July 27, 2011

Commentary: All signs point to Garrett taking control of Cowboys

Jason Garrett is stepping up to run the Cowboys his way.

SAN ANTONIO -- You heard it here first, the Dallas Cowboys are heading for great success under first-year coach Jason Garrett.

It might not all come together this season, but the foundation is being laid for a legitimate return to glory.

I don't need to see a practice or the first game.

I don't need to see who they sign in free agency, whether marriage has matured Tony Romo or whether Dez Bryant can stay out of trouble and on the field.

Garrett had me at hello.

Actually, Garrett made me a believer when he did the impossible at Wednesday's news conference at the Alamodome to open his first training camp as head coach.

He silenced owner Jerry Jones.

Save for the Jimmy Johnson years and the Bill Parcells years, these gatherings are usually filled with hope and optimism and Jones dominating the proceedings with bluster about the Cowboys' chance of making a Super Bowl.

But after Jones opened the presser waxing eloquently about his role in the new labor agreement, he said his main reason to be excited about the season was Garrett.

He then gave the microphone to his head coach, who commenced to answer questions for roughly 20 minutes without any interjections or offerings to Jones.

This was no fluke.

This was the Cowboys getting back to running a football team the right way, with the coach in charge and leading the way.

And when you have the right coach -- and from all perspectives so far, Garrett is that guy -- good things usually happen.

Wade Phillips gets credit for leading this team to a 13-3 season in 2007, winning two division titles and their first playoff win since 1996.

But the erosion of preparation, discipline, attention to detail and accountability eventually caught up to Phillips' team.


Let's just keep it real.

That's certainly how the Cowboys played at the start of last season, resulting in a 1-7 start, Phillips' eventual firing, and the midseason promotion for Garrett.

His no-nonsense, disciplined and prepared approach took hold immediately as the Cowboys finished 5-3 during his eight-game run to end the season 6-10.

Garrett certainly had big expectations for the off-season and training camp in how he was going to put the dog back into this team with tougher and more grueling practices.

But with the new collective bargaining agreement came new league-wide rules, forbidding teams from having two-a-day padded practices.

Jerry Jones explained that "we are in a different world now" in terms of preparation.

What he meant to say was "we are now in Wade's World," as the entire NFL has gone Camp Cupcake.

Who knew that Wade Phillips was ahead of his time?

The good news is the new rules will not deter Garrett from preparing the Cowboys his way and distancing them from the mess of last year.

Actually Garrett got his message across to the team Monday when the Cowboys informed receiver Roy Williams, running back Marion Barber and tackle Robert Brewster that they were being cut and to not bother coming to camp.

He was only going to have his type of players in the locker room. Players who adhered to his philosophy and follow his rules.

While money played a factor in the decisions with Williams and Barber, their past run-ins with Garrett shouldn't be overlooked.

Williams' days were numbered when it was announced at Garrett's hiring news conference that he would have control over the roster and no player would be on the team without his blessing.

Outside of Barber's injuries and declining numbers was his refusal to honor Garrett's dress code of a coat and tie in his first game as head coach last season. Garrett didn't punish him then. But the red-headed Boy Wonder got the last laugh.

And Brewster, a 2009 third-round pick, was frequently tardy -- a no-no in Garrett's new house that features digital clocks to make sure everyone is on time.

This is Garrett's team. His stamp is evident. If you didn't know by the coming cuts, you know by the way he made Jones disappear.

That's a good sign of things to come.

Clarence Hill, 817-390-7760

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