There are two opinions of Jason Garrett as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. One is that he is little more than a figurehead for owner and GM Jerry Jones, who has been forced into changes on the coaching staff, giving up the play calling for the offense, and accepting draft picks over his objections. The other is that he is firmly in control of the team, setting the tone and building a staff and roster in an image that he believes will lead to success.
If you have been reading the articles put up here by the front page writers, and particularly the ones I author, you know we tend to look with disdain on the first of those two and fully support the second. Call it the Garrett Philosophy, the Process, the Cowboy Way, or even the Way of the Rooster, the approach he takes to bringing a certain kind of player to Dallas is at the heart of what he has done since becoming the head coach. He calls those players the Right Kind of Guy. The RKG is a hardworking, team oriented player who takes well to coaching, with good character and a likelihood of staying out of trouble.
We are frankly pinning our hopes that this is going to bear fruit for the Cowboys soon. The past week, we have seen graphic evidence that it may already be a very good thing to have in place.
Unless you have been on a camping trip to a remote area with no access to broadcast or cable TV, radio, and the interwebs, you have seen the bizarre and fascinating, in the "gawking at a horrible crash" sense, story of Aaron Hernandez, tight end (for now) of the New England Patriots. He has become involved somehow in a murder mystery, and is now believed to have taken deliberate steps to destroy evidence that could reveal what really happened. While the legal system considers him innocent until proven guilty, his actions lead all but the most oblivious Patriots supporter to believe he is deeply involved in the homicide. Reports are conflicting, but some outlets, such as the ABC news report I linked to above, continue to state that a warrant for his arrest will be issued shortly.
Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe has written a scathing article about how the Patriots, once considered the paragon of a well-run and superbly led football team, has fallen from grace. He places the onus squarely on the owner and head coach.
Bob and Jonathan Kraft need to stop trying to make us think the Patriots are different from all those bad boys in the NFL. You know, all those guys who only care about winning.
"If you're going to be a part of this organization, there's a responsibility and a sense of obligation that comes with it, because in my family's mind, you're carrying our last name as well,'' Jonathan Kraft said after the Patriots signed Albert Haynesworth in 2011. "We just want [them] to understand what it means to be a Patriot and that there are certain things that are as important to us, and in some cases, more important to us, than winning.''
No. The Patriots are no different than any other team. They'll take a chance on trouble, which apparently is what they did when they drafted Hernandez in the fourth round in 2010.
Well, I hate to point it out about a member of the media, which as Cowboys fans we know are all relentlessly objective and dedicated to accuracy, but he is mistaken. That approach he describes is different from at least one team. That is not the way the Dallas Cowboys under Jason Garrett do business. They look only for those RKGs.
Once, however, you could not say that. Before Garrett put on that head coaching cap, the Cowboys too were willing to go out and get players of very questionable character. And it sometimes paid off. Charles Haley and Deion Sanders certainly had some traits that would bring into question whether they would fit the Garrett mold. But there were also some spectacular failures, like Adam Jones. And even before Jerry Jones put Garrett in the top job in the organization not filled by people who share the Jones DNA, there was evidence that the Cowboys were beginning to move away from that kind of player. After all, Hernandez was not on the Dallas draft board in 2010, as reported by Bob Sturm (which he credits graciously to work done here at BTB).
While the trend may predate the official start of the Process, it has now become part of the Dallas doctrine. As rabblerousr's now infamous reconstruction of this year's board reveals, one player left off that board was LSU safety Tyrann Mathieu. And in the weeks leading up to the draft, some of the more reputable reporters in Dallas, like Bryan Broaddus and Mike Fisher, steadfastly insisted that the team was not in the least bit interested in someone with his train car load of baggage. He was simply not in any way the Right Kind of Guy.
As I mentioned, the Patriots ownership and head coach Bill Belichick were until quite recently considered an example of how to run a football team, despite the list of players who had displayed questionable judgement and sometimes shady behavior, such as Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Brandon Meriweather, Brandon Spikes, Albert Haynesworth, Willie Andrews, Alfonzo Dennard, Nick Kaczur, Aqib Talib, Chad Johnson, Jermaine Cunningham, Rodney Harrison, and Rob Gronkowski. Meanwhile, the NFL world laughed at Jerry Jones and his fumbling attempts to find anyone that could lift the Cowboys back to Super Bowl glory. Hole included or not.
But for the past couple of years, at least, that is not an accurate image of the Cowboys. And now the media is waking up to just how wrong they have been about the team in New England. Apparently the taping of opponents' practices was not a loud enough alarm clock. Ron Borges at the Boston Herald put it bluntly.
The fact of the matter is the Patriot Way never existed. They didn't do anything different than their peers except win three Super Bowls in four years.
They lost their way trying to avoid losing playoff games.
They took ever more dangerous risks on players with questionable injury histories, nitwit tendencies or, most significantly, serious character flaws. The team that once dumped draftee Christian Peter - because of a criminal record - now drafts guys like Hernandez and Alfonzo Dennard, who were off many draft boards because teams didn't trust them.
This is how the vaunted Patriots organization has been running things for some time now. Once, it was the way Jerry Jones did business. But no matter how much some people slam him for his past failings, there is some pretty clear evidence that Jones is not too old a dog to learn a new trick. Like hiring a coach and then buying into his idea of putting together a roster of RKGs.
So far, it is starting to work out, with the only real controversies of the offseason being how the first day of the draft was handled and the vastly overhyped issue of when and by whom the decision was announced to put Bill Callahan in charge of the play chart. Of course, we know all too well that we are always just one headline away from being plunged back into another crisis. Professional football players have large amounts of money and access to far too many people that will do anything to rub shoulders (and other things) with them. The most careful screening and selection will sometimes miss something. Other times someone will make a mistake that is out of character when you look at their history.
The Process does not of course make you immune to player issues, as the Josh Brent situation in Dallas also shows. All you can do is try to improve the odds. You go out and seek players who fit the RKG template, and let them know you are going to hold them to staying that way.
And it doesn't hurt to have a real RKG running the effort.
More Cowboys Coverage
- Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Faith In Kyle Wilber, Where Play-Action Goes To Die, More
- Dallas Cowboys Sign 2nd-Round Pick Gavin Escobar
- Cowboys Offseason Headscratcher: Defensive Line Questions Answered?
- On The Chalkboard: Four Verticals
- 40 Days And 40 Nights Until BTB Makes It To Dallas Cowboys Training Camp