Most NFL owners are fans. Fans with enough money to make a childhood dream come true. Having money makes them wise financially, but the exchange rate between dollars and cents and football sense is 0. We’re about to find out if the football sense of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is headed toward bankruptcy or recovery. There are no government bailouts in the NFL.
Jerry has owned the Dallas Cowboys since 1989. In 1992, after a series of bold but calculated moves (including the hiring of ‘The U’ bad boys coach Jimmy Johnson), they won a Super Bowl. In the 3 years that followed they won two more. That’s called an immediate return on your investment in terms of dollars and sense. However, in terms of football sense it meant the renegade owner began to blur the lines between the two.
Jimmy Johnson had great football sense. In 3yrs he drafted Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnston, Mark Stepnoski, Tony Tolbert, Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Alvin Harper, Erik Williams, Leon Lett, Larry Brown, and Darren Woodson.
But Jerry didn’t see it that way.
After consecutive Super Bowls in 1992-93, Jimmy Johnson infamously and unexpectedly announced his resignation. If this were a marriage it would have cited ‘irreconcilable differences’ between him and Jerry Jones. A casualty of success. Jerry was starting to believe that he (and his money) was the driving force behind each and every victory the Cowboys were racking up.
This lead to the hiring of good ol’ boy yes men. For the first couple years, it seemed to work. Though Barry Switzer lost the NFC Championship game in 1994, he rode the wave of a veteran team that had been there/done that to a Super Bowl win in ’95. Then, as the team grew older, the need for football sense over dollars and sense became more prevalent. One problem, Jerry didn’t know the difference anymore.
The drafting between 1995-2002 was horrid. Besides a couple lucky swings that made contact the rest of the names would have you scratching your head until your skull showed. (my favorite is the 1995 draft, I’m fairly certain half of them responded “Wrong number” when the draft call was made)
Suddenly Jerry Jones was staring at a crisis. After winning 3 Super Bowls in his first 6yrs of ownership, the Cowboys were staring at a decade of mediocrity. He was desperate. He had to do something. He had to refocus and recalibrate, dollars and sense weren’t doing it, he needed football sense.
Enter Bill Parcells.
Terence Newman, Jason Witten, Bradie James, Patrick Crayton, Demarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Kevin Burnett, Chris Canty, Marion Barber, Jay Ratliff……all within his first 2.5yrs. Sound familiar? The Cowboys were becoming a team full of talented youth again.
Exit Bill Parcells.
Enter Wade Phillips.
Uh oh, here we go again. Phillips is a well respected defensive mind but not in any way the stalwart leader Parcells was. With Parcells the team overachieved, with Wade Phillips they consistently underachieved. What’s the difference? Discipline and accountability.
In todays NFL players can’t be taught one specific scheme, you become too predictable. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers made it look like they were playing Madden on ‘rookie’. Send a man in motion and the defense is revealed, it’s like they hit L2 and the defensive assignments were there for all to see. Teams have to disguise and be able to react. Bend but don’t break doesn’t work anymore unless you can score 30+ a game. When Romo went down, the potential for that happening went down with him.
Bill Belichick alters his defensive scheme on a week to week basis. Ever try playing ‘Which Steeler Is Blitzing?’ with your friends during a Pittsburgh game? The Saints can (and do) run almost every offensive play in their playbook out of any formation they line up in. No longer are coaches of specific schemes successful. The new standard is a smart coach knowledgeable of various schemes that can read and react faster than the opposing coach. Versus these coaches, Wade was just making it far too easy.
And now Jerry Jones is at another crossroads. Staring at the potential of another decade of mediocrity, has he learned his lesson? Will he humble himself enough to allow a respected coach with great football sense to run the team, or will he hire another Wade?
This team is volatile. They’re not quite young anymore and they have some very obvious needs, but the core is solid.
Dollars and cents won’t help now. The problem is on the field. The problem is in the scheme. The problem is in the locker and meeting rooms. The problem is a lack of intensity, accountability, discipline.
The problem is a lack of football sense.
The 2009 draft looks eerily similar to the 1995 draft. If Jerry Jones doesn’t make the right decision the future will be ’95-’02 all over again. Has this embarrassment been big enough for Jerry to relent control once again? If so, for how long?
Whoever is named the next Dallas Cowboys coach will speak a lot about the direction of the team before he even blows a whistle.