Archive: Jerry Jones Isn’t Only Lacking As A GM
(Less than two weeks after the Cowboys finished the 2000 season with their worst record in ten years, Tim Cowlishaw examines one of the biggest lies ever to bounce off the walls of Valley Ranch. Yes, the future indeed appeared bleak not only because Jones was the general manager, but because he also wielded ultimate authority as the owner.)
From the January 5 2001 edition of The Dallas Morning News
By Tim Cowlishaw
Hit the accelerator at the first sighting of all doughnut shops. Watch something on television that does not include calls for clipping, charging or icing.
The list is short one essential item. Before we advance too deeply into the odyssey of 2001, one more resolution must be added, and it’s one we can share.
Could we please have a moratorium on the following phrase, still uttered by too many voices in too many places?
Jerry Jones is a great owner, but an awful general manager.
Isn’t it obvious, with only the smallest exertion of thought, that the truth of the latter precludes the former?
Isn’t the first order of business for any owner to hire the best general manager available?
And yet this man who once assured that 500 coaches could win Super Bowl with the Cowboys’ talent contends that only one qualifies as general manager.
And it’s the one who has run the ship aground.
As you watch these NFL playoffs unfold without the presence of the Cowboys, go ahead and kid yourself if you choose. Watch all the young scrambling quarterbacks forced to make plays against blitzing defenses, and keep telling yourself that the Cowboys are a healthy Troy Aikman away from joining this group.
That’s what you keep suspecting Jones is doing.
And yet you still hear media voices, including some of those that are loudest in denouncing Jones’ work as GM, sort-pedaling their critiques because of the flawed notion that a willingness to spend money makes Jones a praiseworthy owner.
The Redskins’ Dan Snyder spends money, too, and he has replaced Jones as the national whipping boy among hands-on owners. And yet Snyder this week displayed an ability Jones does not possess by hiring a legitimate proven NFL coach in Marty Schottenheimer.
Jones’ last three hires have included one untouchable with no NFL experience and two league assistants who had never interviewed for head coaching position.
The reality is that after a dozen years of on-the-job training, Jones is doing his worst work as owner of the Cowboys. He did some of his best when he was least experienced or loved, specifically in 1989 when he stripped the franchise from top to bottom.
On the positive side of the ledger, Jones did much more than just bring in Jimmy Johnson to coach and evaluate talent. The Cowboys were a financially failing enterprise.
As a team, they were awful, in need of new coaches, new players, a new approach. Weathering the storm produced by the firing of Tom Landry and Co., Jones made it possible for Johnson to lift the Cowboys to unprecedented heights.
Jones deserves some credit for those successes – not as much as he thinks but more than Jimmy was willing to give him, for sure. And Jones had a major role as GM in the Cowboys’ third Super Bowl of the ‘90s. Adding Deion Sanders to the roster and removing him from the 49ers’ secondary is what separated those two franchises at that moment in time.
It was a master stroke and an expensive one.
But what has Jones the GM done in five years since?
He has changed head coaches two more times while retaining much of the support staff, creating an unhealthy environment in which assistant need display loyalty only to the owner, not the head coach.
He has turned a deaf ear to smart scouting staff recommendations on players such as an unheralded Kansas City wide receiver named Joe Horn, who was free last off-season. Not attractive enough for Jones, who instead committed millions and two first-round picks to Joey Galloway while Horn caught passes for 1,300 yards for playoff-bound New Orleans.
He has turned America’s Team into America’s Country Club, allowing players to miss practices for personal reasons, blessing Erik Williams’ decision to boycott training camp, permitting players to trample Dave Campo’s limited authority. The sight of Alonzo Spellman strolling casually to the sidelines and drawing a flag for too many men on the field in Tennessee will remain the one enduring image of this team for 2000.
The off-season demands a cleaning of the Cowboys’ cupboard, but Jones’ attachment to veteran players almost certainly won’t allow it. As you watch two NFC East teams compete Sunday with the winner serving as the division’s first NFC championship participant since the Cowboys’ last Super Bowl team, ask yourself one question.
How did the Cowboys lose sight of the Eagles and Giants, teams that went 4-0 against Dallas in 2000?
It has everything to do with a general manager’s philosophy that relegates the draft to second-class status.
It has nothing to do with the presence of a great owner.