By David Helman
FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer
OXNARD, Calif. — Jerry Jones has been reading the headlines, it seems.
It will never come as a surprise that the Dallas Cowboys’ larger-than-life owner and general manager has something to say.
But Tuesday morning, as his team kicked off another training camp in Southern California, Jones had a laundry list of things to address, namely some of the main storylines that have dogged the Cowboys through a forgettable offseason.
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“I haven’t talked to y’all in a long time — I’ve got some stuff stored up here,” Jones quipped.
Chief among those concerns was the status of head coach Mike McCarthy. Heading into Year 3 of his tenure and after a disappointing exit from last year’s playoffs, speculation has swirled around McCarthy all offseason that he might be coaching for his job in 2022.
The topic clearly struck a nerve with Jones, who spent the first few minutes of this introductory press conference backing his coach’s job security.
“I want to be real clear: He wouldn’t be sitting here today if I didn’t think he was the man to lead this team to a Super Bowl — he would not be,” Jones said. “And I have choices.”
That last bit is the reason we got here in the first place. McCarthy’s status was called into question way back in January when Jones, still seething from a wild-card loss to San Francisco, declined to comment on the future of his coaching staff. He would later go on to clarify that his lack of transparency was a gambit to help retain the surfaces of Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator.
It’s a goal Jones managed to accomplish, though not without putting McCarthy’s future — not to mention Quinn’s — into the news cycle. And that all happened before Sean Payton’s retirement from the New Orleans Saints, thereby ensuring the longtime coach’s name will be perpetually linked to his former employers in Dallas.
Evidently, Jones has noticed.
“You guys write about a lot of these choices, and they were there for me to use had I wanted,” he said. “And, no, the guy to my right is the guy I’m convicted about. (I) have been.”
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As the drawing power of the Cowboys has taught us before, that doesn’t necessarily mean the talk will go away. At the very least, it can be a welcome sentiment for the head coach.
“It’s a huge challenge to be a Dallas Cowboy,” McCarthy said. “I think now, being more in tune with that, my daily focus is what affects winning, and that’s really where I put my energy and time into it. We understand narratives, that’s part of the job and that’s about as far as it goes with me.”
McCarthy joked Tuesday morning that the introductory press conference was Jones’ time to shine. He wasn’t wrong.
With the coaching speculation addressed, Jones also made sure to touch on the Cowboys’ personnel losses this offseason.
Conventional wisdom places Dallas’ roster a rung below last season’s squad, largely due to the loss of three longtime starters in Amari Cooper, La’el Collins and Randy Gregory. And while Jones didn’t utter any of those three names, it was clear who he was talking about when he said his team had good reasons for letting those veterans leave.
“More important than anything, these decisions that we made — I made — relative to top players not being here had everything to do with their availability and my concern about their availability,” he said.
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Point taken. Collins missed the entire 2020 season with a hip injury and was also suspended for five weeks last season, while Gregory’s history of NFL suspensions has forced him to miss dozens of games over the years.
Cooper only missed two games during his time with the Cowboys, but that absence was a result of contracting COVID-19 last fall — a fact that clearly aggravated team executives, as Cooper was unvaccinated.
“Those players were in the top 10 of our players that make the most money,” Jones said. “When you get in that spot, I can tell you your standards go up. Your bar is higher. Your conduct is higher. Your attention to the team is higher — not just your own performance but everything.”
In their place, the Cowboys have elevated a long list of promising but unproven players.
Chief operating officer Stephen Jones listed off names such as CeeDee Lamb, as well as rookies Tyler Smith and Sam Williams when talking about ways they could see their roster improve.
Not done speaking his mind, Jerry Jones said his team is better positioned than it was last summer, ahead of a run to a 12-5 record and an NFC East title.
“I think we are in better shape today to make a run at it than when we were sitting here at this time last year,” he said.
Clearly, the Cowboys are tired of reading other people’s narratives. Now, it’s time to see whether theirs can stick.
David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports, providing daily insight and analysis on the NFL’s most visible franchise. Prior to joining FOX, David spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website, DallasCowboys.com. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State.
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