Despite perception, character matters

IRVING, Texas -- There is a long-held perception among many outside Valley Ranch that character means little to the Cowboys when it comes to the evaluation process.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones has selected some questionable characters (Quincy Carter comes to mind) but he also passed on Randy Moss in 1998. During Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference the term "makeup" was thrown around a lot by Jones, coach Jason Garrett and assistant director of player personnel Tom Ciskowski.

For Garrett, makeup means a lot. The Cowboys’ draft last year was filled with serious-minded players who were either captains or leaders of their teams, such as Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter, DeMarco Murray and Dwayne Harris.

"Guys that have the right kind of motor at early levels, the right kind of motor, the right kind of track records of competes, the right kind of track of work ethic, you can go down through those top picks you might find there is 20 percent of them that have outstanding makeup," Jones said.

"It’s not something that is easily attained for a player and that is factored in. We have that factored in with the grade; the fact that he practices like [Jay] Ratliff or he plays like Ratliff. To me that would be where we want to watch for and not get enamored with some of the other things that might make him impressive and stick to the fact that within a week he has to be out here and he has to hit the ground with the kind of work ethic he has never seen before and we want him to be in step with those guys. That is a plus. That is an ideal situation."

"Obviously if we could get the fastest strongest biggest with the greatest makeup of Jason Witten or frankly [Marc] Colombo, you could bottle that up or get that in a player with a lot of skill you have really done something.”

But there is a sliding scale involved if a talented player remains in later rounds, according to Garrett.

"When certain players have a great, great physical ability do you still want guys who have great make up?," Garrett said. "My experience and I think all of our experience has been the makeup part of a player is a big key to their success.

"Having said that, you’re more willing to look at a player who has more ability. You see it around the league every year on every football team with rookie players and with veteran players. So you’re always evaluating the player. You have to figure out what makeup quality they have that is fatal. In no way are we going to take this guy for this reason, I don’t care how great a player he is. Then you have to say, 'OK, what are his makeup issues? What are his character issues? Are they fatal? Is there something we can help them with?' And then you kind of work your way through that."

Garrett continued: "How good a player is he? Is he worth it? Where are we taking him? You like to say there is a hard and fast rule, you like to make it black and white, but that’s not the reality of it. You have to talk it through. You have to have a philosophy that you stick with consistently and then you have to weigh the risks of when we take that particular player."