Next to the saga of Sean Lee and his possibly four-year-old ACL problem, the most engrossing and troubling story out of the Dallas Cowboys offseason has been the tale of Kyle Orton and his apparent disconnect from the team. He skipped out of all the OTAs and based on various reports has either lost interest in playing anymore, wants to go somewhere else and compete for a starting job, or feels like he should be paid more money to back up Tony Romo.
This, of course, is the second year in a row that Dallas has been forced to deal with a malcontent in the locker room; Jay Ratliff malingered his way into the team releasing him, then promptly underwent a truly miraculous healing that led to a contract with the Chicago Bears. The team is now dealing with dead money issues partly as a result of his treachery, and is trying to avoid more of the same with Orton.
I find that I suffer a bit of cognitive dissonance concerning these situations. Since Jason Garrett took over as the head coach, he has stressed commitment and teamwork, embodied by his Right Kind of Guy archetype. He is trying to build a team full of players with a real passion for the game, who put the success of the organization ahead of personal goals and accomplishments, and above all who are willing to put in as much work as necessary to be the best player they can. Based on what comes out of most of the players' mouths, there is a lot of buy-in to Garrett's approach. But obviously it is not 100%.
Is there some issue that we, the fans, can't see with the Cowboys? Is Garrett's somewhat squeaky-clean image and eternal process putting off some of today's professional athletes? Is it just a case that you are almost always going to have one or two "problem children" in a 53 man locker room, especially one with the egos and salaries involved in the NFL? Or is this just part of "business as usual" in the league?
I am not a fan of black and white answers, so I think more than one of the things come into play here. Both the Rat and the Neckbeard were being more than adequately compensated by Jerry Jones, who does not have a reputation as a skinflint. But the definition of "adequate" in this case is often seen differnetly by the compensated, which may be the biggest factor for Orton. While most of us have a hard time understanding how being paid $3 million to spend most of the season standing around on the sidelines on game day is an insult, quarterbacks are a different breed. I frankly have given up trying to sort out what was really in Ratliff's head, just accepting that he lost all trust in the training staff about his readiness to play - which seems ironic given the way he was suddenly able to suit up for someone else as soon as he was released by Dallas.
I do believe that not all players are going to be happy with the approach Garrett takes, particularly veterans who have worked for other head coaches. Both Ratliff and Orton share this. They saw very different ways of doing things, so the Way of the Rooster, as Dawn Macelli has termed it, might not suit them. The fact that it has not really paid off in terms of on field success makes this even more plausible. Rat and Neckbeard both have been around long enough to be impatient.
Given that both players felt that the Cowboys had become a poor fit for them, the rest really is more a matter of the way things happen in the NFL than anything else. The same kind of thing can happen with teams that are seen as the epitome of how to do things correctly.
Why no new deal for Marshawn Lynch? 1. He’s a top 5 paid back. 2. Sets a precedent for players midway thru large extensions like Lynch.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 12, 2014
It is always good to look at how similar situations are viewed outside of Dallas, since there seem to be unique criteria applied to different NFL organizations. Most teams would not get a lot of credit for a smart move if they signed a 33-year-old player whose production has been declining and who was without a job so far this offseason. But, like I said:
After looking at the bigger picture, the only likely fault I see here is in Orton's view of his own worth. I can't even say that his tactics run the risk of putting off other teams, since there always seems to be another team ready to pick up a player if they think they can use him, and there always seems to be a market for quarterbacks of even marginal capability. Orton is actually pretty good compared to what some teams are rolling with at the moment, so this may all work out for him.
It is basically the way football go, to borrow a phrase from Ron Washington.