The Redemption of Jerry Jones

When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones is the long arm of the law.
When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones is the long arm of the law.

By Zach Walker

There are two types of Dallas Cowboys fans, those who aren’t bothered by Jerry Jones, and those who would rather floss with barbed wire than hear him verbally pamper the Cowboys into headline news. There’s no doubt that the  biggest Cowboys fan is Jerry Jones, because Jerry doesn’t see a half-full glass for this season, because I believe Jerry would say, “No one’s taken a drink yet,” and I agree, fake-Jerry Jones in my head. But the reality is that the defense hasn’t got a single proven player on it, it’s all players with something to prove or a stigma to break, and General Manager Jerry Jones is the bulls-eye for everyone to chunk darts at if this team crumbles. But Jerry Jones has changed the way he’s putting players on the field over the last few seasons, a different type of player. Jones’ players are going to have to take a page from his book, and change the hearts and minds of Cowboys fans everywhere, and have people believing that this season will be different.

Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989, and shortly after the acquisition, he fired Tom Landry, even though it wasn’t really a task that he had to undergo, but Jerry Jones seemingly wanted to usher in a new era for the Dallas Cowboys. But when a legend, and the franchises only coach is tossed, no matter how he was removed, is going to rub people the wrong way. Jerry made no fans by getting rid of Landry, but Landry had moved on from on field success and winning had passed him by. And bringing in a hot-shot college coach Jimmy Johnson, when at that time, college coaches hadn’t ever fared well in the transition into the NFL, and also having personal ties to Jerry Jones maybe made fans uneasy about their new power pair. Fans weren’t stewing about Landry for long, because four seasons in,  Jones and Johnson turned picks into players, and players into legends by winning Super Bowl 27, in a landslide 52 to 17 victory over the Buffalo Bills. The tandem proved it wasn’t a flash in the pan, by winning the Super Bowl the  following season, once again, over the Bills. The Landry days were then, long gone.

But the brilliant tandem of Jones and Johnson wasn’t set in stone, and perhaps just as they were unlocking what their team could become, the two spilt and went their separate ways. It was a clashing of egos, a strained butting of heads, and Jimmy Johnson took his team building talents back to Miami, this time to coach the Dolphins. It’s a generally held belief that it was Jerry’s “meddling” that led to Johnson taking a walk, but the facts are that Jimmy Johnson had never stayed at a single head coaching position for more than four years, and for him, it was time to move on. But that’s below the surface information, on the surface, it appeared that Jerry had scared away his meal ticket. Pulling Barry Switzer out of retirement, or a coaching hiatus, didn’t sit well, even though the Cowboys were just months removed from winning a second Super Bowl. But the words of Jerry Jones would hold water,” I think there are five hundred [coaches] who could have coached this team to a Super Bowl.” After a defeat in the NFC Championship game in 1994, the Cowboys would make it to Super Bowl 30, and win 27 to 17 over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Point, Jerry Jones.

The Cowboys would only win two playoff games after Super Bowl 30, but between those two victories would be unbelievable moments. Those 90’s Cowboys were excess, they embodied it on and off the field. Someone could write a book about those Cowboys, and thankfully Jeff Pearlman’s Boys Will Be Boys is just that, a telling of the best band of functioning addicts in NFL history. But shouldn’t the GM put a foot down, and put an end to his players shining a negative light on his franchise? Nate Newton and Michael Irvin separate run-ins the law for drugs, Erik Williams’ car crash which cost Canton a Hall of Famer, the death of Mark Tuinei in 1999, Dwayne Goodrich’s manslaughter arrest in 2003. The discipline was no-where to be even reached. Following the Dave Campo era, which was three straight 5-11 seasons, and a time period in which saw the dismantling of the triplets, by every way possible, redemption for the whole franchise was needed. Jerry brought in Bill Parcells, and he brought, if anything, discipline back to Dallas, but even he couldn’t do better than second in the NFC East and lost both playoff games he coached the team to. Wade Phillips was brought in following Parcells, to sort of liven the place up a bit after four years of  discipline. Wade was a great defensive coordinator, but left much to be desired in terms of fiery style, but it brought the wins, and Wade’s .607 win percentage is the best since Switzer. But Wade’s loose leash soon backfired, and in a Sunday night shambolic ass-kicking versus the Packers, Wade lost the team and his job. Operating with Jon Kitna, due to Romo’s broken collarbone, Jason Garrett salvaged the season and led the Cowboys to 5-3 record in the final eight games to reach a 6-10 record, and that sort of turnaround earned Garrett a turn at the wheel.

