It seems like just yesterday we were being bombarded by stories about how Jerry Jones had emasculated his head coach and was really just setting the team up to bring in Jon Gruden or some other NFL retread. Now, a beat writer who is not at all shy about offering pointed criticism of the Dallas organization and personnel has decided that Jason Garrett actually is running things.
Check out the recent column by Calvin Watkins:
He doesn't quite come out and say it that way. He is talking about the makeup of the roster, and how the team has very few players left over from previous regimes. But you can't get to his conclusions without conceding a few underlying ideas.
The main thing the article brings out is how the Dallas roster has purged almost all of the players that were brought in under Wade Phillips. Only six remain on the active roster, and one of them is Doug Free, who should not be too relaxed about his future with the team pending the draft and any free agent moves once some money is freed up. Especially since he could be an alternative to help free some of that money. Watkins emphasizes the way the team is clearing out those players with this:
The Cowboys, as of now, are electing to have two former first-round picks, Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins from the 2008 draft, go without fetching another contract from the team.
Overtly, the piece talks about how the current roster is so predominantly made of players who have been brought in since Garrett took over the head coaching reins (and it gives him partial credit for Dez Bryant, drafted when he was offensive coordinator). And it does acknowledge that there are some stalwarts from the Bill Parcells era that still are very important to the team. But people who Phillips brought in are being shed at a rapid pace.
The condemnation of the acquisition process under Phillips is pretty clear. And Garrett gets credit for how players like Tyron Smith and Morris Claiborne have come right in to start on his watch. At least as far as this article goes, this is because Garrett is picking the kinds of people he wants. There is no hint of him not getting to pick his own players. And Garrett is quoted as being pleased with the success the team has had in getting his kind of player.
Something that is not as plain is the concept that Dallas has been more than willing to part ways with players that are not contributing. While Free seems an exception to this, he is a bigger problem than most because of the overpriced contract he has. And as I said, the team still has options with him. But otherwise, this is a tacit acknowledgement that the team is not hanging on to players out of loyalty or an unwillingness to evaluate their contributions objectively. You can't have the kind of turnover described here without correcting those mistakes that admittedly were a part of the way the team operated in the past. The only older players that the team is really hanging onto these days are those that still can perform at a high level, like Tony Romo, Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware. And I think we can agree that they all fit right into the mold of players that Garrett wants on his team, no matter who was responsible for drafting them.
I doubt this will completely dispel the questions about who is really making which decisions on the team, but I can feel encouraged that an idea I have long supported is now getting some traction in the wider Cowboys universe. However, Garrett must remember that with great power comes great responsibility. Namely, if the team does not break out of its recent spate of mediocrity, there is no dodging his role in failing to solve the problems. All appearances are that Jerry Jones has bought into what his head coach wants to do - so far. And Jones is signaling that another year without progress is not acceptable.
Garrett talks about how important the upcoming draft is in the quote that ends the Watkins article. It is. It probably will be one of the key factors that determine if he is still the Cowboys' head coach after the 2013 season.