It's been a while since Jason Garrett's last press conference, so when he spoke at the Combine Wednesday, he had a lot of ground to cover.
You can watch the press conference here, or you can read the transcript below, courtesy of NFLDraftscout.com. Garrett talked extensively about Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray and also got a surprising number of questions about play-calling.
He also got some oddball questions from what sounds like a Detroit guy who still hasn't gotten over the Lions' wildcard loss, as well as questions about Bill Callahan, probably from a Washington guy. I left the Detroit and Callahan questions in, purely for their comedic value, but have taken them out of order and placed them at the end of the transcript.
On whether he's worried about Dez’s reaction to the tag:
"You know, the biggest thing that everyone needs to know is how much we appreciate Dez Bryant and the kind of football player we think he is. Obviously his impact is huge. He’s one of those guys that, 60 to 65 times a game, he breaks the huddle and the defense is looking for No. 88. He’s a rare guy that way, and for him to have the production that he’s had at this point in his career has been remarkable, because he’s been getting that kind of attention – really, from Day 1. We love Dez. We believe he’s the right kind of guy, he loves football, he loves being part of the Cowboys, he makes a huge impact on our football team. But again, there’s a business side to this. There’s a lot of different ways that this business can be handled, and we’ll work through those things in the next few weeks. But we love Dez Bryant and we want him on our football team."
On how involved he is with bringing back Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray:
"Well, these are big organizational decisions. Really all personnel decisions are organizational decisions that really everybody is involved in. Certainly, Dez and DeMarco are cornerstone players for our football team. They’ve been great players for us up to this point in their careers. They had great careers last year. The business of the NFL is real, though, and we have to work through some of that. But both of those guys know very strongly how much we care for them, how much we appreciate what they’ve done for us and how much we want them on our football team going forward."
On how hard it is to sort out the rest of the team’s business before settling what happens with Bryant and Murray:
"I think you’re always probably working parallel lines with a lot of these different things. There are a lot of different decisions that our team has to make in regards to personnel. A lot of it has to do with your own guys. Making great evaluations of your own personnel is probably the most important thing that we’ll do. Each of those guys has different kind of business opportunity. You have to kind of work those things together and fit all of those pieces of the puzzle together under the rules. The business of the NFL is real. We all have to work through those. Football evaluations are a big part of it, but finances are part of it as well."
On the diminishing value of the running back position and how that’s balanced when handling the DeMarco Murray situation:
"DeMarco’s a heck of a football player and has been since we drafted him a few years back. I think you’ll probably find if you really look at it, that running the football is an important part of all championship-type teams. The runner isn’t the only one who is part of running the football. Controlling the line of scrimmage is big. We’ve made a lot of organizational emphasis over the last few years to use our resources to shore up that offensive line. I think that’s paid dividends for us. But the runner does matter. I think we’ve all seen that running backs don’t seem to be drafted quite as high as they used to. I think that has a lot to do with the longevity of the player. But I do think the value of the running back is really, really critical to having a great running football team. I think the history in the NFL proves that. Recent history proves that. He certainly had a big impact on our team."
On if they could plug another running back in there and have the success Murray had:
"I don’t like that expression, ‘Plug another back in there.’ DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing by, I think, over 500 yards. His impact on our football team was significant, our ability to control the line of scrimmage, control the football, helped the other parts of our team out. He was a big part of all that. The value of being able to hand the ball to somebody 25 times a game, week in and week out, is significant. His impact was huge for our team. But again, there’s a business of the NFL that we all understand. I know both sides are talking, we’re trying to get it done. Understand that every decision we make is in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys. We feel like DeMarco Murray has done a great job for our football team and we’d love to have him back."
On factoring in DeMarco Murray’s injury history:
"The injury history for him is not a huge factor for us. Think about what we did this year with him. He carried the ball 450 times, he caught 61 passes, 511 touches. That’s a lot of football. He handled that really, really well. Again, the value of that guy who you can give the football to again and again and again, make big runs, make medium size runs, make a lot of dirty runs, maybe there’s a tackle for loss that he gets you back to the line of scrimmage. He did that again, and again, and again for us all year long. He’s really done it throughout his career. What we’ve tried to do as an organization is to shore up the infrastructure of this football team. We’ve drafted offensive linemen, three of the last four years in the first round. Those decisions have paid dividends, but having a guy like DeMarco Murray, certainly has paid dividends as well for us."
How important is it for everyone in the organization to be on the same page:
"Well, it’s everything. You have to have a plan, you have to have a vision for what you want your football team to look like, and you have to have a plan to implement that. It starts with people, it starts with people on our coaching staff, in our scouting department, the executive branch of your team and it trickles down to your players, obviously. Having a real vision for what you want your team to look like, what you want everybody in your organization to look like, how you want to function on a day-to-day basis – that’s everything. That’s putting your plan in place and then executing it, and communication is a critical piece to that. You can’t work in silos, you have to break down the silos in the building – we work together. I believe strongly in "one-plus-one equals three," and we try to do that every day. Communication, being on the same page is the only way that can happen."
On what the benefits have been from no longer calling the plays:
"I think when you’re a head coach and you’re calling the defensive signals or you’re calling the plays on offense, you still want to be the head coach of the whole football team. I made a concerted effort when I became the head coach, when I was calling plays, to do that. I tried to sit in meetings on the defensive side, be with the special teams group. But there’s a logistical aspect to it too. When you’re the offensive coordinator and play-caller, you have to prepare for that. I just think as much as anything else, once we got Scott Linehan in here to handle that role, I could really, truly spend my time equally between and among those three different units. I think that’s an important thing. It’s not only the time during the week, it’s time during the game. It’s the emotions, addressing the different weaknesses that you might have on the football team, try to shore those up. I just think it allowed me to do that better."
