Where Does The Buck for the Dallas Cowboys Stop?
Dallas Cowboys fans are getting all too used to being disappointed. Their beloved team has failed to get past the divisional round for 25 years. It would be easy to just focus on the last loss and how poor clock management and penalties finally did them in. However, this would not really be facing up to the real problem that has plagued this team for more than two decades.
It is impossible to place blame on any of the current crops of players and coaches for things that were awry long before they got to Big D. Alas, the common denominator and most culpable figure for the Cowboys’ failures for the last quarter of a century is none other than Jerry Jones!
The Good: No NFL Owner Is More Charismatic And Passionate Than Jerry Jones
Before I go on to disparage the way Jerry Jones conducts business, I would like to first mention some of the positives he has brought to the table. First and foremost, Jones is a brilliant and charismatic businessman and is extremely passionate and committed to making the Cowboys a winner. I do not doubt that he cares a great deal and wants what all diehard fans want in that regard.
Moreover, Jones and co. have assembled talented rosters at times. Recently, with the help of the vice president of player personnel, Will McClay, they have generally drafted well. In fact, most pundits would agree that the Dallas Cowboys have as good a roster (on paper) as anyone in the league right now. Finally, while this can also be seen as a detriment, Jones is fiercely loyal and will go to great lengths to provide cover for his guys!
The Bad: Dallas Cowboys’ Owner Jerry Jones Is Loyal To A Fault
So, how is his loyalty sometimes a bad thing you ask? By running his team like a family business, Jones seems to emphasize nepotism. This involves employing family members and others who are willing to kiss the ring (i.e., be subservient to him). Thus, it is no wonder how a Head Coach as mediocre as Jason Garrett somehow lasted a decade in Big D. Garrett never made it past the divisional round but was trustworthy and had long-standing ties to the organization.
Mike McCarthy is essentially Jason Garret 2.0. Many pundits and fans alike question what McCarthy brings to the table. He is most infamously known for his continual clock mismanagement and setting the tone for a team that continually lacks discipline and accountability. However, the fact remains that Jones handpicked McCarthy. Like Garrett, McCarthy is a loyal soldier and careful not to overstep or embarrass Jones. Thus, McCarthy is rewarded with Jones’ loyalty in return, which is tantamount to job security that defies logic.
This type of loyalty also sometimes extends to the players. Jones often develops close relationships with players. While this is admirable in some ways I suppose, it can be quite a hindrance in terms of maintaining objectivity and running a professional team. For instance, rewarding certain players that Jones drafted (like Jaylon Smith and Zeke, etc.) with huge paydays on their second contract seemed suspect at the time and now looks borderline foolish.
The Ugly: Mixing Dallas Cowboys Business And Pleasure Is A Recipe For Failure
Further, the larger-than-life public persona Jerry Jones has created for himself can become a distraction for his team. Similarly, when the owner becomes too chummy with players, it serves to cut the Head Coach off at the knees and weakens their authority within the organization. Players know they can simply tune out the coach and go straight to the owner should they want to discuss anything important.
This is the kind of thing that Jimmy Johnson would never have tolerated. Thus, it is no coincidence that Johnson is the only coach in NFL history to ever be let go after winning two consecutive Super Bowl victories. It came down to Jones’ ego then, and it still does now 27 years later. It really should not come as a surprise to anyone that Jones and his Cowboys have not had any sustained success since the teams Johnson had assembled won Super Bowls.
The Very Ugly: Ego And Public Perception Are More Important Than Winning
As he is the ultimate voice in making personnel decisions, Jerry Jones wants recognition. Thus, is it really a surprise that Mike McCarthy remains the coach? If Jones fired him now, it would be Jones admitting that he had made a mistake in hiring him two years ago. McCarthy will be given every chance to prove that Jones was right.
Hence, this is the conundrum we are dealing with. While I truly believe that Jones does want to win, it seems that he only wants to do so on his own terms. This means winning with the puppets he has put in place and continually putting style over substance. Ostensibly, it seems that Jones desperately wants to be recognized as the mastermind of whatever success the organization has. Ergo, Jones often seems to base his decisions on ego and emotions. This is a major factor in why the Cowboys have done little since Jimmy Johnson left.
The Patriots’ Model: Professional, Consistent, And Successful
The most successful NFL franchise in the past 25 years has by far been the Patriots. Their approach to running a team runs contrary to the way the Dallas Cowboys have been operating. Similar to the way Jimmy Johnson steered his ship, Bill Belichick runs his team in a very professional way. Belichick is careful not to get too close to his players (while they are playing anyway). Some would even call it cold and cutthroat, but players (no matter who they were) are, basically, always made to feel like they are expendable
The Patriots have always preferred to part with players a year early rather than a year late. Bill Belichick and co. rely on their system, which tends to focus on teamwork, discipline, and execution. This involves great attention to detail and an advanced understanding of situational football. They seem to only care about winning. Their motto of “Just Do Your Job” truly epitomizes their grounded, lunch-pail approach to the game.
Jerry Jones Has Created An Environment That Breeds A Sense Of Entitlement
The Dallas Cowboys, on the other hand, follow the path set forth by their leader, Jerry Jones, in which glitz and glamour reign supreme. When Johnson was in charge, he never let players get a big head. Rather, Johnson always made a point to keep the pressure on his players. This resulted in the Cowboys players always playing with an edge.
In recent times, however, whenever the Cowboys have had any measure of success, it has almost always been followed by some sort of letdown and disappointment. Amazingly, the last time the Cowboys made the playoffs two years in a row was 2006 and 2007. They have not made it three years in a row since the mid-1990s. Clearly, this is not a team that deals well with success.
Everything tends to be magnified when playing for America’s team. For a young player that has success in Big D, it is important for their coach to have a strong enough presence to reign them in and keep them hungry. I remember Bill Parcells once famously said “let’s put away the anointing oils” when the media was trying to put Tony Romo into the Hall of Fame upon having some early success in his career.
The Buck Stops With You, Jerry Jones!
This can be an especially hard message to get across when Jones is leading the charge in telling the players and coaches how great they are. When the Cowboys lost to the Niners a few weeks ago, I heard Jones say on a radio show (and I am quoting this verbatim): “We deserve better than ending up this way. That’s how I feel today.” This, folks, is exactly what I am talking about! The Dallas Cowboys do not DESERVE anything just because they wear the Star on their helmets! They have to go out and EARN it just like everyone else! By saying that they DESERVE better, Jerry is only adding to the Cowboys players’ feeling of entitlement.
This is why when the Dallas Cowboys lose games, rather than take accountability, they are quick to blame the referees and such. This is why they never seem to take responsibility and fix correctable issues like the penalties that have plagued them. They somehow feel they deserve better, and it starts right at the top! Sadly, fans should not expect any of this dysfunction, or the disappointing results that come with it, to change much until the organization comes to grips with the fact that they have to drastically change the way they do business.