CBS Sports' Pete Prisco is currently traveling our great nation on a training camp tour. This weekend, he was in San Antonio and yesterday he posted a couple of articles on the Cowboys. One focused on new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan; the other was a set of general observations about the team. I find the reports from national media to be the most interesting, for two reasons: because they don't cover the team every day, they can see the players, coaches and operations with fresh eyes; secondly, they see a lot of teams in rapid succession, so they have a terrific basis of comparison. I urge you to check both of them out.
Another reason I like to read outsider's thoughts is that they come to camp every year and can thus make comparisons between this camp and, say, last year's tour, when Wade Phillips was nominally in charge. Along those lines, one item in Prisco's general observations caught my eye. He noted: "One thing's for certain about these Cowboys: Garrett has instilled more discipline. The practices seem crisper than a year ago."
More after the jump...
This is not a revelation; we all anticipated that this would be the case. Nevertheless, I thought this might be a good time to remind you of an article I penned when it appeared that Ryan would be hired and people seemed to be taken aback because of perceived differences between his and Garrett's personality.
At that time, I speculated that personality differences were relatively inconsequential; what was important were philosophical affinities between the two men. More specifically, they shared a view of the little picture, the day-to-day running of practices. I wrote:
When Garrett assumed the head coaching mantle, one of his first orders of business was to make the Cowboys' in-season practices more intense. He immediately became renown for insisting that players wear pads for Wednesday practices. In addition to being more physical than those of Phillips, Garrett's practices were much more efficient and intense. During that fateful week in which Garrett replaced Phillips, players were heard to remark that, in the season's first eight weeks, guys were often standing--or sitting--around, waiting for their turn; Garrett quickly put the kibosh on that and, in the same breath, began his now-familiar mantra: its all about process; be great today and stack great days one after the other. For this to be instituted fully, he needs his entire coaching staff to conduct the intense, highly structured practices within which players can have great days.
[Special teams coach] Joe D. has already demonstrated this ability....Regardless of what you think of Buddy and his boys' bravado, they do share some admirable values: they have high expectations; they run hard, efficient practices for which players must prepare and during which they must be focused if they are to survive and to succeed. In that, Garrett and Ryan are more alike than most people think. With the hiring of Ryan, the Cowboys now have three coordinators who will run training camp, in-season practices, film reviews, etc., with an intensity and focus that will enable the players to be great every day.
In these, the earliest days of training camp, the shrewdest observers are noting, with a mixture of surprise and pleasure, that the Cowboys are ahead of the curve established in recent training camps--and without the benefit of OTAs and mini-camps. They are already working on more sophisticated stuff, and doing so with fewer mistakes, than they were in days three and four under either Phillips or Parcells.
I can't take this as anything other than great news. This coaching staff seemingly has a group of players, who in recent years were thought to be physically talented but mentally scattered, to be mentally present at levels we haven't seen since Jimmy Johnson left town. My hope is that this level of focus and precision has and will continue to be a daily occurrence under Garrett and that his players will, indeed, learn to be great every day.
Be great every day. Its not the most scintillating mantra; in fact, it can be a bit mind-numbing--I've stopped listening to Garrett's press conferences because they all tend to sound like the one before. But it helps build a football team that maximizes whatever talent it has, one that actually develops the talents of younger players, and one that continues to get better as the season progresses.
I know it's early, but clues are beginning to aggregate which suggest that we're living in a brave new world. Now if we can only get out from underneath that darned salary cap....