On if he missed calling plays:
"I love the role that I have now. I love the structure of our staff now. Oftentimes, you try to get to a certain point with your staff and sometimes it just doesn’t work, so you have to do things a certain way. I was the interim head coach in the middle of the 2010 season. I was calling plays as the offensive coordinator. We just kind of kept that in place. Then when we saw an opportunity to change that, we did. I think the contributions that Scott Linehan has made and the structure we had on the offensive side of the ball was outstanding this year. He’s a great play caller, he’s a great coordinator, he made us all better. We certainly appreciate his contribution there."
On Mike McCarthy giving up play calling in Green Bay:
"Whatever they’re doing there, they should keep doing. I trust Mike McCarthy. He’s obviously one of the great coaches in this league, and has been. They’ve been one of the best teams during his tenure as the head coach. He has a great instinct and feel for the game and for his football team. He’s going to do what he thinks is best. I do think that it really does allow you to get more involved with the other parts of the football team. I’ve spent a lot more time with the defense over the last 18 months than I had prior to that. I just think that’s good for your team when you’re able to do that, support your coaches, get a better feel for the players on that side of the ball. That’s worked for us. Trust me, I’d defer to Mike. He’s done a fantastic job. He’ll make the right decision for the Packers."
Feel for play-calling and moving away from it:
"Again, you probably don’t want to be an emotional play caller, right? You have some things that you want to get to, whether you’re calling the shots on defense or calling the plays on offense, and you have a plan going in that you want to communicate throughout the ball game and adjust that plan as warranted. When you’re not having that direct responsibility, you do have a chance to get involved with other parts of your team during the game. When I was calling plays as a head coach, I spent some time on the bench with Tony and the other guys talking about what we wanted to do, I talked on the headset with the guys upstairs – the runs we wanted to get to, the passes we wanted to get to – while the defense was on the field. I didn’t have to do that since I’ve been the head coach, not calling the plays. I think that’s a positive thing. You’re probably more tuned in to what’s going on during the game at a particular time. That certainly helps you.
On showing patience in a young QB and letting him evolve:
"I would argue that playing quarterback in the National Football League is probably as hard a thing as there is in sports. The environment that you create for that quarterback is critical to his success – the system he’s in, the people he has blocking for him, how you’re playing defense, the weapons he has around him, how you call plays – all those things contribute to that. You want to have a guy who wants to be great, you want to have a guy who wants to be in that position. It’s a hard job. It really is, to be one of these 32 guys who start for an NFL team. You have to have the right makeup, the right character, and if you try to create that environment for him and he goes about it the right way, you have a chance to be patient for him and have the kind of quarterback that you want. We feel that way with Tony Romo in Dallas. He’s absolutely the quarterback that we want for our team."
Thoughts on QBs who work with "gurus":
"I don’t want to speak specifically about that. I think it’s probably similar to where we are as a society. We have a lot of little kids growing up having swimming coaches and guys they’re working with, really at a young age. There’s a lot of specialization that’s gone on in sports recently, and I think it’s probably an extension of that. What we’ve found here at the Combine here is that a lot of the players who come here now are very coached in all of the aspects of the Combine. They know how to run to the drills, they know how to answer the questions in the interviews. I think this is probably just an extension of that. I think it’s a good thing, because they’re investing in themselves, and that’s the best investment they can make. If you have the right kind of guy, it certainly can help you and prepare you for the next level. Again, they’re interested in trying to be the best that they can be and I think that’s probably a good thing if you choose the right people."
Thoughts on the pass interference call vs. Detroit:
"I don’t want to get too much into officiating. I think we talk too much about officiating, to be honest with you. I think as much as anything else, that was a mechanical issue that they had. There’s offensive pass interference, there’s defensive pass interference, there’s offensive holding and defensive holding calls that get called every week in the National Football League in 32 different cities. Some of those you agree with and some of those you don’t. I think that situation was more of a function of maybe an all-star cast working together. The official on that play who was on our sidelines – he’s the one who did not call a penalty there. That call came in from center field, and I think typically what happens is those guys communicate before the ball is moved. I think as much as anything else, it was a function of they were going to have that communication, but they moved the ball first. Then, the guy who was on top of the play overruled the call and said ‘I saw it, I don’t think it was a penalty.’ That happens 10 times a game every week in the National Football League. I think more than anything else it was just the mechanics of moving the ball – that’s the thing none of us had seen before. We’ve seen conversations where flags are picked up all the time, but the timing of the whole thing and the mechanics were a little bit off."
Accounting for Suh vs. Detroit:
"Well, he’s a great football player, and it stood out in that game and it’s really stood out throughout his career. He can be a dominant force inside, and he’s one of those guys who really challenges you every time you snap the football on offense, because he can be so disruptive – both defending the run and also affecting the quarterback and the passing game. He has a relentless spirit, he’s quick, he’s fast, he’s explosive, and he’s around the football a lot. He shows up. He showed up in that game, and really he’s shown up since he came into this league."
On how the preparation changed with the Suh suspension stuff:
"We were getting ready to play that game on Sunday afternoon. We try to focus on ourselves. Certainly he’s a great player, that front is really good, that defense is really good, but we try to prepare ourselves to play our best football regardless of the opponent."
On Bill Callahan:
"Bill is just a fantastic football coach, and he has been a great coach for a long time in this league. He’s a technician. He certainly knows the game strategically, inside and out. He’s a great teacher, both in the meeting room and on the practice field. His players get better. He’s done a great job for the Cowboys."
On what went into the decision to not bring Callahan back:
"Well, he had an opportunity to go to the Redskins. His contract was up. Again, he did a really good job for us in a couple of different roles over the last three years, and we appreciate what he’s done and he’s going to do a great job for the Redskins, we know that."