Monday, 3 March 2014

Disheveled in Dallas: The clear and present danger that is Jerry Jones

By a Cowboys fan from T.O., not that T.O. But I'm going to work with T.O. and only T.O.

At the epicentre of the Dallas Cowboys’ success and struggles stands owner and general manager Jerry Jones, the man who controls all aspects of the franchise, on and off the field.

Jones’ biggest strength is his unsinkable spirit. He’s eternally optimistic and armed with a fortune-hunter's will to move mountains.

It’s how he churned through the oil and gas industry to generate enough of a fortune to purchase America’s Team just as it fell on tough times.

It’s how he can put the lavish finishing touches on a $1.2-billion stadium that was supposed to cost $650 million amidst one of the worst financial crisis the U.S. has seen.

But it’s also why despite 25 years of struggling on the football side of operations, he’s not going to abdicate. Not now, and not soon.

With the passing of Al Davis, Jones is the one NFL owner who is the face of his franchise. For better and for worse.

Better because he’s a tremendously competitive man who’s willing to put any and all resources into winning a championship. He is passionate and totally invested.

It’s also why he’s not doing the franchise any favours by continuing to be the club’s Jack of all Trades. From public relations to concessions to stadium improvements to dealing with unsigned free agents, Jones has final say and is the club`s public visage

Simply put, he has too many jobs to properly accomplish the most important one for the long-term health of the franchise, the evaluation and acquisition of football talent.

Cowboys fans don’t need to see shots of Jerry in his owner’s box, on the sideline, in the dressing room multiple times every Sunday. They want to hear unconfirmed reports that he was in Tuscaloosa or Eugene or Ann Arbor the day before. Or that he’s in Mobile for the Senior Bowl or Orlando for the East-West Shrine game in the offseason.

Of course Cowboys scouts attend these football hotbeds but there is no substitute for seeing players with your own eyes, for talking to coaches or sources and cultivating a relationship. To better read the nuances when they say a player is a playah.

Further, he is too infatuated with players he selects or trades for, which is why he’s so generous with contracts. In a non-salary cap world, he’d be the second coming of Eddie DeBartolo Jr. But today, his club stands some $15 million over the cap and needs to release the club’s best defender, DeMarcus Ware, among others, just to get within sniffing range of the club’s annual ritual of extending player contracts.

Cowboys fans, who have seen the club’s talent level ebb like this before, in the late ’90s following the departure of Jimmy Johnson, can only hope that Jones will once again seek another respected football mind for assistance, like he did when he hired Bill Parcells.

Otherwise there’s no easy way out of this Dallas Buyers Club.

There is talent on the team. Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and Sean Lee play premium positions and would start on any other NFL club. There's just not enough to go around. Outside of Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, Travis Frederick and Terrence Williams, the rest of the roster is nondescript.

The success of the club hinges entirely on the health of its quarterback, who will 34-years-old and coming off back surgery when September rolls around. After eight seasons of dodging defenders, and multiple injuries to his ribs, Romo is not quite as elusive as once was and for whatever reason, whether injury or misreads by receivers, wasn't as accurate last season.

The team ranked fifth in scoring last season but that stat was misleading. In terms of yardage, the offence was middling, 16th in the league. It was opportunistic. And we don't need to delve into the league's worst defence in yards (7th worst in points allowed.) 

Three straight 8-8 seasons.

The man responsible for the present, Jones, remains responsible for its future. Jones has previously said that as an owner, he would have fired himself as general manager long ago. 

If only he would listen to his old self.

To be continued