There was quite a furor about the recent comments made by Jimmy Johnson about who exactly was doing what during his days as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He was reacting to recent statements by Jerry Jones claiming that he had always handled the role of general manager and been deeply involved in the decisions about the team, something that Johnson remembers rather differently. If you missed the back and forth and want to catch up on the latest chapter in what has been a bit of a feud for almost two decades now, you can check out this account.
Personally, I don't care all that much about just how much control who had over personnel decisions back then. I am much more interested in the current state of the Cowboys - and Johnson did have some things to say about that as well.
Basically, he had three main points: Jason Garrett is now coaching to save his job, the Dallas Cowboys have a "country club" atmosphere, and Jerry Jones needs to give up some of the roles he has placed in his personal job description since Jimmy left Dallas. These are all subjects that have come up here in the past, and each is worth a little more examination.
On the subject of the "hot seat" that seems to come up whenever the Cowboys fall under .500, Jerry's son Stephen, who is also executive vice president of the team and the most likely person to replace his father in the GM job when medical science can no longer sustain the senior Jones, was quick to dispute that idea.
"I won't even comment on that, period," Jones said Thursday. "That's ridiculous."
I have made the case before that Garrett is very much Stephen's man as head coach, and that part of the long range plan that is often referenced is the two of them working in a partnership. I also believe that Garrett has made his case that getting the Cowboys back to the playoffs as a consistent contender is more than a one or two year job. Add in Jerry Jones' recent comments about his regret over pulling the trigger too quickly with Chan Gailey, and it seems almost certain that Garrett will not really be on the hot seat until next season at the earliest, no matter how many media reports try to put him there right now. Additionally, I think he has to lose both Jerry and Stephen to lose his job. That would probably take regression this season and next. After 2013, all bets are off and immediate success becomes the driving factor - but not until then, I think.
The remark about the "country club" attitude is a bit more concerning:
"The No. 1 motivator (in the NFL) is fear. Fear of maybe letting down your teammates or being embarrassed or chastised or fear of losing your job," Johnson told Patrick. "Where is the fear in Dallas? There is no fear in Dallas. It's a country club where everybody is buddies."
This is getting very close to the whole question of accountability, and just how much it really exists with the Cowboys. Admittedly, Jimmy may be a couple of decades out of touch, just as his predecessor, Tom Landry, was arguably out of touch by the end of his illustrious career, at least when it came to dealing with the players. But Johnson is certainly not the only person to question the atmosphere that exists at Valley Ranch.
His remarks drew a response from one of the most credible members of the current roster, Jason Witten.
Witten said he respects the former head coach and didn't realize Johnson had made those comments or where the comments came from, noting Johnson's lack of a presence around Cowboys practices and players.
"I haven't seen him around a lot," Witten said. "Guys are working hard, so ultimately, that's going to happen. I don't think players can worry about that. You've got to fix it. We know what the expectations are, and trust me, we feel it every day. I don't think you allow that to get in the way. Obviously, I've got a lot of respect for him."
He also gave his own vote of confidence to Garrett. The fact is that Garrett is not ever going to be the fire-breather that Johnson was, despite word that he actually dropped an f-bomb at practice on Friday. It does not make him less effective. And despite the criticism, Garrett actually credits Johnson a lot for what he taught him.
"With the coaches I've played for and the coaches that I've coached for, there's been a great sense of urgency. Coach Johnson was a part of that," Garrett said.
I don't know if countering Johnson's criticism by citing his influence qualifies as being passive-aggressive, but it does fit in with Garrett's low-key approach to things.
On the criticism of Jerry Jones wearing a few too many hats, I can't quibble with Johnson. I fully agree that I would like to see Jerry pass some of those duties off, and have long advocated him doing just that with Stephen. And the topic has even drawn out another voice from the Cowboys' past, someone who predated Jimmy and Jerry both.
"Jerry is trying real hard," Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach said Friday on the Mike & Mike Show on ESPN Radio. "He goes back to the old days when they won three Super Bowls. I think the formula is he's got to find a medium ground and delegate more authority."
Jimmy Johnson is someone that you sometimes take with a grain of salt. Jerry Jones you almost have to learn to let go in one ear and out the other, because he talks so much. But when Roger Staubach, who does not make a habit of stirring up things for controversy's sake, has something to say, I stop and listen very carefully. Of course, it doesn't hurt when I fully agree with him.
Besides, he is just a class act, as this article comparing him to Joe Namath illustrates. And I think everyone accepts the logic of Jerry cutting back on his own duties a bit.
Sadly, I don't think that is happening very soon. As for the other two points Johnson made, I am not in agreement there. But what really matters is how the team does this Sunday. It is time to go face the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Cowboys need a win. Badly.