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The Big D-bate: Does the Damien Wilson news call into question Jason Garrett’s “Right Kind of Guy” mantra?

As we properly gear up for for the 2017 season, are we doing so with less belief in Red Ball’s RKG philosophy than ever before?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Minicamp Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

In 2016 the Cowboys had three players miss games due to suspensions - Randy Gregory (14), Rolando McClain (10), and DeMarcus Lawrence (4). All three of these suspensions were substance abuse related, with Gregory and McClain’s being for marijuana and Lawrence’s for amphetamines. Losing three key defenders, starters, for that much time was horrendous and it made fans sick.

But alas, that was just last season. Things will be much different going forward, right?

Nope. The Cowboys are at it again.

It started at the end of last year when it was revealed that Gregory (in a case of not deja vu) failed another drug test. He now faces a suspension of at least another year. Then, news recently broke about David Irving’s four game suspension. And then there’s Nolan Carroll who was arrested in May for driving while intoxicated. It is unclear what type of suspension, if any, he’ll be facing from the league for violating the NFL personal conduct policy.

When news broke about Damien Wilson being arrested for aggravated assault, many fans were up in arms (and not firearms like Damien): Are you kidding me? This nonsense again?

In the spirit of the best comment section in the world, this post is being commandeered by not one, but two Front Page Writers. You've got both Danny Phantom and RJ Ochoa as your captains for this flight, beginning a new weekly series here at BTB called The Big D-bate. The two of us will converse openly here discussing and debating different ideas throughout the season.

Today we begin with the question on everyone's minds, is Jason Garrett's "Right Kind of Guy" mantra really believable?

Danny Phantom: I’ve been a fan ever since the early ‘80s and there has been only one time that I can remember where I was disappointed with the organization. It was back when Barry Switzer was the Cowboys coach. He seemed to have no control over the team. Players were getting in all kinds of trouble - I’m talking hard drugs, hookers, and scissor-stabbing type of stuff. Even Switzer himself got arrested for having a loaded .38 caliber revolver in his carry-on bag at the airport. It was just embarrassing. If there ever was a time I was lacking in Cowboys pride, it was then.

Fast-forward to today, where I wake up each morning thankful that Jason Garrett is the Cowboys head coach. He’s done so much to shape this organization and put together a team that many of us are proud of. When it comes to the game of football, his players seem to have it together. Well, most of them.

With incident after incident, is there something I’m missing to where Garrett doesn’t have his players reined in as much as I think?

RJ Ochoa: I’d say that we’ve all had our fair share of disappointments throughout our respective tenures as Dallas Cowboys fans, just like we’ve had our moments of internal peace with the state of the team.

More than anything, we’ve all likely had our moments of “What is going on?” when it comes to the Cowboys, and that’s where I find myself in the Damien Wilson fallout. We say that Jason Garrett preaches the RKG philosophy, but what “preaching” is he really doing? He says it, cool; however, it’s not like he’s got the phrase tattooed on his forehead or anything.

The whole RKG thing is obviously an intention. They want the right kind of guys, that’s nothing earth-shattering. Where I think the point of frustration comes from is that it seems like RKG serves as this broom to dust away the Damien Wilson moments. It seems like there’s no real accountability for these instances, but in the world of practicality what could we really expect? How much falls on Jason Garrett?

Phantom: After rolling the dice on problem players like Gregory and Greg Hardy, the Cowboys just looked like they were asking for trouble. And Garrett didn’t make any excuses about it. He owned it and flat out said the team has to do better in their evaluation of players. And after the type of players they took in the 2016 draft, it seemed indicative of a more cautious approach. Even their patented “big risk” second-round move turned out to be a gold-star character player. It was that desire and dedication that gave them the sense that Jaylon Smith would put the work in to give him the best chance of returning from his gruesome injury.

This year’s draft is no different. While their skill sets vary in many different ways, the type of characters all of them have contain that similar trait of a passionate competitor. That is where this “right kind of guy” approach is going to pay off. It’s always about what they have collectively. One bad apple isn’t going to spoil the whole bunch. Neither will two, or three. Garrett has planted the seed and now the team has plenty of delicious apples to choose from. Believe it or not, his plan of building the right kind of team is coming to fruition.

Ochoa: A lot of people would tell you that a bad apple named Greg Hardy can certainly spoil the whole bunch, to the point that we’re trying to salvage whatever apple is left from Randy Gregory. You mentioned the type of players that they took in 2017, what about Jourdan Lewis?

