Commentary

Actions speak louder than his words

Cowboys' personnel moves driven by coach Garrett, evidenced by Ratliff's release

Originally Published: October 14, 2013
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Stop listening to Jason Garrett's words. Instead, pay attention to what he does.

His actions tell you everything you need to know about the Dallas Cowboys' head coach.

Since Garrett took the job, the Cowboys have either released or chosen not to re-sign veterans Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis, Kyle Kosier, Marion Barber, Terence Newman, Marc Colombo, Bradie James, Mike Jenkins, Felix Jones, Marcus Spears, Nate Livings and Gerald Sensabaugh.

Now, we can add defensive tackle Jay Ratliff to the list.

[+] Enlarge Jason Garrett
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Jay Ratliff, pictured here with Jason Garrett in 2011, is the latest in a long line of players released since the Cowboys hired their head coach midseason in 2010.

The Cowboys released the nine-year veteran, once one of the game's best defensive linemen, on Wednesday afternoon. Ratliff spent the first six weeks on the physically unable to perform list, and his groin injury was still several weeks away from healing.

The Cowboys had decided they were going to release him after the season. They opted to do it now instead of putting him on injured reserve.

Only 16 players remain from when Garrett took over from Wade Phillips after a 1-7 start to the 2010 season. Understand, Garrett has praised every player the Cowboys have released under his watch. And he'll do the same for Ratliff on Thursday morning.

But the reality is that if Garrett wanted him here, Ratliff would still be in Dallas.

This move was all about Garrett. Jerry Jones is the sentimental one. At times, Stephen Jones is, too.

They probably tried to find ways and reasons to keep Ratliff on the roster, since he's going to count $6.9 million against the salary cap next year.

Jones, an eternal optimist, seeks the positive in just about any situation, but especially one that involves a 32-year-old, who has earned $18 million the past two seasons while playing in only six of 22 games and contributing virtually nothing to the organization.

Unless, of course, you count angst.

Ratliff provided plenty of that, whether he was getting into a heated verbal altercation in the locker room last season with Jones. Or getting arrested for driving under the influence less than two months after one teammate, Jerry Brown, died in a car wreck and another, Josh Brent, was charged with intoxication manslaughter in that accident.

Ratliff was also involved in an ongoing feud with the Cowboys' training and medical staff.

Garrett, though, understands sentimentality leads to unemployment in the NFL.

He grew up around the game. His dad, Jim, was a college head coach and a longtime NFL scout. It's why Garrett is pragmatic about some parts of the game, especially personnel.

He continually says he doesn't care where guys played in college. Or where they were drafted. Or how much money they make.

He judges players by their contribution.

The day after virtually every game, Garrett talks about taking the emotion out of the game -- good or bad -- so the mistakes can be corrected and the players can prepare for the next opponent.

He took the same approach with Ratliff.

Garrett loves Ratliff's passion for the game. And his relentless spirit. And his work ethic and attitude.

But none of that matters if you can't make plays. While releasing Ratliff was probably a difficult decision for Garrett to make emotionally, it should have been easy from a practical standpoint.

Too many seasons of being an undersized nose tackle have impacted Ratliff, a Pro Bowl performer from 2008 to '11. He was named All-Pro in 2009, when the Cowboys earned their only playoff victory since 1996.

"There's no ill will. Jay's not upset," said Mark Slough, Ratliff's agent. "He's not mad. He's not angry. I think he understands the business side of this and understands this is a chance for him to make a fresh start.

"Jay has always played with a chip on his shoulder, ever since he came into the league. He wasn't good enough to go to the combine. He was a late pick, almost an afterthought. And then he makes a club and gets put in a position to play nose tackle in a 3-4, where by all accounts he shouldn't be playing. And he goes on and makes Pro Bowls.

"And that's because he is such a fearless competitor, and he does play with a chip on his shoulder. And I see that burning in him now. He knows what people have said about him in questioning why he's not there and does he want to play, does he not want to play. He's seen that. And I can tell you that he wants to play. And he will play. And I think he will play well."

Clearly, Garrett does not think Ratliff will be as effective, whether the coach chooses to admit it publicly or not; the Cowboys' actions tell us what Garrett thinks.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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