Jerry Jones in front of a bunch of reporters is the NFL's equivalent of stomping on a fire ant nest. No one else in sports seems to be able to stir up such a poisonous, angry reaction with a few offhand remarks as the owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys.
Today, the subject is the remark Jones made about head coach Jason Garrett keeping his job in 2014, no matter how the season plays out. (To find out exactly what he said, you can listen to his remarks at DallasCowboys.com.)
When taken in context, his remarks were really nothing more than an owner offering a bit of support to his head coach as his team is preparing for an important game. Our own Dave Halprin addressed the fact that this is not any real guarantee. Yet the Twitterverse was full of criticism and even dispute over what Jones really said.
@nickeatman yes he did..asked him if Garrrett was coming back next year and he said yes..i asked the question..its on tape...nothing funny— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) November 21, 2013
So Garrett is coming back in 2014? Confirms that he'd rather win his way (mediocre football) than actually win— Patrick Conn (@PatSportsGuy) November 21, 2013
Meanwhile, over in Atlanta, Arthur Blank, the Falcons owner, has just given personal assurances to head coach Mike Smith that he will be back next year despite the team pretty much cratering this year. And Ian Rapoport of NFL.com put up several tweets explaining the logic of that move.
Once again, the unique nature of Jerry Jones and his relationship with the media and his team's fan base come into play. There are a couple of things at work here that have to be kept in mind but that so often seem to get lost in the noise. First off, this was a typical unplanned Jerryism. Reporters asked a couple of questions and Jones went into stream-of-consciousness mode, sharing whatever went flitting through his mind. Once he goes off like that (which, of course, happens all the time) there is no way to predict what he might say.
But almost always, whatever he says will be true. At least as he understands it to be true, that is. Jones may be wildly inaccurate, and flat out wrong at times, but he does not often lie. He may say something today and completely reverse himself the day after tomorrow, but that has nothing to do with his sincerity or honesty. He just will at times reevaluate things and head off on another tangent as he sees fit. On this particular topic, however, he has been quite consistent. Ever since he promoted Garrett to the head coaching position, he has stated he wanted to give him more than two or three years to prove himself. This latest statement just continues the same position.
So what he said reflects what he plans on, at the moment at least. More importantly, it is precisely what he wants to happen. Jones is truly invested in Jason Garrett in a way he has never been with any other head coach. He does not just want the Cowboys to win, he wants them to win as Garrett's team, because he has perhaps more faith in Garrett than he did in any other coach he has ever employed.
That, of course, is to a large degree opinion on my part rather than hard fact, but there are people much closer to the situation who see the same thing. Tim MacMahon of ESPN wrote an explanation of what was going on that I openly admit says pretty much exactly what I think about the situation.
Never mind the financial aspect. Jones has never had more invested in a head coach when it comes to ego and emotions.
There's a personal relationship that is decades old, and there's the pride of identifying Garrett as a head coach candidate before anyone else did and doing what it took to keep him at Valley Ranch when he became one of the NFL's hottest coaching candidates during Phillips' tenure.
It is not impossible that Jerry would change his mind. But it is highly unlikely, much more than most realize.
Jerry Jones isn't kidding about Jason Garrett returning in 2014. Been told the Cowboys could finish 6-10 and Garrett would return next year.— Jeff Sullivan (@SullyBaldHead) November 22, 2013
This is not just about winning now. This is very close to a belief system that Garrett has going with the team and with his employer. While the onlookers were rolling their eyes at another Jerry Jones verbal adventure, the team was taking a different view.
Receiver Dez Bryant was in full agreement (with Tony Romo, who approves of Jones' statement), saying Garrett is the best coach he has been around.
"He's the guy. Coach Garrett is the guy," Bryant said. "This stuff is a process. Don't count us out quick, because we're still here. We believe we've got a shot at doing something good this year.Coach Garrett does a great job. I pay attention to him. I listen to him. I love him. He's one of the best coaches I've ever been around."
Notice that line in Bryant's statement. "This stuff is a process." That is classic Garrettspeak, and there is no sign that Bryant was being anything but sincere in his use of the term.
The owner wants Garrett to succeed and to keep his job. The players want him to. Garrett has done just about everything right - except establish a winning record.
But he has not established a losing one, either. The season still has six games to go. One almost strange aspect of all the discussion about him keeping his job is an unspoken assumption that the team is not going to win its way into the playoffs. Perhaps it is just a lingering hangover from the debacle in the delta, but almost no comments today seemed to give much weight to Dallas winning four or five of the remaining games and taking the division. Should the Cowboys wind up in the playoffs, and even defy the laws of man and nature and win a post season game or two, this whole discussion will disappear like it never even existed.
No one seems to think it will happen. But all this discussion is really premature. Until we see how the games play out, it is just silly to say what is the best move to make, or whether Jerry Jones has it right. However, we are talking about the Dallas Cowboys. Things just don't follow logic when we are dealing with America's Team.
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