If you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan or just a frequent watcher of the NFL Network, you’ve seen Jane Slater reporting on America’s Team. A Rowlett, Texas native, she also covers the New Orleans Saints and has recently tacked on the Tennessee Titans to her beat.
When she’s not on the job, you’re likely to find Jane on the golf course or at a driving range. During this quarantine, she’s also added teaching an online journalism class to her repertoire and has found time to catch up on her favorite reality TV.
We spoke with Slater recently about a myriad of topics, and she was so gracious with her time and info, we decided to break our interview up into two parts below. The first part is primarily focused on Cowboy-related topics, with the second part being more biographical and lighthearted.
Let’s get started….
The Spun: With all of our interviews recently, we’re starting in the same place. How are you handling the new “normal” during COVID-19?
Jane Slater: I’ve actually enjoyed it. I don’t travel as much as some reporters, but there is always an appetite for Cowboys news. So my offseason never really starts until OTAs are over and then I get a month and a half that I’m always so grateful for. But what I’ve loved about this is, while the steady diet of Cowboys is amazing, it’s really nice to cover other teams.
I’ve gotten to cover more of the Titans and Saints by virtue of doing the Zoom calls. My morning is typically up at 7:15, 7:30, getting camera ready like I would if I were going into the facility. When this all started, I had a pretty good indication this was going to go on for a little bit, so I purchased the soft light, the selfie light. I have the lavalier mic. I have the ISB. So we’ve been able to produce from home and then after that, I’ve actually been able to kind of enjoy some down time and breathe. There was a period from about November to January where I was basically living out of my suitcase.
The Spun: It’s funny you mentioned November to January being a hectic time. With the stature of the Cowboys, the personalities, Jerry Jones, it seems like everything around the team was magnified. What was the end of the Jason Garrett era like? Watching from afar, it seemed unreal because it looked like a foregone conclusion he was gone but yet the process took a while.
JS: It was 2020 in a nutshell. Jason Garrett showing up to work every single day and people inside the building telling me he had a binder under his arm and knowing that there was absolutely this notion that the Cowboys were moving on. I reported that they’d gone after Sean Payton in the offseason. I reported the meeting with Nick Saban. I just had Lincoln Riley on my podcast and I asked him point-blank ‘How interested were the Cowboys?’. He said something to the effect of ‘You know that’s a lightning rod. I have the greatest job in college football.’ That to me is, read between the lines, they talked to him.
Then, on the fact that Friday they told [Garrett] they were bringing in Marvin Lewis and Mike McCarthy, and he said ‘Those are great guys.’ So it was weird covering it. The whole thing was 100 percent weird.
The Spun: We were enjoying the dating metaphors on Twitter for what was happening. I think you had tweeted about some of them.
JS: Which Emmanuel Acho claims I stole from him (laughing). You can put that on the record. But I love Acho, we worked together at Longhorn Network.
The Spun: Obviously, the Cowboys went with McCarthy and he’s their new coach. What have been your first impressions of him so far?
JS: I love Mike McCarthy so far. If you listen to some of our exchanges, the people in Dallas have thought he’s gotten a little contentious with me, but I don’t look at it that way. I think he’s a little bit of a smartass, which I love. Mike Vrabel’s a little bit like that too when you listen to him. But if anything, he’s made me sharpen my reporting skills. I’d better come with the who, what, when, where, why and how and a possible follow-up.
It’s sort of more entertaining than Jason Garrett’s press conferences–and I like Jason Garrett. He just wasn’t exactly a reporter’s coach. He never gave you information. He never volunteered information in press conferences and it was pretty robotic. But Mike has me in stitches sometimes in the press conferences because of his responses.
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When @BobbyBeltTX and I started the pod we both asked ourselves what would be our dream guest on the “The Boys and Girl” Podcast. We both unanimously said @terrellowens & Friday it’s happening! Meeting him in Minny was surreal. My absolute favorite player growing up! Loved his intensity. Was always fascinated with the way he was covered by the media and everything that came with T.O. What do you want to know #Cowboys fans? Serious questions only. Currently I’m loving the tik tok videos and his mom is making masks during Covid. #getyopopcornready . . . #cowboys #football #terrellowens #nfl
The Spun: Recently on “The ‘Boys & Girl” podcast, you interviewed Terrell Owens. You posted that he was the one guest you really wanted to get. What was that experience like and did the interview live up to the expectations you had for it?
JS: It’s so funny, because if I closed my eyes, I felt like I was listening to Dez Bryant at times. I’ve gotten really close to Dez covering him in Dallas. I think a lot of times people don’t take the time to really understand somebody. I feel like our profession sometimes lacks empathy. If you knew where Dez came from, some of the stuff about Dez makes sense. Some of the stuff Terrell Owens said in that interview wasn’t stuff we hadn’t heard from other players in the past. Jason Hatcher has been very outspoken about what that locker room was like during that era. Jesse Holley is another one. And so, when I listened to T.O. that he said and I agree with is, back in the early 2000s and late-1990s, the media was the only way for guys to get their message across.
Now look, T.O. has done all sorts of things over the years. He’s highly emotional. He’s highly charged. But I think it’s fascinating that the people who knocked him for a touchdown celebration, we now embrace that in the league. His self-promotion is now something we see with every player. So I do think he was a little bit ahead of his time, but he did seem genuinely at peace. A lot of people see Dez and they sort of knock Dez and where he’s at even right now, but he’s at peace. So I think it’s just easy for people to look at Twitter and see these guys through a certain lens. I enjoyed the conversation. I found it to be very measured. That’s how Dez is when I talk to him a lot of times. But when you chop people’s interviews up, I think it’s really easy to create a narrative about them.
