IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett truly cares about character.
Character is a critical element to Garrett's football philosophy and an integral part of the fabric of how he tries to build a team. It’s a subject he eagerly discusses in great detail, as he did during his Tuesday news conference.
“Are you the right kind of guy?” Garrett said. “Are you part of this team that we're trying to build? Can you play the way we want to play? That’s a really important consideration. So every time we talk about personnel, those are the things that come into my mind. Does this guy represent what we want?
“I can stand in front of the team and make great speeches and show them clips of movies and inspire them in a lot of different ways and tell them what we’re all about. And then if we take a player and have this guy on our team that doesn’t really represent any of that other stuff, the players look at you like, ‘Yeah, this is what he stands for. This isn’t what he stands for.’ We believe in building something that we’re all going to be proud of.”
Therein lies the real risk of the Cowboys’ trade for twice-retired middle linebacker Rolando McClain.
The deal with the Baltimore Ravens made perfect sense for the Cowboys on paper. At the most, it would cost the Cowboys a swap of their sixth-round pick for the Ravens’ seventh-round pick, so there is no real risk in terms of value. After Sean Lee’s season-ending knee injury, Dallas was desperate to add a playmaker at middle linebacker, and McClain has that potential as a 25-year-old former eighth overall pick.
But how does McClain represent all those intangible attributes that Garrett values so greatly?
“We’ll see,” Garrett said. “Rolando McClain was a great football player coming out of Alabama and if anybody watched him play in college, you’d be pretty impressed with everything that I was just talking about. I know someone really well down there who runs that program who really endorsed him for all the reasons that we’ve talked about, not just physical ability, just everything he was all about.
“Oftentimes players get to a certain place or have different things happen in their lives that maybe the best isn’t brought out in them, because of what they’ve done or because of an environment they might be in. We believe in second chances, and it really doesn’t matter where guys come from. We feel like giving him an opportunity to show that he is that guy that everybody thought he was when he was in college is a good bet.”