I have been a big, big fan of the Dallas Cowboys' Jason Garrett ever since he was named the interim head coach of the team in 2010. While not everything has gone perfectly with him, I remain firmly convinced that he has taken the Cowboys in the right direction. His strategic vision may not lead to instant gratification for the fans, but in the long run I believe it will pay off - big.
In 2011, it became obvious that it was a new day for the team when the team cut seven veteran players, as documented a few months back by OCC.
At the start of the (delayed) league year on July 28th, 2011, the Cowboys cut Marion Barber, Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis and Roy Williams. The Cowboys later followed that up in a second wave of cuts by releasing three more veterans after training camp in Andre Gurode, Igor Olshansky and Montrae Holland.
This was the first use of what many term the Garrett Guillotine. It was a radical departure from the old days, when aging players were carried too long, weighing down the roster with big contracts and lackluster performance. Now, it is all about "What can you do for me today?" Competition is real up and down the roster. The blade has continued to descend, with the post-season cuts OCC also covered.
This year's first wave remained slightly smaller compared to last year when the Cowboys cut Kyle Kosier, Terence Newman and David Buehler at the beginning of the league year in mid March.
Now, the first use casualty of training camp has joined that list. Brodney Pool has been kicked off the team, and in doing so, he served a very useful purpose.
There is only one real criteria for the team now: Can you perform on the field? Pool became Exhibit A for the 2012 Cowboys.
More after the jump.
Pool made himself a target by showing up for camp out of football shape. The indications are that he disregarded the training and conditioning program established by Mike Woicik in order to drop a few pounds, and as a result he was not able to demonstrate the football pace of activity simulated by the conditioning test the Cowboys use. That put him clearly on Garrett's bad side, and when Barry Church seized the opportunity he was given and showed he was capable of stepping up, Pool's fate was sealed.
He was not the only one to fail the test, of course. Felix Jones and Andre Holmes also were part of the remedial running relays. They have not been cut, which is a demonstration of the fact that Garrett's approach is not dogmatic, but very practical.
Jones was a somewhat different case, since he was coming off shoulder surgery and it could be argued that his ability to participate fully in the offseason conditioning may have been compromised. More significantly, he is the clear number two running back, and there is no one in camp who can come close to taking his place. Also, he has a history with the team. He was a first-round selection, of course, but more important is his proven work ethic. Jerry Jones, who has some measure of influence on what happens with the team, stated as much. But the overriding consideration is that the team needs him.
Holmes is on much thinner ice, and it may be cracking under him. He had drops again during Monday's practice. The confused situation among a thin receiver group has likely kept him on the squad for now, but if he does not get his act together, that blade is poised to drop again.
This is also the underpinning for the odd situation revolving around UDFA Cole Beasley. After abruptly departing camp because his "heart was not in it" and then as abruptly returning, he had by far the best showing of any of the contenders for the third wide receiver position during the latest practice. Given that the underlying causes for his temporary departure are unknown, it still seems that Garrett is willing to make allowances for the very strong performance Beasley has turned in during the offseason and since the beginning of camp. With the rest of the field flagging and the always-open Danny Coale still making his way back from his foot injury, Beasley is looking more and more like a player that is going to force his way onto the roster. All things can change, and the team still might sign a free agent. Plus, players like Raymond Radway and Dwayne Harris still have time to make a move. The point, however, is that Beasley is showing something on the field.
That is what it is all about for Garrett. He is looking for one thing and one thing only: The best football player he can find, at all 53 roster spots. That is why the team has no interest in imposing some kind of discipline on Dez Bryant over his recent arrest, because he is proving to be a dominating receiver. Only Brandon Carr has any hope of covering Bryant effectively, and Bryant is probably winning at least as many of those battles as he loses.
Right Kind of Guy is often bandied about when talking about the players Garrett is looking for. But that is a very narrowly defined term for him. He is looking for football players. Period. As long as you can show up and perform on the field, plenty of allowances can be made. But if you don't get it done between the sidelines, and someone else can, it doesn't matter if you are Citizen of the Year. The Guillotine will be waiting for you.