OXNARD, Calif. – One of the most pressing questions of the Cowboys’ first day at training camp was also the final one.
As team officials wound down their introductory press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones was asked a simple, yet loaded question: is this a “playoffs or bust” season for coach Jason Garrett
Jones has become well known for giving wordy answers, but that wasn’t the case here.
“No. That’s the best answer I can give, and the fairest,” he said.
It wasn’t the only time Jones addressed Garrett’s job security on Wednesday, which only serves to underscore the scrutiny on the Cowboys’ head coach this year. Garrett is entering his eighth full season in charge and boasts a 67-53 record, not to mention two division championships.
Despite that, the Cowboys are coming off an underwhelming 2017 season – and then of course there’s the well-documented fact that Garrett boasts just one playoff win in seven seasons.
For a team that is so heavily scrutinized and so religiously followed, that resume is enough to cause plenty to call for Garrett’s job. As for Jones, he has long maintained that his faith in Garrett will pay dividends in the long run.
“As you well know, you’ve heard me say many times on a personal basis, if I may be so bold, I’d say he’s a lot better coach today than he was last year or the year before that or the year before that. That’s the way it works when you are driven and motivated,” Jones said.
Bringing Garrett back maintains the continuity at the top, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been changes. As has been well-documented to this point, the Cowboys overhauled a significant portion of their coaching staff, including the hires of secondary coach Kris Richard, wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal and offensive line coach Paul Alexander.
At the very outset of his press conference, Jones said those tweaks to the coaching staff were one of his biggest causes for optimism about the 2018 season.
“I’d say our coach and our coaching staff are the No. 1 reason that I’m excited about what we have ahead of us this year,” Jones said. “They’re going to get a chance, I think, to be at their profession, at the very best time, and that is with young players.”
The youth of the Cowboys’ roster is another familiar talking point at the outset of training camp. As it stands right now, this team currently has just three players aged 30 or older, and two of those are specialists Dan Bailey and L.P. Ladouceur.
Providing young players with a new perspective from the coaching staff is something Jones said he looks forward to watching in the coming weeks.
“Those guys are eager. They’re really listeners,” Jones said. “They want to get better. They know the best way for them to have their own individual importance is to be a part of a team and leave that I and me at the door. That will be emphasized out here, I know, by the makeup of this group.”
That work begins Thursday, as the Cowboys finally ease into their first training camp practices. Before the true scrutiny of the season gets underway, though, Jones was adamant at every turn that he had the right person in charge of his team.
“Everybody wants to step in like we did when we first got here and win three out of four in seven years. Everybody wants to do that. That’s not the NFL that I see,” Jones said. “I think it’s as logical as watching my step as I walk off this stage that Jason is better and the right man for this job, even though he didn’t get coach of the year last year.”