Is The Sense Of Entitlement Gone For The Dallas Cowboys?

USA TODAY Sports

For some time, there has been talk of the "sense of entitlement" that is believed to have hurt the Dallas Cowboys. There is now some evidence that it is no longer an issue.

It's time to go meme-killing again! Today, we are doing battle with the idea that the Cowboys have an expectation that they just have to show up with their Star on the helmet at the big, shiny venue formerly known as Cowboys Stadium, and they are just going to win games because they are so dad-gummed awesome. And of course Jerry Jones is going to open up that big old checkbook and pay them the big bucks because he loves his players so much.

This has been around for a few years. I think it actually dates back to the waning years of the Tom Landry era, when there were reports that players were just showing up for their paychecks. Jimmy Johnson cleared those players out in a hurry, but when he left, the team went into decline, and it took a while for the team (and Jerry Jones) to realize what was happening. Like most of the memes that surround Dallas, this one is based in some actual problems the team had.

And as with most of the memes, it is based on the past. It has almost nothing to do with how things are now.

This is one of the things that Jason Garrett came in and set out to change. He made it clear that he expects competition up and down the roster. If you are an obvious star by virtue of being clearly the best at your position, so be it, but you still need to work day in and day out. Nobody rests on their laurels. You might be the darling of the moment, but all that matters is what you are able to do for the team now. Not what you did a year or even a game ago.

Many are still skeptical about just how effective Garrett is as a head coach (although the video of his camp-opening speech to the team seems to be changing a few minds). But the past few days, a couple of players have made it pretty clear they understand that things have changed. They know their job is only as secure as their own performance. And these are not undrafted rookies talking about trying to make the team. This is two solidly established starter, who think their replacements are already on the team. And, if they are not exactly happy about it, they indicate they fully understand that this is just the way it is when you play for a certain red-haired coach.

It actually started earlier in the offseason with Anthony Spencer. He was franchised again, and the team could not come to a long term arrangement with him. Once, it would be hard to imagine Jerry Jones letting a star player go, even if he is aging and runs the risk of being on the downhill slide. But the team elected to not put up the kind of long term money that would have been required here, and from all indications, Spencer fully accepts their reasoning, and has no hard feelings at all about the calculation the Cowboys have made.

Then it continued with Jason Hatcher. He is a key part of Rod Marinaelli's rushmen, and a player who emerged last year. And yet, in an article by Jon Machota for the Dallas Morning News, he is quoted saying this about up-and-coming player Ben Bass:

"Bass has it all," Cowboys starting defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. "Bass is going to be the reason I'm playing on a different team next year. He's coming on. He's coming on. I just have to keep my job security, keep playing my butt off."

Whoa. Hatcher is playing the last year of his current contract, and is going to be 32 next year, but he is also playing the best football of his career. Not that long ago, he could probably figure on a three- to five-year contract offer, because that is the way things were done. But now he knows that the team needs to do what is best for the team, and like Mike Jenkins or Felix Jones, he may be expendable in favor of a younger, far less expensive player who is still on the rise as far as his ability and performance.

Then Miles Austin, in an interview reported by Calvin Watkins at ESPN Dallas/Ft. Worth, acknowledged that the final year of his current contract, 2014, may be his last with the team, with Terrance Williams having been drafted at least as an option to become his replacement.

"There's new people coming into the league every year. People leaving the league every year. That's just the way the system goes," Austin said. "To be naive of the fact, you're lying to yourself. At the end of the day, I will continue to work and continue to work. Our team goals are above my own."

This is a player who is clearly the number two receiver, normally a pretty secure position to be in. And if his health holds, he could have an excellent year as defenses are forced to put extra effort into stopping Dez Bryant. But as Coty Saxman pointed out in his post on Miles, he does have some issues with his game. And the team may be able to do better. It certainly is making the effort.

And Austin takes it in stride. Not only does Austin seem to be taking this with a great deal of equanimity, he made a statement that could have been written out in advance by his head coach.

In a sense, it was. All Austin is doing is paraphrasing things Garrett said in that video of his speech, and that he has undoubtedly been telling the team at least since he was officially named the head coach after the 2010 season. You don't get a place on this roster. You earn it. Every year, every practice, every game, every play. Harsh as it may seem, the only thing that matters is the success of the Dallas Cowboys, and that means that everyone eventually has to make room for the next player coming up.

Entitlement? You are entitled to get paid for your contributions to the team. Other than that, you get a chance to prove yourself. Or a request to turn in your playbook/tablet. The days of getting a big paycheck because Jerry is loyal to his players ended, oh, a couple of seasons ago. The days of out-of-control egos and players putting themselves first are gone. And the message has been received, understood, and acted on. This is part of the game in the NFL, and the players deserve some credit for the rational and mature approach they are taking. So does the head coach who has drilled the ideas behind this into their heads, and made it clear that all are being evaluated the same way: Do you help this team become a winner?

Memes die hard. But this one just took a mortal blow.

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