Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett loves to talk about process, and now that his team is 6-1 and the toast of the NFC it’s time Cowboys Nation started listening.
Every time Garrett gets behind a podium he finds a way to talk about process – the methods in which he manages, motivates and prepares his team. Every head coach has questions they don’t want to answer during press conferences: Wade Phillips would “aw shucks” his way around them; Bill Parcels would glower and ridicule the questioner. Jason Garrett pivots to process.
Reporters scoff at it, but it’s honest and it’s illuminating. During Monday’s day-after press conference, one reporter remarked on his process, and Garrett’s response got the group laughing:
Let the last one go, don’t worry about the next one, focus on this one right now.
Reporter: “Can you talk about, since you came in here, it being a process and one game at a time and all that… Is there a point where you feel like they really bought in to what you were saying, that it is one game at a time and not looking ahead and all that?”
Garrett: “You’re not going to like the answer, but it’s a process.” (Laughter.)
Garrett would amplify:
"“You never have that, OK, we got that part of it down. You never have that. You have to continue to work on that every single day, and you have to earn it every single day… It’s an important way to be your best as a football coach or a player or a football team is to let the last one go, don’t worry about the next one, focus on this one right now and the preparation leading up to this one. So that’s really something that we talk about and we try to emphasize in everything that we do. Our game fits that. It’s a one-play-at-a-time-type game. So we try to instill that in our players and how we can be our best each and every down, each and every week. That’s what we try to do, and that’s a work in progress.”"
Ever since he was named the interim head coach midway through the 2010 season, Garrett has talked about being great today – don’t worry about yesterday, don’t think about tomorrow, be great today. Then stack a few great days together, and you’ve got yourself a great week. Keep stacking, and before you know it, you got a great month, and so on.
Monday he talked about how his coaches help the players narrow their focus this way:
"“It’s our job to create an atmosphere and environment where everyone has to be focused on each practice day leading up to the preparation. Typically the game will take care of itself if you do that.”"
How do you help your team avoid a letdown following a huge road win across the country against the defending Super Bowl champions? Players can’t mail it in during practice. Every coach on the field is tasked with riding them to be great. Riding them to be focused. Riding them to get better. Riding them to get everything that can be got out of every single rep.
Remember what Garrett told the 90 men who showed up for camp to start the 2013 season: “You’ve been to the Pro Bowl eight times? You’re getting your ass coached… You can get better. You just got here 15 minutes ago? You’re getting your ass coached. I don’t care where you came from. First-round pick, free agent who signed for nothing: Everybody’s getting coached. If you’re not getting coached, tell us. That’s our job to do that.”
The big focus we have is on ourselves to try to get better.
Garrett’s lieutenants are on the field, daring the players to have a letdown. Matt Eberflus and Ben Bloom with the linebackers; Jerome Henderson and Joe Baker with the secondary; Leon Lett with the defensive line. On offense there are wide receivers coach Derek Dooley, running backs coach Gary Brown, tight ends coach Mike Pope, and assistant O Line coach Frank Pollack.
These are the position coaches who carry out Garrett’s vision and process.
"“We always want to challenge each other and challenge our football team every day… It’s come in here and get better every day, and the big focus that we have is on ourselves to try to get better. Players and teams who get better over the course of the year are the ones who are playing at the end of the year. That’s kind of a mantra of ours and we really believe in that, and that’s what we have to do as coaches, we have to instill that in players every single day. We have to come in on Wednesday when the guys get back from the off day and challenge them to get better and focus on doing what we need to do as a football team to improve.”"
This is as good an explanation as any for how surprisingly well the Dallas defense has played this year: Garrett’s process creates an environment and an atmosphere where players play their best week in and week out.
This stuff is real, and it works if the folks in charge of administering it are 100 percent committed. It appears as if Garrett’s lieutenants are. Now that the overall talent level of the team has gotten a bit deeper, injuries and turnovers permitting of course, these Dallas Cowboys can make some noise this year.
If you don’t believe me, watch this video.