I’m not meaning this to turn into a Jourdan bashing session, but it’s hard to say that a “character” with domestic violence charges against him fits any sort of RKG approach. You also mentioned the roll of the dice on the aforementioned Hardy and Gregory, why does DeMarcus Lawrence never get lumped in that group? From 2014 here at BTB:

At 6'3" and 251 pounds, Lawrence is a classic "tweener." However, because he is both surprisingly strong at the point of attack (he appears bigger on tape than his listed) and quick and agile (he shows good quickness and ability to play in space), Lawrence is making the tweener label work in his favor; a goodly faction of teams are interested in the former Bronco. This stands to reason, as Lawrence has demonstrated a great deal of scheme diversity/ position flex: during his stay in Boise, Lawrence lined up at every position along the defensive line.

This is evident on tape, thanks to the excellent felllows at Draft Breakdown. They have seven of Lawrence's games available for your viewing pleasure, including key Mountain West tilts against BYU and Wyoming as well as BSU's Hawaii Bowl loss to Oregon State. Watching him in action a couple of things jump out: Lawrence is a quick, fluid athlete who possesses good speed off the edge, is flexible enough to "run the arc" at speed and uses his hands well to get off blocks and get to rival ballcarriers - often behind the line of scrimmage. The downside? He might not be an "RKG": D-Law was suspended in both 2012 and '13 for violations of team rules.

Two separate suspensions for violation of team rules also bucks this supposed RKG approach, although it obviously pre-dates the draft classes and player acquisitions we’ve mentioned. The point is, they’re clearly willing to deviate from whatever the sold RKG approach is... and that’s perfectly fine.

People love to say that you’re never going to win with a team of boy scouts, and while I don’t particularly enjoy that cliche, but the reality is that it’s incredibly difficult to find 53-90 “RKG” players. Banging the “right kind of guy” drum is a losing argument from Day 1, because you’re invariably going to have someone who steps some toe out of line, or in the cases of some their entire bodies. So is it fair to say that the problem isn’t necessarily the approach, it’s the outward and public emphasis on it?

Phantom: Lawrence certainly deserves to be included in that bunch, albeit his character issues weren’t quite as severe as the other two. This current Cowboys team wouldn’t be as cavalier about these types of red flags as the were a couple years ago. Nobody is standing up for those decisions. They’ve learned from them and operate differently now. I know I have a tendency to blame all things gone wrong on Jerry and credit Jason for all the good stuff, but I firmly believe in my heart of hearts that Garrett’s influence has slowly and surely become stronger and stronger...and with it, has become a team that has a better make up of players.

It’s good that you bring up Lewis from this year’s draft. He serves as a guide in helping better understand what this RKG thing means. There is more to it than just being a good person with a clean rap sheet. Sure, those things matter, but when you couple them with how a person conducts themselves, it further accentuates their true make up. The Cowboys did a great deal of research with Lewis. They feel good about the type of person he is. They aren’t worried that he is going to be a loose cannon to where he’s going to be constantly having off-the-field issues.

Dak Prescott serves as a great example. His draft stock took a hit after he was arrested for a DUI a couple months before the draft. During his pre-draft visit with the Cowboys, Garrett drilled him about this incident. When it was all said and done, Garrett came away with a strong positive feeling about the type of person he was. People make mistakes. It’s up to the Cowboys to do their homework and determine if this is something that is a result of their character, or despite it.

Garrett played with that ‘90s Cowboys team. He has first hand experience of seeing the type of players it takes to win a championship. Some will have swagger and some will mess up. But in the end, he’s hoping to surround himself with enough players that have the understanding of what it takes to win and the overwhelming desire to carry it out. That’s a right kind of guy.

Ochoa: Jourdan Lewis is an interesting example, and so is Dak Prescott. While the jury is still out on Lewis (both figuratively and literally) we obviously feel as comfortable as we can that Dak Prescott is without certainty an RKG.

So much of your point centers around Jason Garrett and his control over this process, which is admittedly an awesome thing. The point of that then is that the RKG philosophy and structure responsibility falls squarely on him, as it should. When Dak Prescott was proved to be Dak Prescott, we praised Garrett... Damien Wilson (pending further details and all that jazz), DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Greg Hardy are all examples of the opposite end of the spectrum.

Garrett’s blatant ownership of the “right kind of guy” approach is certainly admirable, as is his acceptance of the repercussions of its perceived failures. This is why the true issue with it isn’t whether a player is or isn’t an RKG, it’s the elephant in the room that RKG has become. The successes of the philosophy can and will be reaped on the field and that’s all that really matters, but in the interim we have to deal with the fallout when an anti-RKG grenade goes off.

And so ends the first installment of The Big D-bate. What are your thoughts? Ready. Set. D-bate!


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