The Cowboys coach recently granted The Oklahoman an extensive interview.
Q: You're often portrayed as a players' coach. Is that a fair assessment?
A: I would like to think so. They know that I truly care about them. That's one of my strengths. But I think they also know that I've worked hard for 30 years to get where I am. If I have to make a business decision, I'll make it.
Q: How do you compare to Dallas head coaches you've worked under (Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer and Chan Gailey)?
A: Obviously, we're all different, and I've learned from everybody I've ever been around.
All those guys had a little bit
different style. I'm not trying to
fill anybody's shoes. If you fill
anybody's shoes, it will probably be Tom Landry's. I'm filling
my own shoes."
Q: Do you feel pressure coaching one of the nation's most scrutinized sports franchises?
A: My dad recently was in town. He loves old football tapes, and we were watching highlights of the 1995 Super Bowl season. There was a lot of controversy at the time. Barry was under siege a little bit. It brought to the forefront this is a very high-profile job. At the same time, I've been here 11 years, so I know what I'm getting into.
Q: What will be your priorities in preparation for the upcoming season?
A: No. 1, if we're going to be a quick-strike offense, we've got to get a tempo going. I want us to be an up-tempo, aggressive offense. Ball security. Cutting down on penalties. Those are the areas we will be stressing.
Q: Dallas traded for Joey Galloway to combine with Rocket Ismail. Will this be as wide open an offense as the Cowboys have had during your 12 seasons here?
A: We wanted to add speed. We wanted to get some playmakers, some guys that could go up top. The key to the whole thing is their ability to make plays. Plus, the inside guys have to do a good job, as well. There's going to be some double coverage on the wideouts, I guarantee you.
Q: Many are picking the Redskins to reach the Super Bowl. Do you agree that Washington is the team to beat in your division?
A: They did a lot of nice things, but we like a lot of the things we did, too, in the off- season. I hope the NFC East is really tough. That's what gives you a competitive edge that gives you a chance to go all the way. Back when we were winning Super Bowls, our division was tough.
Q: Do you agree with those who say this team's window of opportunity is closing now that Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith are nearing the end of their careers?
A: I wouldn't say the window is closing. We did enough this off-season to be competitive, more competitive than we've been in a few years. That's the key. We'll make a run with the guys we've got. Your first goal is to get into the playoffs.
Q: What is your response to claims that Aikman essentially calls the shots behind the scenes?
A: A lot of that out there is somewhat unfounded. A lot of people think Troy has a big impact on whether a guy is here or not. That's unfair to Troy. Those decisions were made by the administration based on a lot of different criteria and will be made again in the future.
Q: What is your relationship with Aikman?
A: I have an outstanding relationship with Troy. That's important. But I look at Troy as just another member of this team, albeit he is the quarterback. You can't go all the way without having a solid quarterback. I think Troy, like me, is excited after some things we did this off-season, things we all feel give us a chance to win.
Q: Is there enough talent to make a Super Bowl run?
A: We've got good enough athletes to win. We've got a good enough coaching staff to win. The bottom line is there are a lot of people who have those same kind of people. Everybody thinks they're good at this point and time. I look at is as the molding of two different groups, the molding of guys who were in the last Super Bowl and a bunch of young, hungry guys. If we put those two together, we have a chance. People talk about us being old, but only nine guys are left who were on our last Super Bowl team.
Q: The general consensus is your defense will drop off without Deion Sanders. The cornerbacks are suspect, and many claim your linebackers are undersized.
A: People have been saying those type of things about our defense for years. I would like to think our defense will be a fairly solid unit again this year. I don't have any concern about the size of our defense. Our front four, with the eight players we have in the rotation, is as good as it's been in a long time. That will allow our linebackers to run to the football. Obviously, you have some concern at corner. Any time you have young players, you have to find out if they can handle the rigors of the schedule. That's one of the big keys in training camp. We'll have a better feel for it as we go through preseason.
Q: Some of your rookies, specifically cornerback Mario Edwards, were trash-talking during minicamp practices. Does that bother you?
A: No. I'm just letting the guys be themselves. I like it, myself, because that's part of competition, talking to each other. But at the same time, I'm not necessarily encouraging it.
Q: This team has struggled on the road the past three seasons. What changes will you make to change that trend?
A: I don't know the reason for that. We just need to go about our business and approach every game the same. Last year, we did not finish. We had leads in almost every game. We must cut down on penalties and finish games. That will be a little bit of a theme in training camp.
Q: What is your primary goal heading into camp?
A: We have to find our best
22, then find our best 53. The
second goal is to have the attitude that we will work hard to
become a tough, physical team
with good speed. If we can put
it all together, we'll be in good
shape. Focus and finish are the
two areas we'll stress.