Full confession. I have been an open supporter of Jason Garrett and his Process since he became the official head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. As a matter of fact, some fanposts I wrote about him were part of the reason I was offered the opportunity to join the front page here at Blogging the Boys. There have been times I have found myself defending Garrett against articles in other places that I felt greatly misrepresented how things work at Valley Ranch, and the role Garrett has in shaping the team.
Today, I find myself somewhat dumbfounded to be fully supportive of a well-reasoned defense of the influence Garrett is having on the team and on the owner and general manager, Jerry Jones. Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN Dallas, who I have had some minor quibbles with in the past, wrote a post praising the Cowboys for restraining themselves in the free agent market and relying on the draft this year. And he was very specific in who he thinks is responsible.
Give the credit to Jason Garrett, because it falls in line with the way he wants to build a football team.
Say what you will about Garrett -- much of the criticism he receives is warranted -- but he gives this franchise direction. Maybe you don't like the road he's driving down, but at least he's not driving in circles.
OK, so he still had to put in a little dig about how Garrett does his job, but he still sees something I have felt was there if you only looked: Jason Garrett is the man who is shaping the Dallas Cowboys into the team he wants it to be. Not Jerry Jones. And that hardly seems like something that is going to be done by an emasculated head coach.
This is not the first time some of the more vocal Cowboys critics have found things to like about the team lately. There seems to be a growing sense that Dallas is headed in the right direction. It is showing up in articles about which NFL teams should succeed, and in shorter comments like this.
Hard to fathom this not being the Cowboys most talented and deepest roster since at least 2007. Lot of young talent, too.— Jeff Sullivan (@SullyBaldHead) May 31, 2013
And since so much about that direction is very different from that when Jerry Jones was believed to be making the major decisions, or at least heavily influencing a less assertive head coach (basically everyone not named Jimmy Johnson or Bill Parcells), the perception is growing that Garrett is the one firmly in the driver's seat. When he first took over the job, he talked about the Cowboy Way, but what he really was telling us was how his way was going to be. BTB-member Sexililkitti has come up with her own term (and tribute to Garrett's hair color), The Way of the Rooster. Her criteria for the players he looks for are dead on, and reflect the foundation for how he is reshaping the team to fit his vision.
This all casts a lot of doubt on the viewpoint that the the Dallas head coach is on a hot seat. Dan Graziano, a writer I almost never have any quibbles with, read JTT's article, and expressed many of the same things that I think.
(Jerry) Jones likes and admires Garrett. He respects his intelligence. He recently referred to him as the team's "premier asset," and I don't think that was just a phrase he threw out there. The sense you get when you spend time around the Cowboys these days is that they're striving to build a sustainable, long-term, successful program, and that they believe they're making progress.
Graziano does not believe that Garrett will be fired unless there is a major disappointment this year (gee, I seem to have heard that before), and believes he represents the best chance the team has to thrive. More importantly, he thinks Jerry Jones has the same belief. Which would be proof that old Jerruh is not as dim as many think he is.
I really try to fight getting overly optimistic, having gone down that road a few too many times, but there are a lot of signs that the Cowboys not only have a good chance for a greatly improved season, but that the team is getting its house in order for the long haul. Overthecap.com, a great resource for salary cap issues, published a piece about the five teams in the most cap trouble as they approach the regular season. Noticeably absent from their list: The Dallas Cowboys. (Delightfully present, at least from our point of view: The Washington Redskins, and - wait for it - the New York Giants of cap robbing John Mara. Oh, how delicious the irony.) As a matter of fact, according to another article they have up, Dallas will have $9,695,234 in cap space on June 2, after the $2 million cap savings from releasing Marcus Spears hits. Sean Lee extension, anyone?
Dallas had the money to sign free agents, probably two or three with the depressed market for them this year. But they didn't. They have committed to building this team in a rational, planned out way through the draft (and with some UDFAs they saw as draft quality). Once, the Cowboys were big players in the free agent market, bringing in players like Deion Sanders, Charles Haley, Terrell Owens, Roy Williams, and many others, often for very rich contracts. Some helped the team a lot, others were mostly drags on success, but for most of Jerry Jones stewardship of the franchise, that was the way it was done.
It finally stopped. Last year was a bit of a dying gasp, with the big contract paid to Brandon Carr, but the rest of the acquisitions in 2012 were much more reasonably priced. And this year there were only two (plus Anthony Spencer, but signing your own free agent is a different matter entirely if they show the level of play Spencer did in his first franchised year), and both were clearly on a budget.
I don't think it was easy for Jerry to change his spendthrift ways. After all, that open checkbook was a major part in the three rings he accumulated early in his ownership. It must have taken some major convincing to put him on a new path. And I have to think the convincing was done by his head coach.
This is Jason Garrett's team, no matter who winds up calling plays on game day. It has been since he took over the top job. A lot of us here at BTB saw it the whole time. And now it appears a lot of others are catching up to the idea.
All he has to do now is make it all pay off on the field. We will find out in a few months if it happens this year.
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