There is a concern.
I am generally very optimistic about the Dallas Cowboys and the upcoming season. I feel like the way they have used free agency, the draft and the UDFA market this year has been somewhere between excellent and outstanding. I even think the team rolled with the below-the-belt punch, otherwise known as the cap space penalty, and pretty much got everything done that it needed to despite the loss of $5 million in room. I think the team is ready to go, as shown by comments from players like DeMarco Murray about having the pieces to get to the Super Bowl.
So I am ready for the regular season. Heck, I am pumped up about minicamp.
But over the last few days, I have felt a disturbance in the Force. It all began when Jerry Jones started talking about the window closing for the Cowboys. This led to some back and forth about just how long the core players, specifically Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff, have left to produce at a high level. This, however, is not the big point, at least in my eyes. The point is that there seems to be a dichotomy on the team. Jerry Jones wants the team to win now. Jason Garrett, his head coach, is taking what appears to be a long term approach to things.
And this is very troubling. After a year and a half where I saw very encouraging signs that the owner/GM and head coach were in harmony on the approach the team needs to take, I suddenly worry. If push comes to shove, who wins out? (Hint: Money talks.) And is the Dallas organization headed towards a clash, or more accurately, a rift in the objectives?
Or is that rift already here?
Signs and portents that leave me uneasy after the jump.
Jerry Jones has never been renowned for consistency of his remarks. But some of the things coming out of the front office lately go together like Waterford Crystal and Thunderbird Wine. Take these observations from a recent article by Calvin Watkins over at ESPN Dallas.
Jerry Jones believes he has a team built to win now.
How about head coach Jason Garrett?
"I think Jason is just the first steps out of the box," Jones said.
So you have an owner in win-now mode who employs a head coach who is learning on the job.
Just know that owner/GM Jones wouldn't want any other coach in charge of the Cowboys.
Jones, who has hired seven head coaches, said he thought Garrett would be "my Tom Landry" when the interim tag was officially removed from the former Cowboys backup quarterback's title. Jones remains convinced that the 46-year-old Garrett will be a great coach despite a rocky first full season on the job.
Now, Calvin Watkins is not my favorite journalist regarding the Cowboys - I tend to take a JRat view of him - but I don't have to like someone to concede they have a point. There is something that just does not seem to add up here. I got an uncomfortable, tarantula-crawling-across-the-back-of-my-neck feeling when I first saw the articles about the "window closing" stuff, and it hasn't gone away. While the Landry comparison would seem to indicate some kind of a long range approach, all the other things just make me think of a possible "win now at any cost" mentality on the part of the man who has the ultimate say in things.
Add in the reports, as covered earlier by Archie, that the team has turned down four different teams on trade offers for Mike Jenkins. While it is not always the wisest course to take the pronouncements from the front office at face value, there has been a steady litany that Jenkins will not be traded because the Cowboys need him worse than anyone else. He is seen as insurance for injury or a bridge for Morris Claiborne to learn the NFL game. Meanwhile, Jenkins is giving every sign of not being very happy about the situation. An argument could be made that getting a good deal for Mike would be the best way to go, given the risk of him being a distraction in the locker room. This video from last season doesn't exactly give me a warm fuzzy, although this was admittedly at the lowest point of the season for the Cowboys, right after they lost the second game with the New York Giants.
Still, I wonder. Whose decision is this? Is Jason Garrett on board with this, or is Jerry Jones throwing his weight around? Is this a hard and fast decision to keep Jenkins, or will Jerry back off as the season approaches if the team gets a really good offer (like a second round pick, however unlikely that may be)? Word is that the Indianapolis Colts plan to keep the offer on the table. Word is also that the offer doesn't matter, and that word is coming from Jerry Jones' mouth.
Maybe I am seeing this too seriously. But for the first time in a long time, I am very concerned about just what is going on with the team. I have built my hopes for the Cowboys as much on Jason Garrett having the controls firmly in his hands as much as I have on the talent of the new players, and it does not sit well with me to see signs that Jerry may be wanting to start reasserting himself so he can try to make one last run at the Lombardi. He turns 70 this year, and that personal window may well be the most important one.
I hope I am wrong, or that this will work itself out. Maybe one player is not that big an issue. Maybe a few weeks into training camp, the staff may have a very different opinion of what to do with Mike. Or maybe he will put out a big effort to get a big contract next year. I just am very concerned over the possibility of going for it all this year without regard for what it could cost.
I am still worried. I think the team can handle any outside attack, no matter what John Mara and Roger Goodell can cook up. But internal divisions can be fatal. I will be watching this with my fingers crossed.