It's been over 23 years. Dallas Cowboys fans know very well what that means. On January 28th, 1996, the Cowboys won their fifth Super Bowl. It would also be their last. Since then, the Cowboys have been through many ups and downs. Many coaches and players have worn the Star trying to return America's Team to its glory days. The latest head coach to attempt such a feat is Jason Garrett, who's been the team's head coach since 2011. As Garrett gets ready for the 2019 season, he's doing so with a lot to prove.
With only one year left on his current contract with the Cowboys, his future looks more uncertain than ever. There's a reason why the front office didn't give him an extension. Whether Jason Garrett is the right man for Dallas or not, it's understandable why fans have questioned it for a long time. After all, they root for a football franchise that hasn't been to the NFC Championship game in more than two decades.
While we could spend a large amount of time discussing if he's the coach to take bring a sixth Lombardi Trophy to Dallas, let's discuss culture.
On his book “Gridiron Genius,” Michael Lombardi discusses the topic in the first chapter, pointing out how culture is the most important aspect to build a winning team. Players, coaches and front office must be all-in on a common plan. And make no mistake about what “all-in” means. Bill Walsh's famous 17-principle “Standard of Performance” is a good example.
This got me to thinking, has Jason Garrett established the right kind of culture in Dallas? Despite many doubts one can have regarding the Cowboys' HC, I believe the culture is indeed the right one. I believe that's why he's still coaching the team.
Garrett's teams have always fought for him. Even in 2015, when the Cowboys faced big-time adversity, they fought every week. A year later, after going through hell, the team didn't budge when Tony Romo went down in the preseason. It could've been very easy for players who had been on that 2015 team to mentally give up. They didn't, and Dak Prescott made sure they didn't regret it. In 2018, the team came back from a 3-5 record, winning seven of their last eight, and went on to win a playoff game.
Garrett's “Fight.” mantra really transcends the locker room. His players believe in him, which can't be underestimated in this league.
One perfect example of why Jason Garrett's culture is stronger than given credit for has to do with the Cowboys' young stars that have been negotiating contract extensions lately. In the modern NFL, it seems like holdouts are a required step in negotiations. Around the league, players holdout for training camp, preseason and sometimes even regular season. It happens every year, with longtime veterans and young rising players.
The Dallas Cowboys, despite having their hands full with players to be extended, haven't had to suffer in this aspect. Sure, DeMarcus Lawrence did hold off surgery until he got paid this offseason, but a year ago, he accepted the franchise tag and was there for the team since day one.
Dak Prescott, who is looking to be one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league, hasn't threatened with any kind of holdout. Neither has superstar Ezekiel Elliott, one of the best running backs in the league since 2016. Amari Cooper, due for a payday, is focused on getting to training camp and will not miss any time. Not even Byron Jones, who might seem like the most likely odd man out with only a year left on his current contract.
So many holdout candidates, yet not a single one. If that doesn't speak well of Jason Garrett's culture, I don't know what does. These are big-time players who are not using potential leverages to get a new deal. They're undoubtedly hoping to get something done, but they are hard at work with their team and with their eyes set on the 2019 season.
I understand the concerns surrounding the Cowboys' current head coach. I even have a few of my own. However, I don't doubt for a second he's established the right culture in Dallas.