The Dallas Cowboys advanced in the playoffs for the first time in over a decade last season. The success came following a purge of many talented players that did not fit within the chemistry of the team, including notables such as Terrell Owens and Pacman Jones.
On the heels of this successful step, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones announced that he would “lead the battle against complacency” in an effort to go even deeper next season.
Head Coach Wade Phillips was more specific when prompted. In discussing the possibility of a situation such as Kevin Ogletree outperforming wide receiver Roy Williams, Phillips stated that the Cowboys would be playing “the best player, no matter what.”
Jones failed to echo the sentiment, when asked if he could envision a scenario in which Roy Williams would be benched, Jones answered, “No. No. A big no.”
In making the statment, Jones essentially was telling the media that Roy Williams was untouchable as a starter even though the former Lion has failed to impress thus far in his time in Dallas.
Last season he put up 38 receptions for 596 yards, though he did post seven touchdowns. In the 10 games he played with a star on his jersey in 2008, he posted an equally mediocre 19 receptions for 198 yards and only one touchdown.
Taking away one two-game flurry midseason, Williams had 28 catches for only 416 yards in 13 games.
The concern is that the announcement has more to do with pride on Jones’ part than any true dedication to Williams’ talent.
When seeking Williams partway into the 2008 season, Jones elected to gut the Cowboys 2009 draft as trade fodder for the 6'3", 215 pound Detroit talent.
He also came with a hefty $45 million price tag—roughly 1.25 catches per million dollars thus far. Williams has not seemed to develop any rapport with quarterback Tony Romo, after posting 2,148 yards in his last two full seasons for the woeful (and then quarterback starved) Detroit Lions.
The statement would give the impression Jones intends to adhere to his own notions when it comes to personnel decisions.
One of the prime reasons listed for letting Owens depart was to open up opportunities for the team’s young wide receivers such as Miles Austin and Sam Hurd to reach their full potential.
Unloading one high profile “progress stopper” (as Jones described Owens) seemed to work quite well for Dallas, with Miles Austin exploding for 81 catches and 1310 yards (after 18 receptions for 354 yards in his 37 games prior to 2009).
If the formula worked once, why not at least present the option for it to work again?
If Jones truly wishes to fight complacency and usher in a new era of success in Dallas, it would seem that telling his players unequivocally that no job was safe would be the best path.
It would not necessitate actually benching Williams, but at least it would not be allowing him the luxury of unearned security without having any urgency to deserve the job.
Jones has often been portrayed as a prideful but talented man, willing to do what it takes for success but often hamstrung by his own ego.
In this situation—an inability to admit even the possibility of failure—could come back to hurt the Dallas Cowboys, who appear resigned to put their best foot forward with an asterisk.