Jason Garrett’s Deft Handling Of RB Situation Shows That He’s Still One Step Ahead Of Jerry
In the complex and often convoluted universe of professional football, breeding will eventually, and inevitably, reveal itself. This is a simple easy-to-understand truth that explains how, in a span of three short months last Autumn, Jason Garrett went from puppet to unquestioned genius.
Without a doubt, Garrett’s bloodlines have certainly served him well during his time on the Dallas Cowboys sideline. The third son of longtime NFL scout and assistant coach Jim Garrett, Jason’s even-keeled demeanor, consistent work ethic, and steady approach in player evaluation has now been on full display for more than four years.
Garrett’s proven himself a master psychologist inside a locker room that knew no end to 8-8 madness. Once considered a blundering fool, he’s now regarded as a draft-day wizard, having turned what was a patchwork offensive line into a mammoth All-Pro wrecking crew.
More than simply the reward for leading the Cowboys to their first division title in five years, Garrett now owns a brand-new contract and the admiration of all because he, more than any other Cowboy head coach before him, has been able to solve the ongoing riddle at Valley Ranch known as Jerry.
Jerry, as the general manager, works glove in hand with Jason the head coach, a fact which, under normal circumstances, would mark this football relationship as an indestructible union. But Valley Ranch hasn’t been normal in a long, long time. Some say too long.
You see, Jerry is an Arkansas philanthropist, that rare brand of species which has no place in football circles other than at the top. Jones didn’t want to be a part of an NFL organization unless he could own one, and that’s what he did in 1989 when he purchased the Cowboys from a cash-strapped Bum Bright, using every penny in his pockets. Since that day, he has made himself into one of the richest Jones’ in the world, and also one of the sorriest Arkansas Jerry’s to ever associate himself with the pigskin hierarchy.
Oftentimes, he allows his better judgment to be overruled by personal desires. He predicts Super Bowls for his team because he wants a fourth championship to add to his collection, denying circumstances that would seem to prevent such an accomplishment at the time. He expects rookie quarterbacks to play like a Hall of Fame veteran in the prime of his career, even though the team would be better served with the rookie riding the bench for a while. Because of this long-standing habit Jones has evolved into a Texas-sized legend, and is today considered the penultimate artist of the rose-colored reality.
Nobody plays the part of owner quite like Jerry, whose record over a quarter-century reeks of impulsive remarks and irrational behavior. And while age has prevented him from getting around as much of late, it certainly hasn’t prevented him from making a stir through the media when the opportunity presents itself.
Even after all these years, Jerry is still Jerry. Which explains the scene from last week when Jerry was certainly being Jerry in front of a hoard of microphone-wielding reporters while waxing eloquent on the state of the Dallas running game.
According to the Owner/GM, the Cowboys’ rushing attack is already better than it was a year ago, despite the loss of 1,800-yard rusher Demarco Murray in free agency.
Said Jones: “When you say the entire running game – and that would be including our tight ends, fullbacks, the entire game – we’re better. We’re better. Murray is certainly in that thought but what we’ve got a chance to do with our depth, what we’ve got a chance to do with the talent, the competition that we have, and I’m assuming that we can protect (Tony) Romo, which standing here last year, the concerns about his surgeries were more so than today.
“So if Romo can have the kind of year that he had last year, then our running game will benefit from that.”
While Garrett certainly wasn’t going to fly off the couch ala Jimmy Johnson upon hearing Jones’ remarks, he certainly couldn’t have been overly pleased at them, either.
Garrett is trying to lead his team to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, something no Cowboys head coach has accomplished in two decades. His formula for success has no room for presumptions or hypotheticals. He wants his players focused and motivated, as opposed to feeling satisfied and content from past performances.
With the exception of Murray’s replacement Darren McFadden, the stable of running backs the Cowboys now have is the same as last season when Murray absorbed the lion’s share of the carries. At this point, the offensive line is projected to be the same on opening day, though there is a chance rookie Lael Collins could force his way into the starting lineup by then. And behind Jason Witten, the depth chart at the tight end position mirrors that of last season, too.
The Cowboys will only be better in the rushing department through hard work in the off-season. They will only be able to duplicate last season’s success if Garrett can keep his players on edge and far away from the pit of complacency which has plagued the franchise in past years.
As the head coach, Garrett must keep himself focused as well. It does the organization no good if he continually takes time out of his busy day to spat with Jerry behind closed doors over philosophical differences. Johnson’s testimonies on this subject still ring loudly twenty years after the fact.
What Garrett has mastered during the last few years is the art of squashing Jerry’s assertion without even appearing to.
The word on Jones and Tate is that they are washed-up, and on their way out of the league. Jones didn’t play at all last season, while Tate bounced around from Cleveland to Minnesota to Pittsburgh.
The Cowboys brought in both Felix and Tate in a conscious effort to add depth at the running back position, a position that Jerry said wasn’t a concern only a week before. So why the sudden change of heart?
Herein lies the brilliance of what is really a psychological maneuver from the Cowboys head coach.
Jerry would like nothing more than for Felix, a Cowboy from 2008-12, to put on a show on the practice field so that the Cowboys will be forced to sign him, thus re-creating the magical Arkansas backfield of 2007 when Felix and Darren McFadden formed a two-man shredding machine through the SEC, which has been a personal fantasy of the Dallas owner for several years now.
Garrett, on the other hand, is using this workout to put each one (McFadden, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, and Ryan Williams) of his four running backs on notice that their jobs are anything but safe. He wants them ready to compete on the practice field, and extra-attentive during meetings. Above all, he wants them ready, physically and mentally, to play ball come training camp in July.
The odds of Felix getting a contract are slim to none.
But either way, Garrett’s the real winner from this drama because he knows the chances that McFadden and Co. are sitting up and taking notice back at the Valley Ranch training room are more than probable. He knows that, above all the noise from the owner’s box, his message is still getting across.
In diminishing last week’s statements from the most outspoken owner in pro football, this red-headed Ivy Leaguer has done what no other figure in world history has been able to. And the genius of it all is that Garrett didn’t even have to utter a single word to accomplish it.