During the past decade, it seems like the Dallas Cowboys have been evolving. When Bill Parcells left, it seemed like the Cowboys were growing into a consistent playoff contender. Then Wade Phillips was hired and the Cowboys went on to go 13-3 before being disappointed in their first home playoff game in what seemed like forever. The next few years with Phillips were up and down, the up being a second division title and a playoff win. The downs were two very sub par years and a team that quit on Phillips. Yes, they quit on him and for anyone to think otherwise is foolish.
Enter the Jason Garrett era, which when looking at the on-field record, can be described as average.
Looking back at these Cowboys teams, there seems to be something lacking, an identity. Think about it now, can you honestly say you knew what the Cowboys identity was during the time of Bill Parcells? I can’t. It was supposed to be a time of change with Parcells in charge and change did occur. Coach Parcells brought in a more focused approach to the game of football and he held a lot of sway over Owner Jerry Jones, bringing in former players that he’d had success with.
However, Jones managed to challenge Parcells’ authority when he signed Terrell Owens, a player Parcells clearly didn’t want. Back then the Cowboys were shuffling in quarterbacks left and right. First it was Quincy Carter, then Vinny Testaverde and then Drew Bledsoe before the Tony Romo era began. It was an unstable position during Parcells time in Dallas and probably the biggest reason why they didn’t succeed more under Parcells. But again, where is the identity of a football team when the coach is bringing in former players, especially at the most important position? I can’t see a team forging an identity after creating one somewhere else before coming to Dallas.
It was easier to see an identity trying to be formed when Wade Phillips was hired, he was a “players coach” hired to get the most out of the Cowboys young defensive talent that was drafted by Parcells, and Jones. Dallas was gaining an identity as a defensive team with the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Roy Williams, Bradie James, Jay Ratliff and Terence Newman. They added to that nucleus when they drafted another pass rusher, Anthony Spencer, in 2007. Yet the defense under Phillips never dominated much, aside from the final few games of the 2009 season.
Instead it was the offense under Tony Romo, Jason Witten, TO, Marion Barber and emerging talents like Miles Austin and Felix Jones who seemed to be forging an identity. Remember it was Tony Romo’s fault in the playoffs or in the month of December that caused the Cowboys lack of success. Rarely did we hear about the defense being at fault. In fact, it wasn’t until the 2010 and 2011 disappointments that the defense started receiving their share of criticism.
It appears the only real identity that came about for Wade Phillips’ tenure was the Cowboys were chokers. And that is not an identity at all.
Now we are into Jason Garrett’s time, but again, what is his Cowboys teams identity? Are they a passing team or a running team? Are they going to be a defensively dominant group now that Rob Ryan has the players he needs and a full off-season to work his system in properly? Will they be known as a well prepared, mentally and physically tough team?
I’m not sure we can know yet but I do think this year we will find out what the Dallas Cowboys identity will be under Jason Garrett. I think that process was started the minute he took over as head coach. We’ve all seen the quotes from Garrett about the way he approaches the game and about the way he wants his players to approach the game. The identity has been forming and it’s about working hard and improving each day.
I’ve said this a bunch of times already in my works with Rant Sports; Jason Garrett wants smart, tough football players who work hard. He wants a blue collar group. He wants a quiet confidence on his team, a cohesive unit that loves to play football. I believe the identity of the Dallas Cowboys under Jason Garrett will be summed up in one word, team. Their success depends upon it.