"Hey, Rob." "Yeah?" "You're fired." - Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
This is what happens when you step away from the computer for a couple of hours. Suddenly, your team's down a defensive coordinator and you've no idea who wanted him out, or even who might replace him.
The first question many of us had (I mean after, "WHAT? Why?") was, "who wanted Rob fired?"
There's been much made of Jason Garrett's recent comments to the media, essentially saying there were no immediate plans to change much, and more broadly that those decisions would be made in future meetings. This is standard Garrett, for most of us. He won't show his hand until after he's played it.
Jerry Jones, on the other hand, very much enjoys speaking to the media...about everything. It's likely that he's offended by people who question his football knowledge, and I have no doubts that he takes understanding the game very seriously. When he speaks, he wants to sound intelligent, and so he parrots the words of the knowledgeable people around him.
In other words, a statement from Jerry Jones is more like an interview with Valley Ranch's pet parrot - you'll get a lot of direct information, but mostly out of context - and you really shouldn't think that the parrot's calling the shots.
This has been analyzed over the years, and it became obvious when Jones began talking about 'the process.'
Back to the recent statements and happenings.
Garrett: We'll discuss changes.
Jones: We're going to be very uncomfortable at Valley Ranch.
Garrett: We'll do whatever it takes to win.
(Rob Ryan fired)
Somehow, this sequence of events has led some to believe that Jason Garrett didn't have any idea what was going to happen (potentially true, if he himself hadn't yet made up his mind), and that Jerry Jones pulled all of the strings. I haven't the slightest idea why it is somehow less believable that close-to-the-vest Jason Garrett was simply not showing his hand, rather than that same Garrett fully divulging the extent of his knowledge (or lack thereof) of coming changes day-in, day-out to the media.
If Bill Belichick tells the media essentially that there's been no decision to hire or fire anyone, and then the next day someone is fired, why doesn't the world jump up, screaming "Robert Kraft did it! Belichick's obviously had no idea this would happen!" Why is that?
It seems there is a pervasive paranoia that Jerry Jones is making decisions on his own, randomly asserting himself and sabotaging his pride and joy. We forget that we have a real, functional front office - occupied by more than just Jerry and Spaulding. We take Jerry Jones for the image he projects as the controller of all things Cowboys, glossing over the interviews in which he divulges that he is always consulting others for advice, and always trying to do what's best for the Cowboys.
The simplicity sought after by our psychology guides us to view Jerry Jones as the enemy. We haven't won a Super Bowl in awhile, and the only constant is Jerry. (Of course, we toss out the ones that 'Jimmy won,' including the one from after Jimmy quit. Outliers, all of them!) Sure, it's easier to think about it you can assign all of the blame to a single person. Trace all problems back to a single source.
Not all problems have a single source, though. Let's say you fell down while carrying a refrigerator through your house. You were drunk, there were things on the floor that tripped you up, and your palms were sweaty from dwelling on the week 17 game. A whole collection of problems that led to one singular failure - falling down. Not winning a Super Bowl is a much more complicated failure than falling down - why does the cause have to be so simple?
I'm sorry, but it's more than likely that the one-shot fixes of 'hire this GM,' 'move this nose tackle to defensive end,' or 'switch to a 4-3' will not address all of the underlying problems with this team. Oversimplification is really doing yourself a disservice.
Now, more information has come out about Rob Ryan's firing. No, I'm not talking about it being done over the phone while the man was on vacation (or the timing conspiracy theories - though Kirby Smart is pretty attractive right now). I'm speaking to the reason for his firing. In Garrett's official press release, he cited 'philosophical change' as the reason for moving on. A source told Charean Williams that the Cowboys organization felt that Ryan's schemes were not fundamentally sound (in other words, they left holes open in order to crowd other areas).
Does the realization that Rob Ryan often glossed over assigning men to cover fullbacks (and sometimes halfbacks, much to our dismay) sound like something that Jerry Jones just thought up this afternoon, forcing the move onto Jason Garret and company? Or does it sound like something a head coach would notice when reviewing the years' tape, making the move when he felt it was appropriate?
Of course, many originally believed that the move was (justified or not) based on performance. Some cried foul, saying that the injuries forced Ryan's hand, and he performed admirably in the face of that adversity. Others lauded the move, saying that Ryan's consistently poor defensive passer rating was inexcusable. Still, this results-based firing led many to believe it was the impulsive Jones, and not the process-oriented Garrett who pulled the trigger.
The insight that this was a philosophical disagreement, I believe, was telling. I don't believe Jerry Jones knows much about what makes a fundamentally sound defense, and I believe even less that he could point out these flaws on tape. Garrett wants things done 'the right way,' and part of that means filling every hole, on every snap, when you're on defense. The disorganization likely didn't help matters, either.