Garrett’s tenure hasn’t yielded results on the field, a perfect 24-24 record as full time head coach, with each season ending at the hands of a divisional opponent, but the pieces that he has put in place through the draft, that’s where, I believe Jerry Jones will keep him around. The reason that it’s taken so long to get back to the playoffs on a consistent basis is because of misses in the draft. DeMarcus Ware, home run but pair that pick with the average-at-best Marcus Spears and it’s a push, though that 2005 draft was good. But if you miss on an entire draft, even during that year, it resonates, and that 2009 draft by the Dallas Cowboys, might be a top-5 worst draft classes in NFL history. Not getting a single, even serviceable player, that sets the team back a full season, and I believe not getting anything out of that draft is still hurting the Cowboys today. But Jerry’s guy, Jason Garrett and his staff are pushing for a different type of player, solid leader-types. “The right type of guys,” is essential for building a good team, and with Garrett, putting cornerstone pieces on this roster is what he’s done. Tyron Smith is now a top-2 jersey player on this team, and I still believe is underpaid. Travis Frederick is making the front office guys and Jerry Jones feel very smart for his pick and his play. But then there’s Morris Claiborne, who shouldn’t be given up on by fans, but the stamp is dripping with ink to label him a bust, because injuries are just compounding upon him, but he was a unanimous top cornerback in his draft.

And now it seems that fans want to attack Jerry Jones for being now too money conscious, especially when taking about his cutting of DeMarcus Ware. Yes, Ware had earned his money, and he didn’t have to take a pay cut because of what he had done in the past, but he wasn’t a fit for what the Cowboys were trying to become, and that’s a 4-3 defense. But I believe his short dealings with Ware were a compound result of past burnings by contracts. Jerry has thrown money at players before, the mega money to Ken Hamlin springs immediately to mind, but the turned blade was Jay Ratliff. 18 million dollars in guaranteed money, on a contract that didn’t need to be made. Then he got banged up and missed ten games, no news there, players get injured. But that’s just the surface, underneath, there’s an altercation in the locker room between Ratliff and Jones, then there’s the DWI that he got, would be less of a big deal, if not for less than two months ago, Josh Brent’s involuntary manslaughter, now that’s just being stupid. But the cherry on top, was the fact that the Cowboys cut him because of injury, and he signed a week later with Chicago Bears after being medically cleared. That’s a major middle finger to Jerry Jones’ face, who is seeking a chunk of the money paid to Ratliff back.

Jerry Jones has burned himself with bad contracts, bad drafts, and will probably get under your skin at least once, but I think with Garrett building the right sort of team, Stephen quietly making more moves, and him handing out less big money contracts after the Ratliff deal, I think year 25 and beyond for Jerry Jones will be smoother. He’s an old dog, but he’s learned the new tricks necessary to keep the ball rolling in the Cowboys favor. He’s spent time working out the draft process, so now, there are no more excuses. But I know that the big money, franchise sinking contracts that favor the elderly players of yesteryear are over, pay them young and get the years’ worth out of them, then when they’re 33-ish, see what value they have left. Nothing is impossible for Jerry Jones, and if he continues to surround himself with people who want success for the Dallas Cowboys, he and the team might be redeemed.