- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXNARD, Calif. – It’s one of the most important things for a successful franchise and impossible to accurately measure.
Is it fair to judge the Cowboys’ leadership core based on the franchise’s lack of recent success? Not if you ask team captain Jason Witten or head coach Jason Garrett.
“This is one of the strongest leadership teams that I’ve been on,” said Witten, a consummate pro who readily admits that the fact that he has only one playoff win to show for a remarkable 10-year career eats away at him. “This is a great group of guys. Your best players are your hardest workers and a great group of guys.
“Look, don’t correlate that with wins and losses. I think this team understands that there’s a core group of guys that this is our football team. We understand that. We work together and we’re committed together to achieving the ultimate goal. It’s a tough challenge, but it’s not because of leadership. You watch one day of practice out here and you’ll see the way we work and go about it.”
Garrett, who stressed the importance of leadership during his camp-opening speech to the Cowboys, said he believes it is “a big part of any successful organization,” but added that there are several other factors in winning.
In other words, Garrett doesn’t consider a lack of leadership to be a factor in the Cowboys failing to make the playoffs the last three seasons. He said the Cowboys have a “band of leaders,” a group that presumably includes Witten, quarterback Tony Romo, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and middle linebacker Sean Lee.
“For me, line one of leadership is leading by example,” Garrett said. “We’ve got some really good football players who do things the right way each and every day. We’ve got a lot of young players who look at these guys and say, ‘Wow, that’s the way I do it,’ and they naturally do it. So that’s line one.
“But at different times as well, when you’re a leader, sometimes you’ve got to go influence a guy very directly, whether it’s with words, whatever you’ve got to do to get the guy going. That’s part of every football team I’ve ever been on. Some kid comes off a college campus and all of the sudden, this is the NFL and he’s not really doing things the way he’s supposed to be doing them. Certainly the head coach and the coaching staff has a big part in changing that behavior, but the leadership of the team, the culture they’ve created, are the guys that change it as much as anybody.”
The hope is that the Cowboys are right about their leadership and it’s actually reflected in the results this season.