Commentary

Jones did right by giving Garrett power

Owner's decision to give coach authority over hires finally sends the right message

Updated: January 7, 2011, 8:52 AM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

"Really, I do want to answer that one and I want to be real clear with it," Jones said, referring to a question about whether Garrett would have the power to select his own coaching staff.

For a moment, this appeared to be a classic spotlight-seeking Jerry scene. For goodness sake, the guy couldn't even let Garrett answer a question intended for him at a news conference introducing him as the eighth coach in franchise history -- and seventh in Jones' 22-year tenure.

Then Jones put at least a temporary dent in the perception of him as a power-crazed egomaniac.

"Jason will have the final say on any person that leaves the coaching staff or comes to the coaching staff," Jones said. "There won't be a player on this team that Jason does not want on the team."

No wiggle room there whatsoever.

Jerry declared that Garrett, whose head coaching resume consists of an impressive 5-3 run after taking over a one-win mess this season, has the ultimate authority to hire and fire players and coaches at Valley Ranch. That's quite a statement from an owner who proudly proclaimed more than two decades ago that he'd make every decision, right down to "socks and jocks," and stuck to his guns over the years.

And it's not like Jones just said it once. He reiterated the point repeatedly while talking to reporters after the conclusion of the news conference.

It turns out that Jones didn't have to hire a Super Bowl-winning coach like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden to cede a significant amount of control of the Cowboys. He turned it over to the 44-year-old Garrett without even interviewing another candidate with head coaching experience.

"I wanted to make sure that our fans knew the extent of his power, the extent of his ability to do the kinds of things we traditionally would frankly like for the coach to be able to do," Jones said, well aware that the media horde will be eager to hold him to his word. "Don't be na´ve here. You know that I'm criticized for making decisions in areas that fans and other people would like coaches to make. I'm criticized for that.

"I particularly wanted to be sure that you understood that because of the differences in our age. The facts are that he brings that energy, he brings that qualification and I wanted you to see the respect that I have for him."

Forget about the fans and media for a moment. The most important thing is that the players on the roster understand the extent of Garrett's power.

They got a strong dose of Garrett's all-business attitude during the last eight weeks of the season. There ought to be no doubt now that players better either get on board or pack their belongings.

(Memo to Roy Williams: Hey, after making almost $13 million this season, at least you can afford to move in style.)

Hours after firing Wade Phillips, Jones made a point of saying that he wanted Garrett to "change the culture" of Valley Ranch. Garrett more than held up his end of the bargain, motivating a team that had been mailing it in to fight for every minute of each rather meaningless game for the rest of the season. He earned this job with the 5-3 record, especially considering that the Cowboys were playing without their franchise quarterback and have plenty of holes to fill on the rest of the roster.

Now, Jerry is doing his part. He wouldn't put it in these words, but it's apparent that he's recognized his role in the culture problem. It's tough for a coach to command respect when the lines of command loop around him.

It's a bit ironic that the hiring of Garrett essentially doomed the Cowboys' previous head coach to puppet status. Phillips couldn't possibly come across as a strong head coach when his offensive coordinator was hired before him and all but appointed his successor.

Todd Bowles, one of the Rooney Rule candidates who interviewed with Jones while the finishing touches were being put on Garrett's contract, is the leading candidate to be the Cowboys' defensive coordinator. But this isn't a case of the owner overstepping his bounds.

Garrett worked with Bowles in 2007 and has great respect for him. Bowles' hiring would be a mutual decision.

Garrett, not feeling the need to flaunt his power, made sure to mention that he expected to make a lot of mutual decisions with Jones -- once the owner ceded control of the microphone.

"Ultimately, we're going to feel good about decisions we make as an organization," Garrett said. "We communicate. We have very similar football values, and we'll come to the right conclusions together and make organizational decisions."

Jerry has already been proven right by Garrett. The owner looks smart for identifying the young candidate as a future head coach four years ago and fighting to keep him when the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens reached the same conclusion and offered him jobs after the 2007 season.

Now, Jerry has the right idea again: When in doubt, get out of Garrett's way.

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.