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Cowboys' Jason Garrett Talks Learning Curves, Free Safety, Player Development

Jason Garrett talked at length to the media on Wednesday and touched on players like J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath, Matt Johnson, Kyle Wilber, Tyrone Crawford and others in the process.

The fish I caught was this big ...
The fish I caught was this big ...

At the NFL meetings on Wednesday, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett talked at length to reporters and covered a wide range of topics, many of which you've seen covered by different media outlets over the past two days:

And while the topics above were the ones that garnered the headlines, that wasn't all Garrett talked about. So we reviewed the transcript of the interview provided by the Pro Football Writers of America and compiled those aspects of the interview that may not have been headline material, but are informative for the hardcore Cowboys fan anyway.


On the learning curve for Linehan and offense:

Garrett: We're excited about Scott Linehan. He and I worked together with the Dolphins, he was the coordinator and I was the quarterbacks coach. My first exposure to coaching was under him and he and I have very similar philosophies about offensive football and how we do things. There are some terminology things that are common to both of our offensive systems certainly, [and they're] philosophically similar in foundation.

We think that what he's going to bring is certainly positive and an outside influence that's different than what we've been doing. You always want to evolve your offense from year-to-year and continue to grow with your system. There is a foundation that we have in place, a philosophy that's very similar and we're excited about the different things that he's going to bring.

On Pro Days:

Garrett: We want to do a really good job of the whole spectrum of players that are available to us. We have scouts and personnel people at the Pro Days. We do individual workouts not only with the top flight guys but with guys who we think might be drafted in the middle to late rounds and see if there's a place for them.

So much of this is trying to get to know a player and there are a lot of different ways to do that. Combine interviews, Senior Bowl interviews, watch them practice, watch them workout, spend some individual time with them and see what the guy is all about. You can evaluate the tape and you like or what you don't like what you see on tape, but you want to get to know the guy beyond that, what makes him tick, how important is the game to him.

My experience has been when the guys have the right intangible stuff they typically are able to fulfill their potential and there are plenty of examples that we all have throughout our careers of guys who had the right stuff inside of them that allowed them to be the great players that they were. So we got to get to know the player and see what they're all about and what's meaningful to them.

On the free safety position:

Garrett: We have a lot of young guys there. Guys that we feel good about. Barry Church has been someone who has emerged as one of the leaders of our defense. He is a good tackler. He makes a lot of plays on the ball. He has some leadership qualities. He communicates well. We like what he has done. He has stepped up and has the foothold on one of those spots back there.

We played Jeff Heath a lot last year. We also played J.J. Wilcox back there. We want to give one of those guys a chance to go in there and compete. We haven't seen a lot of Matt Johnson because of injuries the past couple of years. We want to give him an opportunity to get in the mix there and show what he can do.

You are always trying to do that with your young players, give them a chance to play. Give them a chance to compete and see who emerges from the group. There are some young players there and certainly as we go through free agency and the draft we always looking to upgrade throughout our team.

On the inability to get past 8-8 because on injuries or key players not performing consistently:

Garrett: You have to be careful when you talk about injuries to make it not feel like excuses. Injuries are a part of the game. There are no excuses. They have been a factor on our football team. But they have been a factor for a lot of teams. We've just got to make sure we do everything we can as organization, as a coaching staff, as players on our team to minimize the injuries to the best of our abilities going forward.

It is better to have your starting players in. That’s why they are starters. Throughout the season and certainly at the end of the season when you are playing some of these big games that determine whether or not you make the playoffs.

We have had to deal with some situations where we have had to play a lot of young guys in these critical games. But we have to look at it like what can we do to help alleviate the situation. We are talking to a lot of different coaches around the league. A lot of different teams have similar issues. So you are always wanting to evaluate the things you can do better in this area. That has certainly been a factor and we just haven’t gotten the job done as well as we have needed to in some of those critical games.

On whether Tyrone Crawford is an end or a tackle:

Garrett: That is a great question. He has really good versatility. We are going to look at the landscape of our defensive line and see where he fits in. We really think he can play all four spots. We will use him in a couple of different spots certainly. We want to get him into a role, into a position where he is most comfortable and get his body right.

He will probably be a bigger guy and weigh a little more if he plays inside. He will be a lighter guy if he plays outside. Even if he plays outside we will probably use him inside in certain situations. We will make that determination here relatively soon. We have talked about this as a staff and with him a little bit. And depending on who else we have in that landscape, we will probably pick a lane with him and see where we want to start with him and see how he adjusts to it.

On whether Tyrone Crawford cleared and ready to go:

Garrett: Yes. He has been doing everything he needs to do coming out of his rehab and we are excited to get him back on April 21.

On Kyle Wilber at linebacker and whether he saw a spark at linebacker:

Garrett: Yes. He had been playing defensive end. We had a number of different injuries at the linebacker spot. We drafted him to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. We put him back playing a 4-3 linebacker where he was playing off the line of scrimmage a little bit more and he really responded well to it. He is a very productive special teams player for us. And he showed a lot of that same production when we put him out there on defense, playing off the ball.

He had a number of tackles, number of tackles for loss. He was around the ball a lot so he really responded well and will be part of the discussion as we go forward and talk about one of those spots.

On Orlando Scandrick's development and beating out Morris Claiborne:

Garrett: We feel really good about all three of our corners, guys who have been here. Really what we did we said "Who is playing best?" We said Orlando Scandrick is playing best so he is going to start for us. The way that worked is he started outside, and then when we went to nickel, he moved inside and Mo came into the game.

We believe in competition. We are going to play the best guy. Last year we felt like Orlando was playing better than Mo for a lot of the year so that is why he was playing. We got to get Mo healthy. We got to get him stronger. And keep giving him chances to go out there and play because we feel like he has a bright future.

On Brandon Carr and the corner situation:

Garrett: Brandon is a good football player. We’re excited to have him. If you look at our football team you say we feel good about the corners that we have, Brandon and Mo and Orlando, that’s part of the strength of our defense. We have a lot of confidence in him. He plays very well. He’s had a couple of games he certainly would have liked to have played better in, but again, we evaluate what we did as a defensive staff in some of those games and how we could have put him in a better situation. He’ll learn and grow from all of those experiences. He’s the right kind of guy. He cares a great deal about getting better.

On the gameplan for Jason Witten:

Garrett: We talk a lot about being your best regardless of circumstance. I can’t think of a guy who epitomizes that more than Wit. Each and every day, in every situation we ask him to be in. He’s an easy guy to game plan with. The challenge with him is he gets a lot of attention. We love him. He’s a leader and one of the best players in the National Football League.

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