OXNARD, California – Maybe the piercing buzz of a power drill just beyond the River Ridge practice fields did temporarily cloud Jerry Jones’ hearing.
When asked at Friday’s training camp press conference what it will take for head coach Jason Garrett to receive a new contract, Jones smiled and cupped a hand to his ear.
“I really didn’t hear you,” he said. “We’ve got a drill going on back there. Next question.”
More likely, the Cowboys owner/general manager was simply bringing levity to a difficult question he has fielded many times this offseason as Garrett enters the final year of his current contract.
Jones did circle back to the matter a couple minutes later. He repeated what he has said for nine years, the length of Garrett’s tenure to date: He and the organization have every bit of confidence in their head coach.
“There’s no secret that the guy to my right here, I want (him) to be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for as long as I’m around to spell it,” Jones said. “That would be my goal.
“And that’s no secret, and many of you have written about it in various ways. Let’s see what’s ahead.”
What’s ahead: Short term, there are three weeks of camp practice here in Oxnard and two preseason games out west. Long term, there’s hope inside and outside the organization that the Cowboys will take a step forward from their divisional-round playoff appearance last January.
Jones provided general, though not necessarily specific expectations for this season.
“I expect us to be a better team," he said. "I think our personnel supports that. Our experience gained supports that. I am real impressed with the staff that Jason has put together. So I expect us to be better, and as a part of that should result in maybe advancing our record, or if you will, our place in the playoff.
“It should result in that. That’s the assumption you make that if you’re a better team and you’ve put together a sound one that can stay healthy, then you should be able to do better than you did last year.”
Garrett did not receive a contract extension this offseason, but he has coached in the final year of his deal before. The result? The Cowboys went 12-4, won the NFC East and might have reached the NFC title game if not for the controversial “Dez Catch” incompletion against Green Bay.
Garrett got a new deal then. It’s entirely possible he earns another one this year. At the NFL combine in February, Jones made clear that the lack of an extension for Garrett doesn’t mean a lack of faith.
“I do my best work without a net. I really do,” Jones said then. “I'm better with a little risk involved. In essence, there's a little bit of no net here. He is not in danger of having any issue with his credibility with his players or anybody else. It's well known, the support I have for him. No one breathing wants him to win and win big more than I do.”
Asked Friday where the confidence in Garrett lies, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones listed several reasons.
“I think we’ve had some really solid football teams,” Jones said. “I’ve never seen this team not play hard for him, even in some tough situations when we didn’t have (running back) Zeke (Elliott) for six games a couple years ago and the season was tough. I’ve always seen these teams really play hard for Jason all the way to the end, even when we knew in some cases we were out of it.
“The guys respond to him. They play hard for him. You know, we’ve just got to take the next step. But I do feel really good that Jason’s the right guy for this job.”