Dallas Cowboys OTAs: Jason Garrett No Man’s Puppet


Coming out of three straight 8-8 seasons, many questioned Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett’s ability to lead a football team. Many criticized him as a puppet of owner Jerry Jones. Many others wanted to believe in his process but gave up on him. Now they’re all trying to understand how the Cowboys got good. What some still refuse to see is the Cowboys are good because of Garrett.

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The team’s recent success and future promise are due to, as much as anything else, the organizational culture instilled by Garrett. That culture of hard work, competition and accountability took time to grow and constant, pounding focus to take hold. It is what drives everything else. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the words of his coaches and players.

Press representatives attended OTA work outs Wednesday, and Cowboys players and coaches spoke with reporters. All these videos are available on dallascowboys.com – the themes should be familiar to any Garrett fans:

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, when asked how he likes the new talent he’s got to work with on offense:

"“The biggest thing about our team that I like is just how we think and how we go about our business and how the guys work. The talent takes care of itself. I think the NFL across the board has good talent. There might be very marginal differences. I think our big edge, and we’ve got to continue to think this way, is how we work, how we prepare, how we go about our business, and how we work as a team. That’s the part that impresses me the most.”"

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, with characteristic brevity, on how important it is for cornerback Morris Claiborne to get reps in training camp:

"“Every man, you want to get as much work as you can for him in training camp. Develop the base he needs to play a 16-20 game season.”"

Linebackers coach Matt Eberflus, on the size of his position group:

"“There’s choices there, but again you keep an open mind. It’s up for competition. I’ve been mixing guys, if you were here yesterday I had a whole bunch of different guys out there at different positions, and today I moved it around again. So they all got to learn all the positions and they’re excited about that.”"

Running backs coach Gary Brown, on how new acquisition Darren McFadden is performing so far:

"“I gotta give all those guys credit. I’m trying to mix them in, they’re all getting chances with the ones, and they’re performing. So they know that there’s a job to be won, and they all want it. At the same time they’re going to work hard to help themselves, and everybody gets better. So if they get better, the team gets better.”"

McFadden got his own mini-feature, produced by Lindsay Cash, and he was struck by the way the Cowboys offensive line got after it in May:

"“Those guys are working hard, man. They’re some of the hardest working guys I’ve been around. Seeing them go out there and work as hard as they do, I love it as a running back. Being able to be out here with these guys, you know, once you’ve been in a place so long like Oakland you get set in your ways. Coming out here and being around guys who are working so hard just brings out the best in you and that’s something I really look forward to. Me, I’m just going out there, grinding every play, trying to take advantage of the opportunity that I have.”"

That unit’s newest addition, rookie free agent offensive lineman La’el Collins, was asked what impressed him most about his new Pro Bowl position mates:

"“I see a lot of hard work. There’s nothing that needs to be said. Each and every day you come out, you work hard, you get better, and everything else will take care of itself.”"

And of course Garrett was asked about the boast made by Collins during the press conference announcing his signing – that the Cowboys were going to have the best offensive line in NFL history:

"“I think if you know that group you understand what they’re all about, and if you know our team you understand what we’re all about. Sometimes there’s some hype that comes with different things that happen, and some things are said, but I like what Tyron Smith said: ‘We want to be known as the hardest-working unit on the team. As the hardest-working unit in the NFL.’ And I think that’s the culture we try to create here, and those are the kind of guys we bring in. Sometimes when you have a signing there are some statements made that people run with. Our biggest thing is to get back to focusing on today. Have a great OTA Day Number 2, on May 27th. That’s where our focus is. That’s where the focus of the group is, and that’s the kind of team we want to be. We want to be focused more on what we do rather than what we say.”"

What Garrett is doing, and what he’s been doing for four years, is building a perennial contender through a culture of hard work, high expectations, competition and accountability. McFadden and Collins are new to the team. They are two days into their first OTA, and already they sound like veterans of this culture. That’s not easy to do to grown men.

If you still think Garrett is any man’s puppet, well, that says more about you than it does about Garrett.