'Not fun for anybody' or country club?

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
10:15
AM ET
If Will Allen is right, that means Jimmy Johnson was wrong.

Allen’s description of the problems that plague the Dallas Cowboys completely contradict Johnson’s criticism of a country club atmosphere at Valley Ranch. Heck, Johnson might consider Allen’s issues with the Cowboys to be a sign of progress.

During a Tuesday appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Allen used phrases such as “very micromanaged atmosphere” and “very tight” and cited a lack of “the relationship and the bonding between players and coaches” for creating a vibe at Valley Ranch that’s “not fun for anybody.” He was talking about the 2013 Cowboys, the team that employed him for the first four weeks of the season, but all those phrases would have fit Jimmy’s 1991 team, too.

Johnson, who ripped the Cowboys in recent years for coddling players, would probably be proud to hear Jason Garrett described as tough and combative. Maybe the former third-string quarterback wasn't just taking notes for no reason while picking Jimmy’s brain, when all the two-time Super Bowl championship coach really wanted to do was drink beer and catch a few fish during those recent visits in Florida.

Garrett needs results to justify keeping his job, but he at least deserves credit for creating a culture of accountability at Valley Ranch, which requires a head coach who is willing to make difficult decisions. Allen was a victim of that, getting cut because he was viewed as a progress stopper for young safeties J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath.

It’s fair to question whether the Cowboys would have been better off keeping Allen after watching Heath, an undrafted rookie, end up on the highlight reels of Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson and Drew Brees when filling in for an injured Wilcox the past few games. Maybe the 10-year veteran’s calming presence in the locker room could have had some value as the defense faced adversity, which is a polite way of saying “stunk up the joint.”

But it’s misguided to point to the lack of warm fuzzies from the coaching staff as the reason for the Cowboys’ extended run of mediocrity. What about Wade Phillips’ back-patting tenure?

Johnson’s comparison to a country club aimed higher than the coaching staff. That was an indirect shot at Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ owner/general manager/enabler. Garrett would never put it this way, but he’s gone to great lengths to change a dysfunctional culture, created in large part by Jones.

Really, though, the Cowboys’ biggest problems aren't about the coaches’ micromanaging or coddling players. This team simply isn't as talented as the stars at the top of the roster -- and those on the iconic helmets -- tend to make people believe.

That’s an issue that falls at the feet of the general manager with the most job security in the NFL, the man who couldn't coexist with a coach coming off back-to-back Super Bowl championships. You can't credibly discuss why there hasn't been a lot of fun at Valley Ranch for quite some time without blaming the boss.

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