The news out of Valley Ranch was far from surprising Tuesday.
But neither, alas, was the awkward way in which Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ General Manager for Life, delivered it.
It was classic Cowboys, who can find a way to make headlines, of one kind or another, even on a lazy June afternoon. And it was classic Jerry, the never-ending story.
So, who exactly will be calling the offensive plays this coming season, Jones was asked after practice?
With his uniquely flawless timing, Jerry revealed that that decision was made “weeks ago.”
The gathered media then tossed out the most obvious name, that of offensive coordinator and line coach Bill Callahan.
“Well, I don’t want to assume anything,” Jones replied. “I’m just saying, I don’t want to say. But the deal is, if you’ve been looking at practice you can get a pretty good idea of how it’s going there.”
Owner Jones, as a footnote, then proceeded to talk about how Callahan and his experience were ideally fit for the role.
The troublemaking media soon surrounded the unsuspecting Callahan and greeted him with the phrase often heard at Valley Ranch:
“Jerry said . . . ”
Callahan confirmed his new job, saying he was “honored” and “flattered” at the thought of calling plays for the Dallas Cowboys.
And that was it. No press conference. No ceremonial handing over of the clipboard. No photo of Callahan and Tony Romo, shaking hands.
Nope. Just a little more of Jason Garrett’s manhood removed from his ever-shrinking job description. Garrett, you may remember, is the head coach.
Callahan was quick to note, “Jason has placed a lot of trust in the staff. He is still involved in the game planning and in the meetings, and rightfully so. He is the head coach. This is his area of expertise. This is his system.”
When asked for his response to the day’s Jerry-ness, Garrett took his signature high road.
“I’m completely on board with all decisions we make,” the head coach said. “We make collective decisions in this organization. We always have, and we always will.”
Maybe Garrett even believes that. Who knows?
What we do know, however, is that the more that Owner Jones meddles, the more that he grandstands, and the more he appears to emasculate his head coach, the deeper that Garrett appears to dig in. It’s as if Jason wants to prove to everyone — to Jerry, to the players and to himself — that he can rise above this steady erosion of his authority and still, in the end, become a title-winning NFL head coach.
None of this, Garrett seems to say, is either unexpected or detracts from the mission at hand. If Garrett says that often enough and the players hear it often enough, he seems to think they’ll believe it.
But have they ever?
Ask the Cowboys players who they work for — ask Romo, for one — and I’ll wager that few of them would answer: “Coach Garrett.”
The situation isn’t unique, but with the Cowboys it speaks to the core of Garrett’s problem.
On the New England Patriots, the man in charge is unquestionably Bill Belichick. Head coach Sean Payton runs the Saints. Jim Harbaugh is clearly the heart and soul of the 49ers.
But as the Cowboys will tell you, they work for “Mister Jones.”
There are four million reasons (his annual salary) for Garrett not to walk out on what should be, were it not for the owner, one of sport’s most coveted jobs. But the more Jones casually embarrasses his head coach, the more Jason Garrett seems determined to weather the storm.
It’s a process, as he might say. He is only concerned with winning, he says.
Maybe so. But for Garrett, the high road at Valley Ranch just got a lot steeper.