Correctly or not, the Dallas Cowboys have a reputation for, well, coddling their players. There is a long history of contracts that were too large and based on "flash in the pan" performances, or given to players who were old enough that the ensuing decline should have been anticipated. And any criticism of their performance was usually kept well-hidden from those outside the organization, with any public pronouncements generally supportive of the player.
Something seems to have changed. Following the rather embarrassing loss to the San Diego Chargers and with the undefeated Denver Broncos coming to AT&T Stadium, there have been some unaccustomed admonishments directed towards two players in particular, second-year cornerback Morris Claiborne and third-year linebacker Bruce Carter. No less surprising is the source, team owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
"I am disappointed," Jones said Thursday night. "They aren't playing better. I don't think I'm as disappointed as they are individually."
Jones said both are young players and he believes they will bounce back from their struggles - though he's doesn't deny that he expected more because of what was invested in them. - Clarence Hill Ft. Worth Star Telegram
And this does not look like a case of Jones going off on his own. That has always been something to consider with the Cowboys but lately his message has started to be more aligned with that of Jason Garrett and the rest of the coaching staff. It looks like this is the case here.
Per a source, bruce carter was benched not just for poor play last week but because of his unforgivable lack of effort. Coaches were upset— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) October 4, 2013
Carter's poor effort was because frustration and lost confidence. coaches didn't like what they saw on film. Can't accept that. Won't— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) October 4, 2013
Those sound like things that may have been driven by Garrett who has long preached accountability. They certainly fit the things he has been saying since he got the head job. And he and Jerry Jones are joined by Jerry's son Stephen who is seen as the third member of the troika that runs things for the Cowboys.
It certainly seems like a culture shift going on. The very public berating puts a new pressure on the players that was not the norm in Dallas. Carter and Claiborne will still have some significant roles to play against the Broncos and Peyton Manning but with these things out there, they are not likely to forget that their last game was not up to expectations. That is why Ernie Sims and Orlando Scandrick will get playing time Carter and Claiborne give up.
Stephen Jones was asked about the Carter situation during an interview on KRLD-FM and quoted in the Dallas Morning News.
"I would disagree with that. I really would. You know how stories can go and how things can get passed down. I think at the end of the day we have high expectations for Bruce Carter. We expect him to play at a certain level. I would say this: Monte and Rod, that defensive staff over there, have expectations for how our players should perform at certain levels and they certainly hold players accountable. If it means at some point somebody has reduced play time over the fact that they believe might not be they're potential, then certainly that can happen but I've never even heard of such things, in my mind, in terms of unforgivable. That's certainly in my mind, not the case."
At first, it looks like a denial all the way around, but when you read that carefully he seems to mostly be taking issue with the term "unforgivable". That is more a term inserted by Hill to describe why the coaches took the actions they did. I don't think it was meant to say that the players could not earn their positions back. Stephen Jones doesn't deny that the coaches would pull someone off the field for another player if warranted. All that he really says is that the offending players will have a chance to redeem themselves.
If there is a lesson to be learned here it would seem to be that patience is running out in Dallas. There is no more tolerance for lack of effort or focus. It is not an intolerance for mistakes but for not giving it all you have. I think that is why Terrance Williams has not been called out for his fumble, because while he made a serious mistake in protecting the ball he was at least giving it all he had. He is getting a chance to prove he learned something.
Carter and Claiborne are getting a chance as well. They have a chance to prove they don't need be kept on the bench. And it looks like they will have to prove that on the field.