Jason Garrett is known for studying winning organizations and learning from accomplished coaches. As BTB's own Rabblerousr commented back in January,
"That Garrett would use ACC basketball as an example should not surprise. Soon after he had been officially named the Cowboys head coach, the RHG spent a weekend on the campus at Duke, trailing the Blue Devils' legendary basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, as he went about the business of running his program. In his three days in Durham, Garrett spoke with Krzyzewski at length about such topics as handling players, scheduling, and the structure of practices and meetings - and concluded his trip by taking in a Sunday night game from a seat behind the Duke bench."
Coach Garrett visited Duke and Coach K again this summer, this time bringing along Tony Romo. On his first visit, Garrett used the trip to learn more about coaching, especially the ability to create sports franchises that thrive from organized collaboration, and approaching coaching and scouting and front office work with the same sense of teamwork utilized on the field (or court). As National Football Post revealed back in 2011 after Garrett's first trip:
"We literally could talk about this for five days I learned so much," [Garrett] said. "[Coack K] has an amazing way of creating an environment that is so organized, so systematic, so seamless, the execution and everything they do is off the charts. He also has this amazing personal touch with everyone involved in the organization. He has a personal relationship with everybody. He cares deeply about everybody. They care about each other."
So it should come as no surprise that Coach Garrett is again looking at another impressive basketball program, though this time, with the intent to display the concepts to his players and reinforce the ‘Cowboy Way' culture Garrett has been trying hard to build at Valley Ranch. It starts with the organization and details that go into smooth practices and carries over into the drafting of the "right kind of guys" that love football and understand the vital nature of the team concept, often being leaders on their college teams. And now, Garrett is using the long-term success and team dynamic of the San Antonio Spurs to further clarify his vision of a team identity and winning culture.
As Todd Archer for ESPNDallas reported:
"My role in the whole thing is not to be a basketball coach, although we do watch tape of the Spurs and the Heat," Garrett said. "We show it to them, and I kind of do my best to try to make an analogy between what they're doing and what we're trying to get accomplished."
Garrett went on to explain how the Spurs have a lot of players that don't have the "Hey, look at me" mentality and understand the importance and strength of a true team. He used Popovich's recognition of everybody connected to the organization and the dominance of the Spur's bench players versus their opponents as an analogy to his concept of team identity. Again, Garrett used a basketball program to help reinforce his own team culture, "next man up" philosophy, and for the love of the game and team approach to building a staff and acquiring and developing players.
"It's truly a team and they really are selfless in how they play. There's so many analogies that we all can take to what we're trying to get accomplished as a football team, or really just in life."
Cowboys fans can question Garrett's ability as a head coach in direct relationship to the win/loss record of the team, but it is hard to argue against his philosophic approach to team building and culture at the core of his Cowboy Way. It seems he understands that every part of an organization, from the front office, to the training room, war room, and film room, is just as vital to winning on the field as are the players that start the game and those that back them up.
The potential strength of the Cowboys offense has often been ignored by the media this offseason, and instead most are concentrating on the overwhelming questions of a poor defense that has since lost three star players. There are clear concerns over the ability of the Cowboys defense heading into 2014, especially after the loss of Sean Lee. But there is no truer cliché in sports than the idea that the sum can be greater than its parts.
This is the simple concept at the heart of Garrett's approach to team building and this coming season will be a great test of how deep the roots of his culture have reached. The team will need to lean on a strong offense to compensate for a developing (and possibly outmatched) defense, and every player on the defensive roster will have to work and fight as hard as the greatest star on any team. Individually, there is no player on the defensive side of the ball that has proven he can take over a game. But then again, the Spurs had no individual player that could best LeBron James one-on-one. Luckily for them, and the '14 Dallas Cowboys, team sports rely on every individual involved to win...and Jason Garrett is making sure his players understand that concept.