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Senior Bowl: Moving To Players-First Mentality?


MOBILE, Ala. – While the main focus of the Senior Bowl usually centers on the players on the field, there are always other topics of interest.

Executive VP Stephen Jones, the Cowboys' chief operating officer, was on hand to check out the first day of practice Tuesday at Ladd-People Stadium in Mobile.

But in between the South Team and North Team practices, Jones visited with reporters to discuss a wide range of topics.

Here are some of the highlights that came from Tuesday's quick media session.

Priority on Players

Last week, head coach Mike McCarthy said there will be less emphasis on traditional schemes and philosophies and more of a priority placed on simply finding talented players.

While that might not seem like a major change, Stephen Jones said on Tuesday that it could end up being a significant alteration in the way the Cowboys evaluate players, especially in settings such as the Senior Bowl.

"To some degree it is," Jones said of the new philosophy. "As you all know, Rod (Marinelli) knew what he wanted in his defense and the type of players he wanted. So there is some degree of flexibility there. Rod was also really successful, had a lot of good defenses while Rod was here. They all played the way you want football played. They played hard and hustled to the ball but at the same time, as Mike said, we want to find good football players and then put them in the best places to make plays."
McCarthy ultimately said the Cowboys would remain a four-man front on defense, but with defensive coordinator Mike Nolan having experience running both a 4-3 and 3-4, it sounds as if the Cowboys could experiment with running variations of both.

Happy For Garrett

Jason Garrett wasn't just the head coach for the last nine years, but he's been part of the Cowboys either as a player or coach for nearly 20 seasons. So if anyone is happy to see Garrett land on his feet as the new offensive coordinator for the Giants, it would be the Jones family.

Stephen Jones said he wasn't surprised at all to learn of Garrett's new gig.

"Jason's a football guy. He wants to go coach. Great offensive mind. They got a good one with Coach Garrett," Jones said. "Certainly he's got some good tools to work w up there certainly we've seen them between quarterback and the running back, they've got some good receivers up there. It looks like he's going to have a lot to work with and we'll get to see him twice a year."

Garrett, who is in Mobile this week interviewing some coaches for his new offensive staff, certainly has plenty of ties to the Giants' organization as well.

"He's from New Jersey … I know what the organization means to him, he was there as a quarterback," Jones said. " (We) just always wish Jason nothing but the best. He's nothing but a class act. We know he'll certainly help the Giants get on that road to where they want to go as well."

Mahomes Creating Urgency?

With Chiefs' star Patrick Mahomes expected to set a new market for quarterback salaries this offseason, the question was asked to Stephen Jones if there is more urgency now to re-sign Dak Prescott.

"It's been urgent for us. We want to certainly get that done," Stephne Jones said. "That's our No. 1 priority as we go into the offseason. To get his contract, find some resolution to it and get it done."

More on Stephen's thoughts regarding Dak and Amari Cooper's contract:

No Comment on Witten

Stephen Jones was unusually short when asked about Jason Witten's future with the team. The veteran tight end has yet to announce a decision to either retire or return for a 17th season.

"Really nothing there to comment on," Jones said of Witten, who will be an unrestricted free agent in March.

Witten had just 529 receiving yards last year, the lowest single-season total since his rookie year in 2003. He did finish the season with four touchdown catches, giving him 72 for his career, one short of tying Dez Bryant's franchise record of 73.

Jones might've left an out for Witten indirectly when he told reporters the team has "10 or 11 starters" coming back on offense. Witten started 16 games last year and assuming both Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott are re-signed as expected, and left guard Connor Williams returns from injury, he would be the only offensive starter in question.

Did New P.I. Rules Work?

The first year of the new pass interference rules have created plenty of debates around the league, but according to Stephen Jones, a member of the NFL's Competition Committee, the new rules were a success.

"I would say I was pleased—fewer calls, reversed, I'm not a big fan of flags on the field unless it's obvious," Jones said. "I think that's something we're getting ready to spend a lot of time on the competition committee, our meeting's up in New York. As far as I was concerned, you say it had its challenges. I think we worked around it for the most part."