Surprise, Jerry made his way to the podium today to answer questions. I did a lot of selective editing becasue Jerry talks a lot and he jumbles things together. I tried to get the essence of what he said but not always the direct quote.
T.O. in practice today, what did you think?
I thought he moved well, ran at the level that we were practicing at, not at half-speed. It is a decision that is made at gametime. It’s critical but his availability will be determined against the risk of having him in later games. He can run a route but it is a legitimate gametime decision. He’s in good spirits. It’s a balance between one play in this game and not having him in future games. That’s the decision Wade will make as to how effective he can be. He’s just as advertised, he’s conscientious about getting better. He’s better one day to the next, it would be a dramatic difference a week from Sunday. But the game on Sunday is the biggest decision.
What do you think of your hire of Wade Phillips?
It’s been 10 months, we have a double handful of pro-bowlers, 13 wins, I don’t need to see more to validate the hire. I thought his impact could be the most important thing, by any measure at this juncture he’s had success here. There is nothing that could happen in the playoffs to change my thinking about him coaching, he’s coaching in 2008. We all know how I feel about Jason Garrett, if you want to call it a problem; it’s a great problem to have. I’m not trying to be evasive. There should be no question here, just 10 months since he took the job.
Are you resigned to losing some assistant coaches?
Having just been through that process and interviewing 11 coaches, nothing is a given. We all are interested in it, it’s a lot more interesting from afar then when you’re in it. I don’t think anything here as a given because you’re talking about names and such. All I know is who has interviewed and with who. The last time we had these kinds of interviews was the last time we had a lot of pro-bowlers and successful seasons, it goes with the territory.
You said you want to keep Jason Garret, how do you keep him?
(Jerry went into avoidance mode, and just parried the press. But they pressed on.) I respect his abilities as a coach, I’m impressed with the success of his guidance relative to our offense, all of those are there when you say I went to great lengths to get him, I did, but I didn’t give up the Cowboys to get him. Everything is relative. What to do to keep him? I’d work hard, but there are some things I can’t control.
Will you and Stephen take a larger role in the scouting dept?
I don’t think Stephen’s role expands, he’s totally in charge of the personnel department and as GM I have final decision of every player and coach. That’s the way it was here with Bill, if we disagreed, I broke the tie. That’s not saying we didn’t work together, but any differences about the 53-man roster was my call. Stephen is in charge of personnel, they have to go through him. Bill called that committee and that is my style. It hasn’t changed one bit. We ask our scouts on pro or college about players and what I want to hear about is what they are as a college player, not whether they could move to right tackle or left tackle, I don’t need coaching there. Then the coaches get their input. I don’t like them mingling together. I don’t know if we replace Jeff. He was the walk-around guy, he supervised Tom C. and Brian Gaines. We can have them independent and bring the info to us on that basis. Larry Lacewell was the biggest supporter of Jeff Ireland and promoted him. When Jeff took that job his biggest competitor was Tom C. I weighed this very carefully when talking to Bill, it was too great an opportunity for Jeff. Both teams broke the rules on personnel people moving before the draft, we both got our hands slapped by the commissioner.
Did you hire Wade because of his temperament after Bill?
Candidly, I looked more at his record. What he had accomplished in pro ball, his background. But his style of basically taking the profile of a player and trying to find the best part of that player then adapting to that player and being flexible on defense, his defense is flexible and I liked that. I heard that from coaches, coach what they do best. Wade had practiced that. He can take Nate Jones and make a pass rusher out of him and get production. He can make guys pressure players that didn’t think they could be. Jason Ferguson, before he was hurt, Wade told me it was great to have the immovable object in that position but that he can also use a quick one too, he goes with his personnel. (But what about the change from an in-your-face guy like Bill?) Bill was a lot less than that an in your face guy, he spent so much time with the relationship before that, it was like tough love at home. Your daddy can talk to you that way because you already know he has your best interests at heart, it’s like that. Wade has got a side that will bite and bark. You can see that, you may have see that in some of his press conferences. It doesn’t mean though that you have to walk around and not smile.
Romo’s focus and off-the-field activities?
I have no qualms, no concern about Tony’s social life and relationships. I’ve had players before where I’ve had those concerns, (laughter) I’m not a novice in this area. I don’t have one concern with him. The Cowboys never leave my life, even in another country, I’m always thinking about it. I see that in him, it doesn’t leave his mind. I’ve been apart of 3 SB’s with a bunch of players and key people taking time off. I’m a big proponent of it. I insist that people be good at relaxing. The most productive people seem to be the best at having fun, too. (Concerned about the timing of the trips?) Not at all, I think he can have his most relaxed time way from here. I don’t have any concern with where they went. It wasn’t a 15-hour trip with jet lag. (Were you invited?) No, I was not invited. He has star-power, he’s a natural, that is good. Good for sports, for the NFL and for the Cowboys. It’s not the first time I’ve had a player like that but it must be coupled with success. He doesn’t consult with me in those areas, but he knows that I have acceptance, he knows how I feel about it. It’s in our interest for key players to have flair, there’s an entertainment aspect to sports, but it can be taken too far and is not good. But it’s great for our fans.
Do you think Tony Sparano is going to Miami?
I don’t want to be naïve. If it’s a fact already, it’s against the rules. I don’t want to add to that. He has a good relationship with Bill and Jeff in Miami. That’s obvious. The main thing I’m aware of is what a good coach he is, he will get opportunities. It’s not a forgone conclusion, that’s against the rules. Interviews for Tony or Jason is not taking away from preparing for the Giants. I do my best when I get a pat on the back and compliment, and that's what the interviews are, its also incentive to win this game. They’re not going to lose any jobs the further we go, it will only be better for them.
Replacing Brian Gaines?
We got some good people here who are aware of what we’re doing. Brian made an important contribution. But we got people qualified in the organization. Stephen is on top of this and spent time talking about what we’re doing. My preference is from within.
How long did it take to get over the Seattle playoff loss last year?
I was talking with Bill in the last two weeks, he said when that ball dropped the air went out of him. I was probably not as confident that our defense would carry us the rest of the games, at Chicago and in the SB. But I quickly realized with only two more games anything could have happened. In a way it caused me to have to re-evaluate what we had been doing, to get in here and change things. At that time, we didn’t have Gurode signed, Colombo, no Leonard Davis, and just a few games with Romo. We had a team and coaching staff to put together. It was healthy looking back, it turned out to be positive. If we win the SB, it’s the best thing. I feel real good, we’re as healthy as we’ve been and we got a chance to have #83 light ‘em up, I’m excited. I like the resolve. But there’s nobody out here that's overconfident or thinking we don’t have our hands full.
He has been very impressive this week. Very impressive. I don’t want to put too much on him but he will be something to deal with.
How do you tell T.O. ‘no’, he can’t play if that is the decision?
I haven’t said no to T.O. since I gave him the check. (laughter) Seriously, he’s never asked me anything where I need to say no. I did see him turn down surgery with 4 or 5 games left last year. I was with him when the docs told him he might not bend his finger again without surgery. He said I don’t want to do that, we have a chance to do something, he didn’t want to do have surgery. That was impressive. There’s no question he’ll say he wants to play, he knows his situation better than anybody, we need to count on him to use judgment to get on the field. When Wade says it, it’s true, it’s a gametime decision.