For better or worse, the Cowboys' locker room culture last decade was established by Jason Garrett. That culture – along with the expectations, avenues of communication, and organizational mandates that were in place – can't just be thrown out the window without a detailed plan to replace it. After putting together the majority of his coaching staff, one of Mike McCarthy's final and most outside-the-box hires was Rob Davis as assistant head coach. Davis will be instrumental in establishing the Cowboys' locker room culture going forward.
Davis, who played in Green Bay as a long snapper from 1996-2007, was the director of player personnel for the Packers with McCarthy from 2008-17. Since then, he's worked in the private corporate sector assisting with operational excellence and leadership development.
"Most of my post-playing career has been in the life-coaching space, trying to develop high-performing teams, develop young men into better men and better players," Davis said. "We're going to start there."
Davis was in the middle of explaining that the locker room is the most important room in the building ("no disrespect to any other offices") when wide receiver Randall Cobb, who was around Davis in Green Bay, happened to walk by.
"That man is a legend," Cobb chirped to the surrounding media.
Davis plans to develop similar relationships with the other Cowboys players and hopes to be a significant part of their careers and lives.
"Players don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," he said.
He'll likely be the conduit between player and organization for issues outside of on-field strategy or technique. The NFL is a results-based business and can be merciless in terms of any one player's status and livelihood. That extreme pressure can take a toll with players, and Davis hopes to mentor them as individuals who can handle adversity. It's a role that will benefit not only the current roster but future rookies and young players.
"The NFL can provide a lot of distractions for these young men coming into the league," he said. "Most of us come from humble beginnings, middle class all the way down to poverty, and sometimes this can be pretty big for us when we walk into the NFL."
Davis has said that he will make himself available to help the entire coaching staff in any on-field ways that they might need, but he also made it clear that they were specifically hired to handle their responsibilities.
"They're going to do the X's and O's, and I hope to provide assistance with both the X's and O's, but, more importantly, in the life and development of the whole player."
All of this made it a bit surprising that he was given the title of assistant head coach, considering that Davis has never held an official coaching title in the NFL or college. But McCarthy was allowed to determine his coaching staff upon being hired as head coach, and he likely spent his year off from the NFL considering his possibilities. It's clear that he values what Davis has to offer.
"The fact that he's placed a strong emphasis on the role that he wants me to play here shows a lot about what he thinks about the development of the locker room," said Davis.
After a decade under a previous regime, many of the player holdovers for the Cowboys have been anxious to meet, work with and learn more about McCarthy. It sounds like Davis will be a part of their lives even more immediately.
"We want to individually meet each of those men, talk a little bit about their professional and personal expectations, and try to help them reach their goals," Davis said. "We walk into this league as young men and hopefully leave as older men. Most guys know how to play football. They've just never been professional football players."