A few quick thoughts from Wednesday's opening press conference from Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett here, then it's back to fish tacos and ocean breezes for me...
1. Armageddon 2.0? Last year, it was, "this isn't an Armageddon season" for Garrett. This year, Jones stayed away from fire and brimstone by describing 2014 as, "not a make-or-break season" for Garrett, at least regarding the team's record. I firmly believe Jerry really likes Jason and is going to do everything he can to keep him around in 2015, barring the team ending up with a top-5 pick in the NFL Draft. That said, another year out of the postseason (which is likely, considering Dallas' unbelievably difficult schedule) would have the Cowboys fan base continuing its downward spiral beyond its already frustrated state. The 2014 season very well could be make-or-break for Jason Garrett, no matter what Jerry Jones is saying on July 23rd.
2. Josh Brent, Jerry? I think it's fair to say the media was pretty surprised to hear Jones speak so candidly about the Cowboys interest in bringing back Josh Brent once he serves his suspension (likely) on the way from Roger Goodell's office. Brent was convicted of intoxicated manslaughter in a wreck that resulted in the passing away of his Cowboys' teammate, Jerry Brown, and was just recently released from prison. After his press conference, Jones (per usual) conducted a walk-and-talk media session for reporters who thought 30 minutes of Jerry and Jason talking wasn't enough. In that interview, Jones said, "Josh Brent deserves an opportunity. He has made a terrible mistake and he knows it. I know firsthand he has contrition, and so, yes, I will consider giving him an opportunity."
3. They like Brandon Weeden. One of the reasons the Cowboys were willing to allow Kyle Orton to walk away from the team and into retirement was, according to Jerry, that they liked what they saw from former first round quarterback Brandon Weeden in offseason workouts. Don't show that sentence to a Cleveland Browns fan. The members of the Pound in Ohio will tell you that Brandon Weeden is not a good football player. That said, my colleague at NBC 5, Newy Scruggs, made a great point on our Blue Star Blog webcast. Newy believes Weeden is better than what he showed with the Browns because, well, nobody looked good with the Browns while he was there. Weeden put up huge numbers in college at Oklahoma State, and is (selfish point here) one of the better soundbites I've chatted with in a pro football locker room. However, he's been widely criticized for his decision making (26 interceptions in 23 career games). I'm very interested to see him play in the preseason.
4. Romo is full go. Mike Fisher from 105.3 The Fan tweeted in the week leading up to Cowboys training camp that Tony Romo was working out in "a cardio spin class" to get ready. That sounded to me like a quarterback preparing to be a full participant in training camp. And then Jason Garrett told the media Wednesday that he anticipates Romo will be "ready to go in all aspects" when the team takes the field for the first time Thursday. Romo is coming off his second back surgery in the last two years, and without a proven backup quarterback (see point #3 above), Dallas desperately needs him to play a full season at a high level.
5. The best linebacker Nick Saban's coached? The Cowboys are beginning to stock up on players who have not lived up to their NFL Draft first round selections. Along with Weeden (again, see #3), Dallas signed former first round pick Rolando McClain to a deal, hoping he can fill the void left when Sean Lee went down with a torn ACL in offseason workouts. McClain didn't totally live up to the hype when the Raiders made him the eighth overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, although he did lead Oakland in tackles in 2011. McClain has been hampered by a handful of off-the-field incidents, and actually retired at the age of 23 before agreeing to the deal with Dallas. We'll get our first look at Rolando on the field Thursday before he'll be gone briefly (he's due in court in Alabama Friday because of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges filed in 2013). Garrett said he expects McClain to be back from Alabama and in practices this weekend, and that he remembered Nick Saban calling the former Alabama linebacker one of the best players he'd ever coached. Jones said his motivation in bringing in McClain was mainly the injury to Lee, and that, "I know a lot of successful people who have quit and come back." McClain will have the opportunity to face his former team, the Raiders, in practice in Oxnard in a few weeks. Oakland and Dallas will have joint practices in Oxnard Aug. 12 and 13.