Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett Smart to Announce Jay Ratliff Will Stay with Team

Alex Hall@@AlexKHallCorrespondent IIIFebruary 23, 2013

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 21:  Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys walks onto the field during their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on October 21, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys might be in full NFL combine mode right now, but Jason Garrett couldn't escape the looming question about Jay Ratliff at his press conference on Friday. 

The former Pro Bowl defensive tackle's status with the team has been in question among fans since his injury-riddled season and spats with owner Jerry Jones. Despite all this, though, the Cowboys' head coach made an emphatic statement regarding whether Ratliff will return, saying "absolutely."

Garrett also commented on Ratliff's 2012 season and what he means to the team.

In the games he played this year, he played like Jay Ratliff plays. [He] is an outstanding football player...we'll see where he fits [in the 4-3] as we go through the spring and training camp.

With Jones having employed several head coaches since buying the Cowboys in 1989, Garrett was smart to make this statement before Jones beat him to it.

The announcement helps create a sense of stability for Ratliff and his teammates. It also helps better assert Garrett's authority as the head coach after an offseason when Jones told him he essentially has to give up offensive play-calling responsibilities. 

Jones' decision to limit Garrett's role in the offense brought into question his standing in the organization. Garrett's announcement that the Cowboys plan to retain Ratliff reasserted his control, at least to some degree.

It also just plain makes sense for the Cowboys to keep one of their defensive staples for the past seven seasons. Ratliff has been to four Pro Bowls and could easily add to that total with Dallas moving from the 3-4 to the 4-3, Tampa 2-style of Monte Kiffin.

Having another defensive tackle in the interior will take double-teams off Ratliff as well as give opponents another big man to block up front. Diverting attention from Ratliff should improve his ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Garrett likely realizes that a switch in schemes defensively means he's going to need an uptick in play from his proven veterans. It's also probably crossed his mind that Ratliff could flourish in a 4-3 system with the originator of the Tampa 2 guiding him.

Cutting Ratliff just isn't an option for Dallas when the defense is in transition once again. Plus, Ratliff just received a new contract with $18 million guaranteed two years ago.

Ratliff's 2012 season was easily one of the worst in his career, but canning arguably the best lineman on the roster would not benefit Dallas in any way.

Garrett was smart to make sure he was the one to come out and support his player. This announcement should take at least one question out of the conversation in Valley Ranch and give Garrett some much-needed authority for his position.