He’s the 2016 Coach of the Year, but you won’t ever get Jason Garrett to talk about it because it’s a new year with new opportunities. This is the seventh year he’s entering the season as the Cowboys head coach. His tranquil attitude on the sidelines and deadpan press conferences deliveries have many fans labeling him as a emotionless robot who just claps his way through his day.
But that is just what he shows on the surface. Deep inside is a fiery competitor; a guy who injects intensity into his ball club. Words like “passion” and “compete” are thrown around all the time and it’s an environment that his players have grown accustomed to. We all know how much Garrett preaches about the importance of competition on the football field, but the Cowboys coach has extended this type of mindset to other aspects of his players daily activities. Brandon George recently reported that Garrett has introduced some arcade-style games during the Cowboys minicamp meetings.
Games? What’s this you say? Mr. “All Business” Garrett is having his troops play games?
It’s not just guys sitting around and playing Grand Theft Auto if that’s what you’re thinking, but rather Garrett puts together these competitive little games for his players to battle each other. It gives a new meaning to organized team activities. The goal is to build camaraderie and group unity as they are constantly put in situations where they have to rely on each other. The games Garrett chooses are arbitrary. Sometimes there’s a ball involved, other times not. Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley said he could make a game out of stacking cups.
"You don't know the game. You pick five guys before you even know what the game is," Beasley said. "They call it the Derek Jeter Challenge because someone said if you were starting a team and it doesn't matter what the game was and you don't know what you're playing, who do you pick. You want those type of guys on your team, who you know are going to come through for you and bust his butt to compete no matter what the challenge is for his teammates. That's kind of the thing behind it."
On Tuesday, they played Pop-A-Shot. The offense team smoked the defense team 433-151. On Wednesday, they played Skeet Ball. Again, the offense team won, but it was much closer. On Thursday, maybe they’ll play whack-a-mole? (probably not)
You never know the type of skills required and Beasley says you need to keep that in mind when you choose your teammates.
"You try to mix it well," Beasley said. "If I'm picking, it's guys who have some kind of good hand-eye coordination, but you have to mix a lineman in there, a strong guy, just in case it's something that you need a little strength."
And this isn’t just a fun time where the gang can have a few laughs. Garrett is keeping score. He documents the results and makes them available for people to see each day and that serves as a constant motivator to keep performing.
Competition is a big deal for Garrett. It’s part of his make up. It’s what brings out his desire to fight each and every day. He loves that in his players and he loves when it produces results. One of my favorite moments from last year’s training camp was when Garrett held a throwing contest that would get the team out of a meeting the following day if any player could hit the star on the camera tower. After many failed attempts by several players, punter Chris Jones finally delivered. Players rejoiced!
But Garrett upped the ante by saying if they could do it again, he would give his players a later curfew. No one came through this time...well, that is until an unsuspecting thrower became a hero.
If you ever go on a road trip with Garrett you better call “shotgun” real quick or else you’re probably going to end up sitting on the hump. The Cowboys coach is all about competition and he will never let his players forget it. Even when they’re not competing, they’re competing.