Commentary

Whose team is it anyway?

Cowboys' kick returner situation raises questions about Jones/Garrett dynamic

Originally Published: September 20, 2012
By Todd Archer | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Being the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys is one of the best jobs in sports. It can also be one of the worst.

Only with the Cowboys would the team's unrest at kickoff returner become such an issue.

[+] EnlargeFelix Jones
AP Photo/James D SmithFelix Jones fumbled the opening kick against Seattle, leading to speculation about his job security.

On Monday, Jason Garrett was asked if Felix Jones would continue as the team's returner after fumbling the opening kick and making questionable decisions to take other kicks out of the end zone at Seattle.

"We're always looking at personnel, to be honest with you, and when you make a play like that, you look hard again at that and what the alternatives are," Garrett said then.

On Tuesday, owner and general manager Jerry Jones was asked on his KRLD-FM radio spot about Felix Jones' status, and he said it was foolish to think the former first-round pick would not be on the roster, and his role would not change.

It was read as another sign that Jerry Jones is calling all the shots with the team. On Wednesday, Garrett said Felix Jones would be the returner Sunday against Tampa Bay.

To those who believe the owner is making the call, it all seems so convenient.

The general manager in every other NFL city is not asked about a player's role on a team. And in only one other spot does the general manager double as the team's owner, and Cincinnati's Mike Brown does not do a weekly radio show.

This is a perception that has lingered forever -- or at least since Jimmy Johnson left -- and will not go away.

When Wade Phillips was presented with "things Jerry said," he would give perhaps the worst answer possible: "Well, whatever Jerry says," and he would chuckle. Unfortunately for Phillips, that played into the thought that Jones attaches strings to the coaches hands when he hires them.

Garrett One of the things that I think we do a really good job of in this organization is we discuss things. The Joneses and I discuss a lot of things.

-- Cowboys coach Jason Garrett

When Garrett has been presented with similar statements, he talks about the collaboration that exists.

"One of the things that I think we do a really good job of in this organization is we discuss things. The Joneses and I discuss a lot of things," Garrett said in reference to Jerry and son Stephen, the team's executive vice president. "Our staff and I discuss a lot of things. We discuss a lot of things with our pro personnel and our college scouting department, so the lines of communication are open.

"There's no thing that's going to be 'my decision,' or, 'his decision,' or 'that guy's decision,' or 'this guy's decision.' When we talk about players playing, (special teams coach) Joe (DeCamillis) has a huge role in who's going to be our returner. Now, is he going to make the decision? No. I'm going to get involved in that discussion. Other people are going to get involved in that discussion. That's just the way it works, and we think that's a good thing."

When Garrett took over as coach on a full-time basis, the owner said there would not be a player on the roster who Garrett did not want.

If you look at the additions and subtractions that have been made the last two seasons, do you see somebody Garrett doesn't still want around?

If there's something to quibble with Garrett, it's how he has dealt with the Felix Jones situation.

On the one hand, he talks about how important it is for the team to "be in the now" and move on from the good or the bad. But his public affection for Felix Jones is only about what the running back has done in the past.

"Felix's body of work has been pretty darn good," Garrett said.

That's the past tense. In the present, everything has been a struggle so far for Jones, from failing the conditioning test to start training camp, to poor practice performances to poor showings in the preseason and regular-season games.

If Garrett wants to do away with the perception, he can make a change at kick returner this week, not to confront the owner and general manager but because it's the right thing for the team at this point.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ALSO SEE

MORE NFL HEADLINES