Stephanie Turner, the daughter of former Cowboys' assistant coach Norv Turner, runs her own blog called FootballBrat.com, in which she writes about football from the perspective of an insider, based on her experience as a coach's daughter with various teams, players, and coaches.
Thanks in part to her pedigree, she recently sat down with Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and talked with him about a number of topics, including what he thinks about the 2011 Cowboys draft and what the 'Right Kind Of Guy' approach means.
Note: This is a partial transcript that I typed up from the interview at footballbrat.com, any errors and omissions are mine.
Stephanie Turner: What was your approach going in to the draft? Did you accomplish the things you needed?
Jason Garrett: Yes, I think we did. The process that we go through is a really good one here. The way we evaluate players, our scouts do an outstanding job of that. The way we organize the board and how we get ourselves prepared for actually drafting over the course of those three days during the draft, I think that's all really good.
And then you have some objectives. You have some needs that you want to fulfill. But I think as much as anything else, we wanted to add eight players to our football team who embodied what we believe in.
You obviously want to get the best players you can. We believe in drafting the best player over drafting the need player, and I think we did that consistently. At the same time, we addressed some of our needs as we did that. So I thought that was good. But at the end of the day we thought it was going to be important for us to have these eight players reflect what we think: Guys who love to play football, guys who care about it, guys who are going to be great teammates, guys who are going to help us win.
So I think we did that. Obviously, we're early in the process, we really haven't had a chance to be with these players. But based on the evaluation we had going in, I felt we accomplished those goals.
From reading blogs and Cowboys fan comments, it seems like the guys the Cowboys drafted are character guys - or guys that don't have character issues that are known of. It seems that is something that you guys were specifically trying. Were there specific questions you were trying to focus on when interviewing these guys?
Jason Garrett: Yeah, and that's a process. We're all trying to find out more about the player, what makes the player tick.
My experience as a player and a coach in this league is that talent is really important. When we won those Super Bowls in Dallas in the 90s we had some very talented players. But I'll go to my grave saying, what makes Troy Aikman great is who he is, as much as the talent that he has. I can say that for Emmitt Smith, Daryl Johnston and go down the list. Darren Woodson, all the great players that we had on those teams, they were the right kind of guys.
They loved to play. They were talented, but they loved to play and they were great teammates. We're not living in the past, but we're trying to recreate that model. So as talented a guy as you can get, there's also the right kind of guy who can fit into your team and make the chemistry of your team right. That's what we're trying to do.
How often do you feel like you're surprised [by a rookie]. You thought a guy was going to be ready and then he shows up, and for whatever reason ...
Jason Garrett: You're always uncertain. A couple of years ago we drafted Felix Jones, and we really felt good about Felix coming out. He was a really dynamic playmaker at Arkansas. And we had drafted him and I just knew he was versatile, he could run, he could catch and do all these different things. But after we had drafted him, and prior to having him in the rookie mini-camp I woke up in the middle of the night and I just said, "I've never seen him catch a pass in a game."
And I just had this thing going in my mind for a couple of days: "Have I ever really seen him catch a pass?" So the most anxious moment for me at practice when he showed up a couple of days later was ‘pat-and-go' which is how we start practice. And I was cheering everybody on and being encouraging and enthusiastic, but in the back of my mind, and out of the corner of my eye I was watching Felix run down there the first time and I said (breathes small sigh of relief), "OK, he caught it really naturally and smooth. OK, we're good now."
So you have those kinds of anxious moments. Until you see them live and in the flesh on the practice field you really don't know what you're going to get. But I think our scouts do a great job of evaluating, so we have a pretty good sense of them.
We hear about, in the media, the labels of types of coaches: The players' coach. The inspirational, great speech-giving, crying in speeches coach. The hard-nosed, get after you, tough guy. What do you prefer and what do you strive to be or what kind of coach do you feel that you are?
Jason Garrett: There are probably a couple ways to answer the question. As a player, I think what players want from coaches is a guy who's going to help them become a better player. At the end of the day, coaches have different personalities. You can go through the history of coaching in all sports, for every hard-nosed, tough, screaming, emotional guy - Vince Lombardi - there's Bill Walsh. There's Don Shula, there's John Wooden. These personalities of the great, great coaches, they're all different. So I don't think you can say the great coaches have ‘this type of personality'. I think history has proven otherwise. But what I think what you can say about all those guys is each of the players feels like they've become a better player because of their connection with this guy.
A lot of it is teaching them football, teaching them techniques about how to play football. A lot of it is helping them with their mindset, about how to mature, how to be mentally tough, inspiring them in some way, hope to play the game better emotionally, I think all those things are what the really good coaches are able to do.
I don't think it's a one personality-type thing, though, I think the examples are pretty evident of that. I think the best coaches, in some way shape or form, are able to help the players do that and then they're able to help those players somehow become a great team. If you can accomplish those two things - your players are getting better in all areas and then somehow you're putting it together in a team concept, and somehow you convince the players of the importance of putting their own agendas aside for the good of the team and then the spoils will be there for everybody - I think that's what great coaches are able to do.
And certainly that's what I aspire to do.