Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones has attempted to change the perception of what is happening with his team, particularly concerning his head coach Jason Garrett. So far, the reactions are quite varied.
In my last post, I gave my take on Jerry Jones' explanation of what was going on between him and head coach Jason Garrett. I am not the only one to cover this, and there have been may stories and interviews about just what is going on with the Dallas Cowboys and how credible the statements by Jones are. They run from thoughtful consideration of his words to basic allegations that he is pretty much lying to everyone.
This topic has even reached New Orleans, where even the upcoming Super Bowl cannot keep it out of the media. Two Cowboys icons were asked about this (both by stations out of the East Texas area where I live).
Troy Aikman spoke to radio, and his comments were picked up by the Dallas Morning News. He showed some concern.
"There's been a lot of changes. Jerry's been very vocal about those changes that have been made," Aikman said on East Texas' 92.1 ESPN radio station. "I haven't heard a lot from Jason Garrett as to whether or not he was on board with all the changes that occurred. Anytime that happens, I think that it certainly puts the head coach on notice, and it's put him in a difficult position."
Coincidentally, Roger Staubach spoke to a competitor in my local area, KZTK. I caught this interview with David Smoak, who has been covering the Cowboys out of Tyler, Texas and other cities, for years. I can't give a direct quote, since I find that driving interferes with my note-taking ability, but Staubach had a bit of a different take. He feels that Garrett is close to Jones and has a lot of input on things, and that the views of the head coach being cut out of decision making is not a reflection of what is really going on at Valley Ranch.
The media coverage has been pretty varied in its reaction. Some have run a fairly straightforward coverage of Jones comments, putting them forward with just the comment that they are an attempt to change perception, such as this lead-in to a transcript of the pertinent comments from Jones in the Dallas Morning News.
It certainly appears as if Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has been making the decisions on the coaching staff changes that have occurred over the last month.
After the season ended with the Cowboys missing the playoffs for a third consecutive year, Jones said things were going to be uncomfortable around Valley Ranch. Replacing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan with Monte Kiffin was the biggest move, but a few others, which included adding Rod Marinelli as defensive line coach and Rich Bisaccia as special teams coordinator, made it seem as if Jones was setting up former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden to take over in Dallas.
But during a video interview that appeared Thursday on DallasCowboys.com, Jones assured that Garrett has been responsible for the coaching changes.
While that did manage to impart a certain amount of skepticism while still relaying the message Jones was trying to get out, it at least left things a little open to accepting the interview at face value. However, other reports out of the media were openly dismissive. Tim MacMahon of ESPN gave one of the harshest reports.
At least Jerry Jones is trying to hide the strings he attached to his head coach.
Jerry at least recognizes that the perception that he's turned Jason Garrett into a puppet after two seasons with no playoff bids is a problem. Jerry cares enough to be aggressively defensive, insisting in an in-house interview posted on the team's website that Garrett is the guy calling the shots when it comes to who calls the Cowboys' offensive plays next season.
It's transparent spin control - and remember Jerry's favorite line: "Just because I say it doesn't make it so" - but it's at least a little tangible proof that Jerry's power trip has some limits.
Obviously, some out there do not believe Jones. This does lead to an odd contradiction. According to my understanding of the narrative, Jerry Jones is the man who parted ways with Jimmy Johnson because Johnson was getting all the credit. Jones then went to great pains to make it clear that he was calling the shots. Now, he seems to be doing the exact opposite.
The question here becomes whether Jones is honest or not. He is well known for making foolish statements (glory hole, anyone?), and he has certainly been in error, but it is a different thing to say he is flat out lying. The "Just because I say it" reference MacMahon throws out is not necessarily an admission of dishonesty. It also refers to inaccuracy and changing positions. But the way it is used also indicates some hostility from the writer. Clearly, MacMahon has taken sides.
Through all this the question has come up about what Jason Garrett would have to say about all this. He has maintained a silence through all this that, to a certain extent, has left the media to fill in the blanks the way they wanted to. If the Cowboys want to change the meme about all this, they really need to get him out there answering some questions about his role in the coaching changes.
Oh. They have.
In an interview with CBS 11, Garrett talked about the coaching hires. He did not discuss the play calling issue that has led to so much discussion of damage to his genitalia, but in typical understated and somewhat indirect Garret fashion, he laid claim to at least a large share of the decisions about the rest of the staff.
"As we evaluated our team after the season, we wanted to get our arms around whether or not our personnel could play (a 4-3 scheme). Then once we decided they could, we felt like it was a great opportunity to add Monte (Kiffen) to the staff to run our defense."
The whole thrust of the article is that defensive coordinator Kiffen, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia were all people Garrett knew from his brief tenure in Tampa Bay, and coaches he wanted to bring to the team.
This does not fit the narrative being pushed, at times with hostility, by much of the media. It does fit in very closely with some observations some writers without an axe to grind were making about Garrett doing interviews at the Senior Bowl.
It has a lot to do with how you perceive things. That is the topic of a post by Mickey Spagnola. Now, Spagnola is an employee of the Cowboys and he does tend to be rather friendly towards his employer. But it is worth noting that he also is the one who did the interview with Jones that prompted the responses above. And he also did another interview at the same time that will not air until this weekend, which has a little more from the owner.
And as Jones said in the interview that isn't scheduled to show locally until next Saturday on CBS-11, "(Jason) basically sat down and said, ‘Here's the kind of coach I want.' He did the evaluation, he basically said, ‘Jerry, here's who I want to get.'"
Jones also pointed out changing assistant coaches before their contracts expire becomes "an expensive proposition," but that the cost of honoring the final years on those contracts became "trite" in terms of "making some of the changes that our head coach wanted regarding his staff."
There is now a very different message coming out of Valley Ranch than the one that the media has shaped over the past several weeks. Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett and the rest of the Cowboys organization obviously want us to believe one thing, while many writers want to present another reality. It all comes down to who you believe. Do you listen to people who sit outside the team and write stories, or do you believe the men actually involved in things who have worked together closely for the last six years?
OK. I have my own opinion, and it clearly colors my perceptions. More importantly, I just don't see Jones and Garrett as lying about all this. They may want to focus on the things they agree on and smooth over their differences, but that is pretty much the way of the world. For whatever reason, what they are saying just, well, makes sense.