The Dallas Cowboys: From America’s Team To America’s Joke?

cowboysWhen I was growing up you either loved the Dallas Cowboys or hated them.  Either way you agreed on two things: You respected them, and loved their cheerleaders.

They had great NFC east rivalries with teams like the Washington Redskins and NY Giants, and of course the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC.  They were winners and usually were competitive.

cowboyspwallAnd then in 1989 Jerry Jones bought the team.  Jones, who can be sincerely commended for his charity foundation, has slowly transformed the Cowboy brand from one of respect and esteem to that of a car wreck where people can’t help but look.  They’ve become the subject of ridicule and border on becoming irrelevant.

After the team’s early success in the Jones’ reign, winning an impressive three Super Bowls (1993, 94 & 96) in four years, in which Jones deserves some  credit, the Cowboys have spiraled into consistent mediocrity and late season failure.

There are four key points that are the main examples of where Jones has gone wrong.

1– The disrespectful way in which he fired a legendary hall of fame coach in Tom Landry.  As an overenthusiastic new owner, Jones came riding in and summarily dismissed one of the games most respected figures.

He would later apologize for how this was handled and welcome Landry into the ring of honor (1993) but the initial damage to Jones’ credibility and Cowboy image was done.

cowboysjohnson2– The untimely dismissal of coach Jimmy Johnson.  The Cowboys had a chance to do something that had never been done before: win three Super Bowls in a row.  He had a rift with Johnson.  Apparently among other things, Jones wasn’t happy with the credit Johnson was getting for the team’s winning, and the lack of credit for himself.

The childish feud between the two ultimately didn’t look good for either. However, Jones should have found a way to make it work for one more season.  He robbed the sports world of what might have been.

So in comes easy-going, not as hard-working Barry Switzer.  After blowing the threepeat opportunity, (in a mistake filled playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers that the Cowboys didn’t have under Johnson),  the great Cowboy players lead by Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, did win another Super Bowl on muscle memory the following year in 1996.

That was the beginning of the end of the team’s success.  Switzer resigned after a 6-10 season in 1997 and has never had a whiff of the NFL since.  Switzer never coached in the NFL again.

cowboysJJ3– Naming himself general manager.  As ESPN commentator/ Dallas Cowboy/ Jimmy Jones fan Skip Bayless likes to point out, Jerry Jones played the game, he is not an owner without first hand knowledge of football.  Yeah, and I took tae kwon do in college, doesn’t mean I can choreograph a $200 million Jackie Chan martial arts movie.  The Cowboys have sunken into mediocrity and haven’t had a taste of a Super Bowl since the days of Aikmen, Smith and Irving.

cowboysparcells4-Choosing Terrell Owens over Bill Parcells.  The last strong personality Jones brought to the table was head coach Bill Parcells.  The Tuna, had the Boys headed in the right direction.  He got them to the playoffs and a fluke miscue by a young Tony Romo cost them a chance at moving on.

In fairness to Jones, Parcells always seemed to have one eye on the exit door no matter where he was.  But given a choice and a chance to keep him, if it meant parting with Owens?  Jones should have done what it took to keep Parcells.

After this dalliance with a coach of credibility, track record and respect, it was on to low profile coaches that would enable Jones to be the off the field star and voice of the franchise.

While I can’t feel sorry for a man who plays football for a living and has a contract worth over 100 million for doing so, Tony Romo has paid a price for these decisions.  Romo is a very good quarterback with flashes of greatness who has not been able to capitalize on opportunities he has had for next level greatness.  (He is not “elite”, however, I put him somewhere in-between where his supporters and detractors place him.)

cowboysParcellsRomoSurely, Romo, and the Cowboys, would have benefited from the continued coaching and mentoring of Bill Parcells or someone of his gravitas and stature.  And of course the predictable Terrell Owens sideshow of distractions could have been avoided.

These four points trace back to one thing.  Jerry Jones’ ego.

Think I’m being hard on Jones?  Ask yourself this:  If Jerry Jones was just a GM, not an owner, and quit or was fired as the GM, would any other team even interview him to be their GM?  To be their GM assistant?  He would get offered another GM job around the same time Matt Millen would.

So basically, a guy who couldn’t get an interview for a job as a GM anywhere is running America’s team.

If Jerry Jones the owner and GM were two separate people, and he had the track record of the Cowboys since 1997 (one playoff win) don’t you think Jerry Jones the owner would fire or not renew the contract of Jerry Jones the GM?

No owner in the history of sports cared more about winning than George Steinbrenner, the late owner of the New York Yankees.  Especially in his younger days, he was hostile, arrogant, and even a tad nuts.  He fired many managers, but never because they won or got to much credit.

Steinbrenner wouldn’t hesitate to override a GM and sign someone he wanted, but was never foolish enough to not have a GM.  Losing was unacceptable but if you won you could get away with almost anything.

Jones has the money to sign one of the best and brightest minds to be GM and benefit from a sound voice.  Jones could still ultimately make decisions.

But I’m guessing now that Jones is in so deep, he won’t bring a GM in because he would get the credit for turning the team around.  It’s as if Jones doesn’t want to win if he doesn’t get the credit.  And he is holding an entire fan base hostage to his fantasy.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith says it best when he characterizes the Cowboys as a dysfunctional bunch.  And when it comes to making the playoffs, Smith correctly states their recent track record is for them to find a way to break your hearts and are an accident waiting to happen.

Since “the accident”, (A Kyle Orton final drive interception leading to a loss to the Eagles in the last game of the season with the playoffs on the line), occurred this year with an injured Tony Romo unable to play (and take the blame) I’m going to start referring to that phenomenon as the curse of the Owner/GM.

Fire yourself as GM Jerry, and set your team free.  It will be good for you, good for Cowboy nation and good for football.