Good news, Cowboys fans. Jerry Jones plans to look in the mirror and “make some changes,” according to a story on the WFAA-TV website.
Not sure what those changes are going to be, since he pretty much said after the season he wasn’t hiring a general manager.
It’s a poor comparison with regard to the importance of the issues at hand, of course, but I’ve always sort of envisioned Jones’ mirror talking to him similarly to how President George W. Bush spoke to Michael Brown during a press conference when the latter was getting criticized for FEMA’s questionable response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans: “You’re doing a great job, Jonesie.”
Jones’ self-assessment that he is providing the coaching and the player personnel as the team’s general manager rings as hollow considering the team’s performance over the years.
The Dallas Cowboys might be the most valuable team in sports and Fortune may have named Jones the National Football League’s fifth-best owner, but the team with the billion dollar stadium is far from the top of the list when it comes to fielding competitive teams over the last 20-some years.
In the nearly two decades since Jerry Jones let the whiskey do the talking, hastening the exit of coach Jimmy Johnson, Jones has taken what was a dominant team with frightening upside as a potential long-term dynasty and turned it into a mediocre entity that has failed to even approach the excellence it exuded year in and year out under Johnson and his predecessor, Tom Landry.
It might have been the whiskey talking, as Jones claimed, but he began forcing Jimmy Johnson out in 1994 during the reported night at the bar when he started telling folks any of 500 coaches could have won the Super Bowl with the roster of players he’d put together.
Enter Barry Switzer, who did take the roster of players Jones, err, no, Johnson put together, to win one more Super Bowl and reach another NFC Championship game. But from there it has been downhill. Switzer coached from 1994 to 1997, and as the remnants of the Johnson years began leaving, the results got worse, which was predictable. One AFC General Manager quoted by Sports Illustrated upon Johnson and Jones agreeing to part said he couldn’t wait “until Jones and Switzer start looking at the waiver wire together.”
Switzer’s 1996 team went 10-6, beating the Vikings in a playoff game. And unless I’m missing something, that was the last moment of glory this team has had. The Cowboys lost to Carolina the next week and dropped to 6-10 in 1997, Switzer’s last season pretending he ran the team.
Switzer begat Chan Gailey, whose two years looked competent before Jones impulsively fired him (a move he has said he regrets). Dave Campo then got three years, during which he went 5-11 three times. Tired of losing, Jones turned to the last “Power Coach” he’s been willing to hire, bringing in Bill Parcells.
Parcells brought back respectability but he could not recapture the glory of his years with the New York Giants. Nice-guy-but-multi-time-retread Wade Phillips, a great defensive coordinator but mediocre head coach, followed Parcells and first-time head coach Jason Garrett followed Phillips. During that time the Cowboys have won one postseason game. During that time, Jones has primarily been responsible for the personnel the team has fielded.
It is only fair to note that Jones-led drafts have improved in recent years. He’s gotten some solid contributions from his 2011 and 2010 classes, including tackle Tyron Smith, running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and linebacker Sean Lee.
But the successes he’s had in hitting with guys like DeMarcus Ware (2005) don’t erase the failures of missing horribly on linebacker Bobby Carpenter (2006), quarterback Quincy Carter (2001) and others.
The facts are that in the five years Johnson ran this team with Jones as a figurehead, the Cowboys dominated the draft. They traded up, they traded down, they hit on superstars with high picks and they plugged in the rest of the roster with contributors up and down the draft order. In the years since, every pick Jones has hit on even moderately has been matched with an equal number of mediocre to failed picks.
Dwayne Goodrich, anyone? Marcus Spears?
In the 15 years since Dallas reached that 10-6 mark and won that playoff game against the Vikings under Switzer, the Cowboys are 1-6 in the playoffs and 120-120 overall. Jones surely wouldn’t have accepted those kinds of numbers from a general manager had he hired that person to work underneath him – that guy would have been gone years ago.
So it will be interesting to see how this self-assessment time Jones spends in front of the mirror goes over the next few weeks. My guess is that it will go something like this: “Yes, you really are doing a great job, Jonesie.”