One thing I believe about the Dallas Cowboys is that when you start hearing the same thing from different people in the organization, it is a pretty good bet that it is really the way things are. Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett have both come out defending Monte Kiffin, which is an indication that there is not likely to be any changes in the defensive coordinator position this offseason. Now, a couple of very different sources have discussed the need for the players to do a better job.
Stephen Jones, who is second only to his father Jerry in the influence he wields with the team, was very critical of some of the players who are supposed to be the stars for the Cowboys. In responding to remarks by DeMarcus Ware about how his own play was inadequate in the debacle against da Bears, Jones threw a few other names out there.
"They've all got to be better," Jones said. "Sean Lee has got to be better. Brandon Carr has got to be better. Bruce Carter has got to be better. Jason Hatcher has got to be better. We've all got to be better. We've got to do a better job when we do have injuries of having better players to get up and be there. It's an organizational thing. You just have to do better on the defensive side of the ball. If we want to get to where we want to get to we can't play that type of defense."
At about the same time, Barry Church, who has been one of the most consistent performers defensively, indicated that the solution lay with him and his teammates.
"We've given up a lot of yards, not only in the run but also in the pass," he said. "As a whole defense, we just got to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, you know, we got to get the job done. Hopefully we can get it done. That's all I can really say."
The Cowboys are a team where information tends to not be forthcoming from the coaching staff, but where the owner (and in this case, the owner's son) often tip off what is going on inside the locker room. Jerry and Stephen Jones are deeply involved in what Jason Garrett is doing, not in the sense of telling him what he should do as head coach, but in keeping very close tabs on things. At least, that has always been my perception of the dynamics of the team. I suspect that what Stephen said is very similar to what Garrett said to his players, only probably a bit edited. (Remember the video from this summer where we found out that Garrett was quite comfortable dropping frequent F-bombs?) Church seems to be giving some confirmation, or at least indicating that the players are on board with the idea that the failure is theirs.
I think that idea is exactly right. Either the players, particularly (but not at all exclusively) on defense have not been performing to the best of their ability, or they are just not good enough. It may actually be a combination of both, but they are not able to make themselves inherently more talented. They are able to execute better than they have been, and that catastrophe in Chicago saw a ton of horrible execution. Monte Kiffin can't scheme his way out of players who react late or aren't in the right place. Nor can Jason Garrett. They can coach the players in what they are supposed to do, but then the guys with the helmets have to go out and do it.
I was involved in a discussion on Twitter about Stephen Jones' comments. Someone felt that this message should have come from Garrett, but that is not the head coach's style. He keeps that kind of discussion inside the locker room. I believe what Jones said was an accurate reflection of the message that went out to the team. In this case, the executive vice president seems to have felt the situation merited a little wider distribution than the coach, but that is the way things tend to work with the Cowboys. However the word gets out, the important thing is that the team seems to have the right idea about how to get better.
Now they need to prove they actually can.