IRVING, Texas — Jason Garrett smiled a lot watching Jerry Jones describe a coach-owner relationship that will soon be the longest for Jones in the nearly 26 years since he bought the Dallas Cowboys.
They sat side-by-side Thursday announcing a five-year contract that Garrett earned by leading the Cowboys to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
And the significance wasn't lost on Jones, who didn't even have to be reminded that the coaching changes were much more frequent than he thought they would be when he bought the team, fired Tom Landry after his 29th season and hired Jimmy Johnson in 1989.
For the first time, he has a coach with a shot at reaching the 10-year mark — and more than that counting the three-plus seasons he was offensive coordinator.
"The only time I ever thought like that was when I naively thought that when I bought the Cowboys, I saw what Coach Landry had been and I thought, 'Well, shoot, I'll get a coach and we'll be sitting here 20 years from now looking back at what we've done and we'll just be going along here and we'll have our ups and downs but that's the way it works,'" said Jones, who has hired seven head coaches. "Well, we all know it really doesn't work that way."
The continuity goes well beyond Garrett, with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli signing a three-year deal along with Scott Linehan, the play-caller for Tony Romo this season who will now have the title of offensive coordinator.
Bill Callahan, who was offensive coordinator and offensive line coach but had play-calling duties stripped when Linehan was hired last year, took a job Thursday as line coach for NFC East rival Washington.
Jones said he expects all the other assistants to return on three-year deals as well after the Cowboys reached the divisional round before losing to Green Bay.
"I think one of the best things we've done over the last few years, and I'm a beneficiary of it, but the continuity to keep a program in place," Garrett said. "Whether it's an offensive system, a defensive system or a system on special teams, but maybe more than that an overarching principle of how we want this football team to be."
Jones made it to five seasons with Johnson, but that relationship was virtually broken when Jones made an off-hand remark that he could get any one of 500 coaches to lead the Cowboys after they won consecutive Super Bowls under Johnson in 1992-93.
The Cowboys were on their fifth coach in 16 years when Jones fired Wade Phillips in the middle of the 2010 season and promoted Garrett.
And the former backup quarterback on Dallas' three Super Bowl winners in the 1990s had his own issues with job security through three straight 8-8 seasons that ended with losses that kept the Cowboys out of the postseason. Not anymore.
"The nature of this commitment from the Cowboys is very significant," said Jones, who will play Garrett about $6 million per season in the $30 million deal. "It's substantive, and what it says is how much we feel and how good we feel about Jason's ability to lead and coach our team in the future."
Linehan, who was the offensive coordinator for five years in Detroit before becoming passing game coordinator, inherited an offense with skill players in place and turned DeMarco Murray into the NFL rushing leader. Romo had the most efficient season of his career, and Dez Bryant led the league with 16 touchdowns receiving.
Garrett gave up play-calling for the first time last year, but reinserted himself in the process during Callahan's one season with those duties. He didn't come close to doing that with Linehan, who was with him on the staff at Miami in 2005.
"He allowed me to get away from the offense more than I had in the past because of the confidence level I had in him. I thought he did great job coming in here and dealing with the staff that was in place, a system that was in place," Garrett said. "Did a great job kind of maximizing the way it was — the people, the system and then adding to it. And making it better."
With the coaches in place, Jones turns his focus to the biggest free agents on his roster — Bryant and Murray.
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