The Spun: So many former Cowboys are in broadcasting. What players on this current team do you think have a future in that side of the business?
JS: That’s a great question. I think Dak Prescott is remarkable. He’s such an interesting guy. Joe Looney is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. I do a show on Monday nights called “Inside the Huddle” and he had the entire audience singing “Mr. Brightside.” It was amazing. Leighton Vander Esch is really young, but because he’s got Sean Lee tendencies, I don’t think people realize how good Leighton is and I don’t know if Leighton would want that spotlight either but he’s really, really sharp. Jeff Heath is pretty good; of course, he’s with the Raiders now. I do an hour-long show with some of these guys so I’m trying to think who would be really dynamic at doing this but we just don’t have the personalities like we’ve had in the past in Dallas which I think is really interesting.
The guy that I love who just joined the Cowboys and I’m interested to see what his life will look like in a couple of years is Ben DiNucci, the quarterback. He was great on our podcast. The Romo beehive came for him for a tweet that he put out when he was 17 years old and he handled it like a champ. I’m gonna be really interested to see how he develops personality-wise. He really impressed me in the interview.
The Spun: Speaking of Tony Romo, what was it like covering him in Dallas and watching his career develop and also the Romo-Dak fault lines that developed at the end? Even during the 2016 season, there were many who thought it would still be Romo’s job. What was all of that like on the ground in the Dallas area?
JS: It was fascinating. I’ve known Tony since his third-string years when it was Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson, Drew Bledsoe and Tony. He was like this gullible young Ben DiNucci who came into town and was sort of flying under the radar. He lived with five guys, sort of like a pre-Entourage. They were all from Eastern Illinois.
I think any time you slap the star on the helmet, it’s iconic in Dallas. Jerry Jones and the Jones family have done such a good job branding what that is. Obviously, Sean Payton anointed Tony Romo the starting quarterback during the Bill Parcells era. Then, fast forward, Tony’s had this career in Dallas where a lot of people felt he fell short. I’ve always said Tony Romo is sort of this lightning-rod. Good-looking young guy, dated Carrie Underwood and Jessica Simpson and went to Cabo in the playoffs. You do stuff like that in Dallas–if a second or third-string running back breathes in Dallas, we’re talking about it–so imagine that being the quarterback.
It  was such a weird time because he [Romo] took vacations with the Jones family. He was like a second son to Jerry. So when he got injured and we see this guy who was a fourth-string quarterback become the starting quarterback and you don’t even allow Tony Romo the opportunity to compete. And then, he [Dak] had this press conference where he defers the job to Tony. I was told the Cowboys were completely caught off guard by it. It wasn’t for him to pass that job on. It was an interesting dynamic in Dallas. One hundred percent.
We were all caught off guard. I remember we were all in Green Bay and it was this awkward situation. Dak Prescott goes on the road his rookie year and beats the Green Bay Packers. Tony Romo is there and I’m told Tony Romo flies back on the Cowboys private charter, Jerry’s charter. Dak flies back with the team. We had been harassing Jerry and the staff about if Dak was their starter. I remember he lashed out to Ed Werder. He said ‘You’ve been putting words in my mouth for years Ed.’ So you could feel the pressure. But I don’t think any of us expected, given Tony Romo’s relationship with the Cowboys, that they would never let him compete for the job. And then that was it.
The Spun: Wow. Obviously, some of those details have been reported, but some of that background stuff is new and we didn’t know about it.
JS: Yeah, and I think the fascinating part about all of this is that even though the rest of the media finds ourselves on the side of ‘Why aren’t the Cowboys paying Dak?’, we get the whole argument that there’s only so much of the pie. But you’ve been overpaying players for years. This is the one guy that does everything right, personally and professionally, on and off the field. This is the guy that you want with the star on his helmet. From his rookie year, he has galvanized that locker room. You will not find one guy that will disparage Dak Prescott in that locker room. Not one.
Tony, on the other hand, I think this just happens in a locker room, you’re one of the guys until you get married and have kids. Then you tend to gravitate toward guys who are married and have kids. I think that happened with Tony and I don’t think it helped that Jason Garrett would take Jason Witten and Tony Romo to Duke games and other guys were there like ‘Where’s my invite?’. Why wasn’t Dez invited to some of that? We didn’t see that with Dak and Jason. I think Jason got hip to that and I think it’s important to have a separation of church and state.
The Spun: That’s interesting. We knew that Romo and Jason Garrett were extremely close and obviously Romo and Jason Witten were extremely close. So it’s interesting to hear about that dynamic where somebody like Dez who was a star contributor feels a little bit left out or shunned to the side.
JS: Well, what was also interesting with Romo and Garrett is I think there was a real sense of betrayal. Romo felt like where was the locker room fighting for him to get his job back. In other words, when Drew Brees was injured, everyone knew that was Drew Brees’ job when he comes back, even though this is likely his last two years for the league. Teddy Bridgewater came in and was admirable in his starts, and while that locker room loved Teddy and galvanized around Teddy, Drew was out there on that field ready to rock.
Romo didn’t rehab around the team. He says he did that out of respect for Dak and wanting him to feel the need to lead. But Drew, I remember going to cover that Saints game two or three weeks after that hand injury, he’s out there throwing and warming up like he’s going to get on the football field. He wasn’t going to let somebody take his job. I think that there was honestly–and I’ve had this discussion with people close to Tony so I don’t think I’m speaking too out of turn here–but I think like us, he didn’t think that was his job to lose.
To continue reading our Q&A with Jane Slater, click here.