Jason Garrett makes strong statement
Planned cuts show new Cowboys coach has real power, unlike his predecessor
SAN ANTONIO -- If players were wondering just how much juice Jason Garrett has as the Dallas Cowboys' coach, they received the answer Tuesday.
The organization's decision to cut Marion Barber, Leonard Davis and Roy Williams sends a message to players that was rarely sent during the Wade Phillips era: Players must be accountable. They will not be gift wrapped positions and playing time. And if you don't like it, there's the door.
For the most part, a team is made up of players willing to go along for the ride and do what is asked by the coach. A smaller percentage of players will go above and beyond. A similarly small percentage will question why they have to do things.
A coach's goal is to keep the last group away from the malleable first group in order to promote the proper message.
Absent the traditional offseason and with the impending opening of training camp, Garrett had to deliver a message to the team with more than words. He needed actions.
By cutting three popular players who held sway over a lot of teammates in the locker room, the reactions should be: "Gulp, they got rid of those guys so I better take care of my business."
Garrett started that process when he took over last year with harder practices and the announcements of fines in team meetings.
Barber famously did not comply with Garrett's dress code edict before the coach's first game against the New York Giants. Barber was fined. Davis wore a ridiculously short tie -- after showing up for the plane ride without one -- and it was noticed. Williams had some comments about a lack of passes coming his way. It was noticed.
Small stuff, to be sure, but that small stuff chips away at a coach's authority. Garrett took care of the small stuff in a big way Tuesday.
He will need actions once the on-field practices start, too. He can't deliver them within the normal two-a-days, but it is safe to say he will put his team in pads for most of the 3-hour practices inside the Alamodome before the first preseason game Aug. 11.
You might think these decisions were pretty easy considering the salary-cap savings and declining production of Barber, Williams and Davis.
But these were Garrett's guys, offensive guys. Guys he told to keep pounding and grinding for three years. Guys he really got to know. Guys who produced for him in clutch ways in big games (mostly Barber and Davis) over four seasons.
It would have been easier for him to look at the other side of the ball, considering how the defense imploded in 2010, and cut underachievers over there. Garrett hardly interacted with those guys before taking over for Phillips. He does not have the same relationships with them.
But if he did that, some defenders would have felt like they were being overly scrutinized by an offensive-minded coach. The defensive guys notice things like this. They count heads the way we count heads.
By lopping a team captain from last year (Barber), a three-time Pro Bowler (Davis) and a wide receiver with a big contract, Garrett has set himself up to take control of the team.
Too often, Phillips' response to a question about something owner Jerry Jones said or did would be a joke: "Well, whatever Jerry wants."
It always received giggles from the assembled media but it was also the absolute wrong thing for him to say. In a way, Phillips undercut himself with that remark, even if he did not know it. Players knew Phillips had no juice, and that perpetuated it. His biggest roster move was to cut third-team tight end Andy Thorn after he missed a curfew in San Antonio.
When Jones gave Garrett the job on a permanent basis, he said there will not be a player on the roster Garrett does not want.
On Tuesday, Garrett showed his muscles.
Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.