No, He’s Not

I’m going to stray a bit from the normal discussion areas around here to talk briefly (hah!) about … sports. I heard something again this week that I’ve heard over and over again for the last twenty years and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

It’s December, so it must be time for the Dallas Cowboys to be going in the tank. Since it’s the Cowboys, we hear and read a lot of things about them, but one of the most common (and confounding) things we hear is that Jerry Jones is a great owner. Most recently, it was voiced this week by Darren “Woody” Woodson, former Cowboys superstar safety (the last time we saw either around here) and current ESPN analyst, and replayed incessantly on the various ESPN outlets.

This is the question we’re going to tackle (see what I did there?) today: Is Jerry Jones a great owner?

Not just no, but ARE YOU INSANE?

An owner’s job is to hire the best people to run the operation, provide those people with the resources (of whatever kind) to put the best team on the field, and then leave those people alone to do their job. One could argue it is also to stay off the airwaves, but frankly, if the former tasks are taken care of, the latter can be excused. (More owners than Jones get press for the wrong reasons.)

Jones does none of those things.

He hired an obviously incompetent GM (himself) 24 years ago, and not only doesn’t fire him, but refuses to even admit there’s a problem. Last month, he said that he believes the GM is “doing his best work in years”. In keeping with recent studies, he apparently doesn’t know he’s incompetent because he’s… incompetent.

He didn’t leave Jimmy Johnson alone after Johnson had won him two Super Bowls. He let his wounded pride get in the way of common sense, and made a decision worthy of a 10-year old. Like almost all such decisions, it was a colossally bad one.

How has he handled the most important owner’s task (hire the best people) since then?

  • He hired a literally on-the-couch, not just retired but out of football for five years, can’t remember where I put my gun Barry Switzer. Please don’t bother mentioning Switzer won a Super Bowl — your grandmother could have won a Super Bowl with the team Johnson had assembled. And don’t even try to bring up Jones was a good GM during those years — that was 100% Johnson’s team, and everyone who was there knows it. (What people who weren’t there don’t know or forget is that Jones spent the first few years owning the team concentrating on the business — getting them to where he was actually making money. He didn’t have time to mess with the football side of things.)
  • He hired an unknown outside of his own mother’s house Chan Gailey, who decided the first thing he should do as head coach is re-teach three-time Super Bowl champion Troy Aikman how he should handle the offense. Jones fired him two years later after he only made the playoffs for two years in a row. (Jones’ has since admitted this was a really bad decision.)
  • He hired a pretty good defensive coordinator homeboy Dave Campo, who promptly racked up three 5-11 seasons in a row.
  • He hired a past-his-prime I put the grump in Grumpy Old Man Bill Parcells, not to put the best team on the floor, but to convince the fan base he (Jones) was serious about winning, so he could convince them to pay for a new stadium. Parcells immediately upgraded the talent (and, really, who couldn’t?), but couldn’t get a playoff win. He quit when he saw what life with Tony Romo was going to be like.
  • He hired yet another pretty good (arguably great) defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who was so surprised to have a head coaching job after failing miserably his first two times out he spent the next three years saying “Goooooolllyyy, I’m a head coach!” in the mirror. He was the first Cowboys head coach fired in the middle of the season.
  • He hired another homeboy, former Cowboy backup quarterback, current red-headed automaton Jason Garrett, who has a Princeton education but isn’t really sure what a timeout is for. He’s had two 8-8 seasons in a row, and is about to have a third (if he’s lucky).
Are those the best people to run the operation? Almost all of them are great persons, but they’re not the best people to run the Cleveland Browns, much less the Dallas Stinking Cowboys.
But wait, someone in the back asks (thanks, honey), if he’s such a horrible owner, how has he survived this long?
Because Jerry Jones is a brilliant businessman. He knows how to make money. He brought the NFL kicking and screaming into the 21st century from a marketing perspective, and they’ve all learned well. He built a Taj Mahal stadium while convincing the city of Arlington to kick in $350M and throw several hundred of its citizens out of their homes, and he now fills that stadium with all manner of events that have nothing to do with the Dallas Cowboys. So, he may want to win, as the people who perpetuate the “he’s a great owner” meme continue to spout, but he doesn’t have to win. He makes money regardless, thus being the definition of a great businessman. But that’s where “great” begins and ends when attached to Jerry Jones.
So, please, everyone, and I do mean everyone, stop with the “He’s a great owner” mantra.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled program. Which hopefully isn’t a Cowboys football game. Because it is, after all, December.

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