“We’ve got a head coach who we know for 10 years has been saying, ‘We’re focused on Tuesday. Today. That’s all we’re worried about is having the best practice today that we can possibly have.’ And that’s been his messaging throughout,” Aikman said on KTCK Radio, “and the owner’s talking about getting on a run and winning the Super Bowl. And they’ve lost three of their last four.”
Garrett’s own situation is uncertain, with Jones cryptically saying this week that the coach, whose contract expires at the end of the season, would be “coaching in the NFL next season.” Note that he didn’t say where. And Jerry Jones also seemed at odds with Stephen Jones, his son and the Cowboys’ vice president, over struggling kicker Brett Maher. Aikman emphasized that conflict by taking a little dig at the owner’s frequent, impromptu news conferences.
“You’ve got a head coach who comes down and says we’re going to evaluate the kicker, and then the front office says right after that — probably in a press conference right outside the locker room — that they weren’t evaluating the kicker,” Aikman said. “All those things have an impact, and it slowly trickles down.
“So, I think there are a lot of factors that have played into this — coaching, obviously hasn’t been great at times in certain situations, players haven’t played great, but the front office hasn’t been great in allowing the head coach to do his job, either.”
It might seem that, with Stephen Jones in a position of power, Jerry would be stepping back a bit, but Aikman sees an organization that hasn’t changed over the last few years.
“I think maybe in some ways it’s gotten worse,” he said. “I think Will McClay, by all accounts, has done a great job [as the vice president of player personnel]. … Essentially, Will McClay is the general manager. He’s the one doing the general manager work. You can say, ‘Well, that’s not his title’ and I’d say, ‘Well, that’s true.’ I just think if you look around the NFL — and I understand the Cowboys, they approach it a little bit differently, they approach it a lot differently.
“As I said last week, I think football is only important when it’s important. I think, the business of business is, it seems to me, is more important than the business of football — until game day. And then it’s ‘why aren’t we winning? Why isn’t this happening?’ You look around the league — even really prominent owners that are very visible in our game — they’re not giving the medical reports after games about the team and who’s going to play the next game and who’s not going to play and how severe is the injury? Who played well? Who didn’t play well? Coaches don’t even know; they’ve got to watch the tape. They have a general idea, but those things, I think it undermines a coaching staff and it has an impact. As players, you feel that.”
That, Aikman said, didn’t happen when he and former coach Jimmy Johnson were taking the team to Jones’s preferred destination, the Super Bowl.
“It starts to take away some of the authority of the head coach,” Aikman said. “And it’s been going on for 20 years, and at some level there’s players that start feeling that, ‘Oh, okay. This is the guy who’s really calling all the shots.’ … I think there’s some organizations that truly would do everything possible to win, they just don’t really know where to begin. And there’s different ways to do it — and I certainly understand that — but in Dallas, Dallas knows how it was done. I know how it was done. It was done with a really strong head coach who the players knew that that’s who they had to answer to. And for some reason that model changed, and it hasn’t been very effective for a while.”
Aikman didn’t back away from his assessment Wednesday, telling NBCDFW.com that Garrett is “a heck of a football coach” with “the hardest job in football.”
“There is a lot he has to overcome,” Aikman said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s not run traditionally the way most organizations are and that is to the detriment of the Cowboys. You can’t look at three playoff wins over the last 25 years and surmise that all the problems over that time have to do with coaching. I think you have to look at the top and say how are we doing it from the top. I think businesses do that. I think anyone worth their salt evaluate it from the top down.”