This is the second installment of an exclusive Bleacher Report interview with NFL Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. Smith played on three Super Bowl championship teams and is the NFL's all-time leading rusher.
I asked Emmitt to talk about the Dallas Cowboys.
Was Jason Garrett a good hire?
Does Jerry Jones know what he is doing as general manager?
Will Deion Sanders and Charles Haley join teammates Emmitt, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Emmitt has opinions, and we've got them right here.
[Note: I have truncated the interview for ease of reading and flow. The entire interview is available in an audio file at the end of this article.]
Bleacher Report: Troy (Aikman) and Michael (Irvin) have already weighed in on Jason Garrett. They both seem to be pretty excited about him as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. What are your feelings on it?
Emmitt Smith: I am excited for Jason, also. What I love is, by watching the Cowboys last five or six games of the season, I saw a different team. I know he implemented a couple of changes to the practice schedule and I think it paid off.
It showed up in the areas where the Cowboys ran the ball very...um, well, I am not going to say very effectively, but they ran the ball better. Offensively, they started cutting down on some of the penalties. Defensively, they started getting turnovers, which is also important. And they started playing competitive football, which is most important.
Give Jason Garrett a whole year to make his demands and expectations known to the team, in terms of the offseason training program and the in-season training program, and get them to buy into that, I think you will see a very different football team.
One thing I can say about the Dallas Cowboys: They have always had talent around them. They have been one of the most talented football teams in all of football. With this type of focus and commitment from Jason Garrett, I think they can turn it around fairly quickly.
B/R: Do you think Jerry Jones will give him the kind of authority and freedom to do the things he wants to do and implement what needs to be done in order to succeed?
Emmitt: Well, we are talking about the difference between drafting players and running the football operations and implementing your gameplan for practice schedules and those kinds of things. I think Jerry is more likely to afford Jason the opportunity to run the practice facilities and expectations of the team the way he likes, but I still believe...Jerry has a whole lot to say about the players that he brings in.
That's not a problem, by the way. Think about it: I just said the Cowboys are one of the most talented football teams in all of football. Somebody had to bring that talent in.
B/R: So, you don't think talent evaluation is a real issue?
Emmitt: I think his talent evaluation has been excellent. It's been spot on in a lot of cases. Yeah, he may have made some mistakes here and there, but for the most part he has done well.
Emmitt did not mention the influence of Bill Parcells on the current roster. It was Parcells who found the undrafted Tony Romo and drafted perennial Pro Bowlers Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware.
B/R: Speaking of talent evaluation, we are looking at a top-nine draft pick. What area would you like to see them focus on?
Emmitt: Um... (Pause.)
B/R: Or, is that more about taking the best player available at that point?
Emmitt: I think I would make a trade to try and get some more picks. Go down, you know, just to pick up a couple of extra second or third round picks...I think the Cowboys need to focus on some young ball-hawkers, meaning defensive players—secondary guys, safeties, linebackers, et cetera. But I (also) think we need to upgrade somewhere in our interior (offensive) line.
B/R: What about the running back situation? Are you comfortable with where it is?
Emmitt: I think that the trio is pretty solid, but the Cowboys need to figure out who's going to be No. 1, who's going to be No. 2 and then make a decision on the third back. If Marion (Barber) is your No. 3, can you get a cheaper No. 3, but an effective No. 3?
B/R: You and Troy and Michael are all in the Hall of Fame now. We have two more Cowboys from that era among the finalists this year: Charles Haley and Deion Sanders. Seems like Sanders ought to be a shoo-in, what do you think?
Emmitt: I agree. If there is a lock in the group, it ought to be Deion.
B/R: What about Charles Haley? Does he belong in the Hall of Fame and do you think he will get there?
Emmitt: Yes, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. The Dude's got five rings. He was a force to be dealt with in the National Football League. He deserves to be there. Will he get in? He probably gets snubbed because of the media.
B/R: Because of the perception of character issues and things like that?
Emmitt: Yeah, but the game is not predicated upon character issues. We all got flaws. Some have been exposed more than others.
Charles Haley was a difficult character to deal with for teammates, coaches and opponents. To my knowledge, however, he never ran afoul of the law. Since his playing career, he has been diagnosed with a bipolar disorder and now takes medication for it.
B/R: What other Cowboys from that era would you put into the Hall of Fame?
Emmitt: That's a good question. Larry Allen should be coming up.
B/R: He should be a first-ballot selection, shouldn't he?
Emmitt: Yeah. Drew Pearson should go in.
I am with Emmitt on that one. Drew Pearson was a game-changer with numbers very similar to those of the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Lynn Swann, Pearson's contemporary and opponent in two of the best Super Bowls ever played.
Drew Pearson was the Cowboys' original No. 88 playmaker.
B/R: What about Darren Woodson? Do you think he will ever be a consideration?
Emmitt: He might be up for consideration. I just don't know if he will get in. I would love to see as many Cowboys get in as possible, but you know how that is.
For the record, offensive guard/tackle Larry Allen was an 11-time Pro Bowl player and was named to the All-Pro team six times in his 14-year career. Darren Woodson played strong safety for the Dallas Cowboys for 12 seasons. He was named to five Pro Bowls and was All-Pro three times. Woodson was a key defensive player on three Super Bowl-winning teams.
Drew Pearson was named to the all-'70s NFL team.
None of these players have found their way into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor yet. They really only need one vote for that.
I am looking at you, Jerry Jones.
This Emmitt Smith interview was brought to you courtesy of Hershey's and their Pro Football Hall of Fame Sweepstakes.
Listen to the full audio version of the interview here.