IRVING, Texas – Jason Garrett's constant preaching about accountability rings hollow unless it's backed up with actions when necessary.
NFL players care about two things above all else: money and playing time. Garrett doesn’t control the purse strings at Valley Ranch, but he’s in charge of playing time.
And it’s time for Garrett to use that authority to hammer home his point about accountability, which he recognizes is directly related to playing time.
“We make so many personnel decisions about who’s going to be on our football team, what role they’re going to have on our football team, if they’re going to have a minor role, if they’re going to be a starting player, if they’re going to play in particular situations,” Garrett said. “A lot of it’s based on what they’ve done and certainly the alternatives that we have at those positions.
“We’re constantly evaluating it, and if guys aren’t getting it done, we’re going to look for the next best alternative. We’ve always tried to do that.”
Garrett has proven that he’s willing to get rid of underachieving veterans, cutting guys like Marion Barber, Roy Williams, Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode and Terence Newman since he’s been the head coach. However, all of those moves were made before or after the season.
What personnel moves has Garrett made during a season that enforced his message about accountability?
There are two prime opportunities for that at this point, but Garrett has been hesitant to pull the trigger.
Jones has been one of the worst kickoff returners in the NFL, as evidenced by the Cowboys ranking second to last in the league in average field position following a kickoff. Undrafted rookie Lance Dunbar would love a crack at the role, but Jones still sits atop the depth chart.
Bernadeau has been among the worst offensive guards in the league. Derrick Dockery has significant starting experience, but Bernadeau says he’s not worried about losing his starting job.
Garrett has said he doesn't believe in change for change's sake. But operating under Albert Einstein's definition of insanity certainly isn't the solution.
Maybe Jones’ status as a former first-round pick keeps affording him opportunities. Perhaps Bernadeau’s fresh four-year, $11 contract earns him patience.
But the Cowboys can’t let the investments they’ve made affect their decisions about playing time at underperforming positions. Garrett often talks about evaluating based solely on performance, not the number or name on the jersey.
That’s especially important for a .500 team fighting to stay in the thick of the NFC East race.
Garrett’s message sounds good, but he might as well be Charlie Brown’s teacher if he doesn’t back it up with action.