In the twenty-five years that Jerry Jones has owned the Dallas Cowboys, there has been a fair amount of dysfunction. One thing that would happen almost every year was that Jerry would explain to everyone just how he was looking forward to great things and how Dallas could compete with anyone, often with total disregard for clear issues facing the team. This would be followed by another frustrating season, and the owner and general manager would have his reputation for being disconnected from reality reinforced.
This season, that kind of thing has been refreshingly absent. Jerry stayed quiet about having any expectations, and for a change, Dallas is exceeding what most were anticipating from them. Even as success is beginning to pile up, the overall attitude of the team seems to be more that expressed by a different Jones, Jerry's son Stephen.
Dallas Cowboys VP Stephen Jones: "This organization's been mediocre the last three-plus years, so no one's taking anything for granted."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) October 16, 2014
That is exactly the attitude that any team should take, especially in a professional league like the NFL where the talent differential is not as great as the fans make it out to be. A great deal of what happens on the field is more dependent on coaching and how the players are used rather than on one side having more talent or ability than the other. It never hurts to have some players with mad skills, but there are plenty of examples of people with tremendous talent languishing on bad teams. Every game has to be taken seriously in this league, because upsets happen all the time. Luck plays a big role. Good players go cold and mediocre ones go on hot streaks.
Jason Garrett is fully aware of that reality, and his years in the league no doubt let him see what staying focused does for a team - and how quickly things can go off the rails when a team gets too full of itself. For years, the Cowboys had a reputation as a team with a sense of entitlement. That is one of the things that Garrett has been working to change culturally. There are indications of his success in how you hear his words repeated almost every time a player speaks. Once, Jerry Jones set the tone for the Cowboys, but Garrett does that now. With the team seeing success, his influence over his players and the entire organization is just going to grow. And he will be vigilant to keep the players focused on being better and never, ever, resting on their laurels.
This was very clear this week. After the statement victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Jerry started talking about taking a bit to savor the moment. (You didn't think he could completely stop opening his mouth and stirring things up, did you?)
"We know we can't dwell on it, but we should smell the roses here just a little bit," Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. "I know we're back to concentrating on the Giants and have got to, but our guys know they can do something today that they did not know they could do when we arrived in Seattle. That's a material thing. That's a tangible thing. That's not intangible."
The writer, Tim MacMahon, noted that this was a different message than the one coming from the head coach. And it was fairly clear later in the week who the team is listening to.
"Nobody is smelling the roses, man,'' receiver Dez Bryant said. "We know in this locker room we haven't done nothing or achieved nothing.
"It's a 5-1 record and we have to continue to keep playing the way that we've been playing and continue to keep believing in the coaches and each other and hoping we can come out on top on Sunday.'
Jason Garrett has the locker room. He even has the owner's son. Jerry Jones can make his statements whenever he wants, because the media is his audience. The players aren't paying attention. They have a football game to get ready for.