The Dallas Cowboys have long had a reputation as a team that’s run by Jerry Jones and only allows the head coach to do what Jones allows him to do. That’s been perpetuated by Jones’ lengthy business card that lists him as owner, president, and general manager, as well as disputes over control with both Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells in the past.
But things have changed in Dallas. Since leaving the team, it’s become apparent just how much sway Jason Garrett had over the roster, and we’re now starting to see how much influence new coach Mike McCarthy has, evident by the way the Cowboys have handled the sudden free agency of Earl Thomas.
The saga between the Cowboys and Thomas is stretching into its fourth football season, and it’s no secret there’s mutual flirtation there. So when Thomas became available after Baltimore terminated his contract, many expected Dallas to snatch him up by sunset. But McCarthy has apparently pumped the brakes a bit, wanting to first evaluate the players currently on the roster (a difficult task without a normal offseason) and then get into vetting Thomas.
#Cowboys Jerry Jones on Earl Thomas situation 105.3 in DFW: Dallas is weighing where they are on the roster and haven't visited with Earl. He didn't really rule Earl out. "At the end of the day it's like any other thing where you have to make a decision." Says he'll weigh it. ♂️ https://t.co/NhXTIPGxUO— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) August 25, 2020
This approach seemingly reflects McCarthy’s own desire to place a greater emphasis on the personalities he brings to the team and how they fit into the established locker room. This is something he reportedly stressed as a priority during his interview with Jones ahead of being hired.
Part of McCarthy’s #Cowboys interview was talking about what he learned in Green Bay and also how his time off allowed for some reflection about managing personalities in an organization. That’s a locker room thing. If it wasn’t important to him, it wouldn’t have been brought up. https://t.co/XSxCWwHjk3— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) August 25, 2020
When it comes to vetting Thomas as a potential fit, McCarthy also has a leg up in terms of evaluating his personality. McCarthy has a close relationship with longtime Seahawks general manager John Schneider, and will be able to pick his brain about the All Pro safety.
Before #Cowboys’ Jerry Jones speaks about Earl Thomas, I’ll say this: I think he’s leaning into what Mike McCarthy wants in a locker room. McCarthy is very close to #Seahawks GM John Schneider. If there’s anything McCarthy needs to know about Thomas, Schneider will have told him.— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) August 25, 2020
Trust me on this: John Schneider and Mike McCarthy have a relationship that is about respect and friendship. If McCarthy had his way in Green Bay, Schneider would have taken over for Ted Thompson when that GM job opened. These guys will be honest with each other above all else. https://t.co/0EClNyhsKl— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) August 25, 2020
According to comments Jones made on Tuesday, the Cowboys are following that exact process and are moving onto the phase of looking into Thomas and directly speaking with him.
#Cowboys Owner/GM Jerry Jones says the first part of the Earl Thomas decision is to evaluate what they have on roster at that position. He said they’ve completed that phase and next would be to speak directly with Thomas and his agent. So #Cowboys remain interested.— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) August 25, 2020
This is a big change from the Cowboys of old. Under Garrett, the team typically showed interest in players like Thomas, or Jamal Adams, but ultimately decided it was too much money or draft capital to give up before talking about how much they liked their own players.
Prior to Garrett, it was typical Cowboys fashion to shell out big money or draft capital to get the big name free agents, even if it wasn’t a good fit. Who can forget the high profile trades for Joey Galloway and Roy Williams, or the massive contract that landed Brandon Carr one year into Garrett’s tenure as head coach?
It’s clear that McCarthy is looking to strike a balance between those two extremes. They’re willing to spend a little bit to sign guys like Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Everson Griffen, but are also being deliberate and cautious about who they bring in. The fact that Jones and the rest of the front office has taken this approach almost immediately is a direct reflection of just how much influence McCarthy has in how they handle situations like this.
In the case of Earl Thomas, McCarthy’s connection to Schneider means the team will be able to make the most informed decision possible. Those are the kinds of luxuries you get with a coach as well-traveled and experienced as McCarthy, and it’s why fans should be confident in the future of this organization, regardless of what gets decided on Thomas.