Drones? Virtual Reality? Jason Garrett Still Calls Dallas Cowboys ‘Old School’


The Dallas Cowboys ended OTA practices Wednesday amid media buzz about camera drones and virtual reality simulators. Valley Ranch has gone Sci-Fi in 2015, employing cutting-edge technology in hopes of gaining any kind of edge on the field. But the folks running this organization know winning in the NFL is about much more than out-nerding the competition.

In a video available on the team’s site, head coach Jason Garrett answered questions about the team’s techie vibe by pivoting to the core identity he’s spent four seasons building:

"“We’re an old-school team. We’re an old-school operation. That’s how we conduct our business day to day, whether it’s in the meeting room, in a walk-thru, on the practice field, and hopefully how we play. Those are things that we emphasize – old-school fundamentals that have won in this league for a long time.“Having said that, you always want to be innovative in everything that you’re doing. You want to be on the cutting edge, particularly in how you teach players and hopefully in how they learn… You try to use the technology without losing some of the essence of great teaching and great coaching that’s been in place for a long time. So we’re open to new ideas, but we want to make sure our foundation stays in place.”"

Garrett loves pivoting to process and organizational philosophy during his press conferences. The principles he discussed Wednesday are as important to winning games in December as technology, talent acquisition, player development, or creative game planning. They are the core of sustained success in the NFL.

How did the Cowboys run the table in December last year? Remember they ended November with perhaps the worst loss of the Garrett Era – a 33-10 Thanksgiving embarrassment at home to division rival Philadelphia. That loss put the Eagles in the driver’s seat to win the NFC East, and had the pundits predicting another December collapse for America’s Team.

“It’s one of the philosophies we have,” Garrett said Wednesday, answering a question about how the team will build on a 12-4 season. “You focus on what you can control and you focus on today, and you’re really not building on anything.”

"“You put that behind you. You learn from those experiences. Some positive, some not so positive, and hopefully you grow as a result of them… Our players have heard that from me and our coaching staff from minute one. It’s not a new theme. We talk about it all the time. We’ve talked about it for a number of years. It’s an important part of the culture we have here. You stay focused on the task at hand, and you let past successes and past adversities go. You focus on what you need to do right now.”"

People say it was the game planning – the Cowboys found success in December by sticking to the run. They say it was the talent – rookie right guard Zack Martin was a revelation and overall the roster was better than in years past. All that’s important.

Equally important to last season’s perfect December was burying the Thanksgiving loss. Garrett’s drumbeat made that possible. Forget the last one, don’t worry about the next one, and focus on today. Mental and physical toughness. Be your best regardless of circumstances. Compete. Fight. These old-school concepts define Garrett’s Cowboys, more so than drones and virtual reality.

“(Virtual reality) is something that’s a piece of what we’re doing,” Garrett said. “We’ve emphasized to our coaches and to our team we like the way we do things. We like how we practice. We like how we meet. We like how we walk through. We think we do it well, but we’re open to things we think can help enhance that.”

"“One of the basic tenants of our teaching is to keep it simple. Keep the game simple. If you’ve ever played this game, plays happen fast. The best players simplify the game and they go play… So that’s the essence. That’s line one of our teaching in everything we do – to keep the game simple, help them to understand the game conceptually, and then go play… So we’re always trying to do that regardless of what tool we’re using.”"

The setting is a state-of-the-art virtual reality simulator. The spirit is Tom Landry’s chalk board. It’s pure Texas toughness sporting a Princeton pedigree. There’s your edge, Cowboys Nation.

Next: The Philadelphia Eagles Are Better Than The Dallas Cowboys? Really ESPN?