendum on his job because Jones did not extend the coach's contract following the 2018 season, Garrett remained true to who he was as a person and a coach.

As he addressed a small gathering of media in the hallway outside the news conference room at The Star, he would sometimes stop to meet with complete strangers. One day, it was a number of grade-school kids on a field trip. Another day, it was a group that included an elderly woman who offered a hug to the coach. He hugged her back.

Garrett's tenure as the Cowboys' coach will be remembered for the 85-67 record, clapping too much on the sidelines, clock-management issues, the three playoff losses and the four 8-8 finishes, but there was some good.

You just have to want to look for it.