Given that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talked to reporters for about two and a half hours on the Sunday during the NFL Combine, there is a lot of chaff to sort through to find the real information. Of course, Jones is a bit notorious for his convoluted language and tortured logic, so not only do you have to deal with the sheer volume of what he said, you have to try and run it though a bit of Jerryspeak decoding to try and figure out what, if anything, it means.
My personal theory about Jones is that he thinks exactly the way he talks. That thought process is convoluted and multi-layered, and he is quite capable of holding seemingly contradictory opinions and positions simultaneously. When someone is trying to pin down something with him, they can find that the experience is rather like attempting to nail Jello to a wall.
During his oration to reporters in the Dallas Megabus, Jones touched on the subject of Jason Garrett's contract status. A great deal has been made about Garrett being a "lame duck", which is amusing because I have seen many of those most disturbed by this state of affairs calling for Garrett's firing in the not to distant past.
Todd Archer was one of the beat writers with the fortitude to sit through Jones' verbal avalanche, and he provided a quote from Jones when he was asked about Garrett's contract situation.
"It should be a frustration for me to be sitting here with Jason Garrett having been the head coach for three and a half years and having been here (seven) years and be 8-8 the last three years," Jones said. "So I'm just saying that's a careful evaluation. Does that mean I don't want Jason? I think I want us to have the opportunity and that's why he's staying, to have the opportunity to benefit from this experience over the period of time."
Jones also talked about Garrett's "high tolerance for ambiguity", which is something that almost anyone trying to decipher what he means could also use.
But, whatever it says about the strange aspects of my own thoughts, I pretty much get what Jones is saying. I have for some time, and once I go back and sort through the pronouncements, I am not at all surprised.
Jerry Jones really wants Garrett to succeed this year and earn a contract extension (or, perhaps, a new contract to follow up the current one). And he will back him all the way. Until he doesn't. Jones is not prepared to lock Garrett in with an extension that would undoubtedly include some guaranteed money until he sees the proof of things on the playing field.
It is all about keeping your options open. While the Cowboys may lack a lot of salary cap dollars up from year to year, in most other aspects, Jones seems to want to keep as many alternatives on the table as he can. David Helman examined what Jones said about the Cowboys' draft priorities, and saw a similar aspect in his approach.
I'm going to allow the general manager to continue making my point for me, which is this: as badly as this team needs to improve its defense, the depth of this draft means it doesn't have to happen with the No. 16 overall pick.
"All things equal -- same quality. The depth is really good in both fronts, so is linebacker," Jones said. "It's good in both those fronts. So I think that will be noted."
This is just the way Jones is. He is willing to go a variety of ways. He doesn't see any problem with Garrett being on the last year of his contract, because he does not see him doing things any differently. Head coaches are fired all the time, regardless of the number of years left on their deals. And I doubt Jerry is going to act differently in his decision making just because Jason is in the last year of the contract.
He is also leaving the option to go a different direction if things fall apart. There may be ambiguity in the situation, but there is none about the need for Garrett to show some progress this season. At least in Jerry Jones' eyes.
Does that mean playoffs or bust for Garrett? Again, with Jones, things are not really hard and fast. He seemed to have no problems keeping Garrett after the third consecutive 8-8 year. And this observation of what Jones really means struck me when I read it.
Dawning on me that Jerry made it clear Garrett is a coach in training. He is not complete. Five-time champion franchise is ok with that.— Carlos A. Mendez (@calexmendez) February 23, 2014
Jerry Jones wants to see Garrett succeed because he would be clearly Jerry Jones' creation. You have to think there is still some resentment of the way Jimmy Johnson is given most of the credit for the sudden rise to prominence for the Cowboys. Expect Garrett to get every benefit of the doubt this season. But there are no guarantees because those negative options are still open.
A decision will have to be made. But not yet. The box hasn't been opened, and we aren't sure of the health of that cat. Until we get to that point, Jerry Jones will keep thinking about long-term plans for a coach with a short contract who may or may not be here next year. For most of us, that kind of approach just leads to confusion and migraines. For the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, it's just how how he goes about his business.