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What does Jerry Jones' cryptic comment mean for Jason Garrett's future as Cowboys coach?

Sporting News — (Tadd Haislop)

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones reportedly will not fire coach Jason Garrett before the end of the season. And why would he? As long as Dallas remains alive in the playoff picture, a deep postseason run for a still-talented team remains in play.

But what about after the season, when Garrett's contract with the Cowboys is set to expire?

This is a question Jones will be asked to address often over the next month or so, especially now that the Cowboys have lost three of their last four games in frustrating fashion. On his weekly radio appearance with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, Jones' answers on the topic fell in line with what he has said in the past. Except for one line.

"In my opinion, Jason Garrett will be coaching in the NFL next year," Jones said. 

Wait, what?

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This is an interesting "opinion" for Jones to have considering he directly controls Garrett's employment future. Rather than suggesting Garrett could land a job in 2020 with one of the 31 other teams in the league, Jones could have doubled down on what feels like increasingly artificial confidence in Garrett. That was his approach for the rest of the interview.

"First of all, he’s a good coach ... one of the smartest coaches," Jones said, confirming he plans to keep Garrett in place through 2019. "I’m glad to have him. He is the guy for the job."

Added Jones on how Garrett's experience benefits Dallas' current coaching staff: "When I decided to go with a younger makeup of a coaching staff, I decided that. And we did get it. We got Marc Colombo, we got it with Richard really impacting our defense, we got it several areas out there. Our special teams coach, our linebacker coach, When we the year before made a change with our receiver coach, and Kellen Moore the obvious one at coordinator.

"I felt strongly that we could do and do that with a young group that still had experience to get. I felt we could to that with Jason Garrett there, he could be the safety net in case the wheels came off."

Jones also mentioned he had seen the list of candidates who could replace Garrett should the Cowboys not extend their coach. (No word on whether it was Sporting News' list he saw.) He said those coaches "can’t guarantee a Super Bowl."

Obviously, neither can Garrett, whose overall record entering Week 14 of the 2019 season was 83-65, not including a 2-3 mark in five playoff games. Dallas is still looking for its first Super Bowl appearance since 1995.

MORE: Mapping out Garrett's future in Dallas

That Jones would say he thinks Garrett will coach "in the NFL" next season rather than "the Cowboys" is interesting, especially in light of an NFL Media report that suggests Garrett and the Giants would have mutual interest should the coach hit the open market.

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio speculated Garrett's camp leaked that info in an effort to maintain leverage as the coach's seat gets warmer. Perhaps Tuesday's comment was a similar move by Jones.

Regardless, Jones' lack of commitment to Garrett with his words Tuesday matches his actions. Simply put: If Jones wanted Garrett to continue as the Cowboys' coach regardless of how the 2019 season plays out, the team owner already would have extended the coach's contract.

The Cowboys, 6-6 and still leading the NFC East over the 5-7 Eagles, have a chance to get back on track with a Thursday night game against the Bears in Chicago this week. Jones on Tuesday claimed "there's boxes to be checked" for Garrett over the next four weeks and beyond, but he wouldn't say whether Garrett needs to win a specific amount of games or reach a certain round of the playoffs.