The Dallas Cowboys have one of the best owners in sports. Only problem is, Jerry Jones is also the team's GM. And until Jones removes himself from that position, the Cowboys will never be more than average.
The Thanksgiving Day game against the Washington Redskins is a perfect example to display the Cowboys' very ordinary future.
Robert Griffin III came back to his home state and carved up the Cowboys defense for 311 yards and four touchdowns, while completing 71 percent of his passes. Dallas, on the other hand, stumbled from the beginning of the game, and couldn't capitalize on an opportunity to jump back into the division race.
Griffin is an electrifying talent. He has superstar written all over him from the way he throws a perfect deep ball to his 12-volt smile. He's the future, and perhaps the present, of the NFC East.
That division also happens to include the Dallas Cowboys, “America's team.” The same team who has won just one playoff game since 1997. Doesn't exactly sound like a brand that would capture America's attention, does it?
But Jones is great at producing a show. He'll do anything he can to bring attention to the team, and he wants to win more than any owner in sports. His attitude and Hollywood blockbuster-like franchise have endeared itself to fans. While, at the same time, like any other controversial subject, attract people who love to hate Dallas, keeping the Cowboys in the news at all times.
This attention is great for the Dallas brand. But over the last 15 years, the product on the field hasn't been able to keep up with the label. And there's only one common denominator during that period—GM Jones.
Coaches have come and gone—six in fact since 1997. Quarterbacks too; Tony Romo is just one of 16 quarterbacks to start a game under center for Dallas in the past 15 years. But Jones, despite all of the failures, remains the general manager.
Ironically, a few days earlier in an interview with Bob Costas, Jones said he would've fired himself as GM following the team's recent struggles if he wasn't both the owner and GM (via Chris Chase, USA Today):
Well, I think so, because he was there to dismiss. I've always worked for myself and you can't do that. You basically have to straighten that guy out in the mirror when you work for yourself. But certainly, if I'd had the discretion, I've done it with coaches and certainly I would have changed a general manager.
So, he would have fired someone else, but since he works for himself—the only owner in football to do so—he won't fire the GM, even for the good of the team.
If Jones would have fired someone who performed equally to the way he has the last decade, he should also fire himself.
But it will never happen. Jones will never admit he needs assistance.
Jones is one of the few owners in the NFL that have a football background—he was an All-SWC lineman for the Arkansas Razorbacks. And while inside football knowledge is great in the ownership position, it's holding Jones back from stepping away from the GM duties. He believes he knows his stuff and is to stubborn to relinquish control.
As a result, the Cowboys will never step up from the cellar of mediocrity they've been wading in over the last decade or so.
Sure, they've had their flashes.
The team went 13-3 in 2007, falling just short in the second round of the playoffs to the eventual champion New York Giants. In 2009, the Cowboys won their first playoff game since 1996. And players like Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware have been perennial Pro Bowlers.
However, there have been considerably more negatives than positives for this team.
Multiple December swoons, blown leads and busted draft picks, bad free-agent signings and trades—see Bobby Carpenter, Felix Jones and Joey Galloway, and that's just to name a few—have soured any positive strides the Cowboys have made over the past 15 years.
Those failed signings are a perfect example of Jones’ flaws. He attempts to build the team through flash instead of substance.
People look at the Cowboys on paper and think, "this team could be great." All of the talent is there: skilled wideouts, good quarterback play and a running back that makes things happen. Only problem is, you don't win in the National Football League with that plan.
Stifling defenses and outstanding play in the trenches lead to success, and Jones just hasn't built the Cowboys with that formula in mind.
Teams like the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have been among the most successful in the NFL the last 15 years, and they're consistently on top because they follow this formula.
But Jones hasn't quite gotten the memo.
Maybe there is too much on his plate as the owner/GM. Maybe he must be in control, which is the reason why he fired Jimmy Johnson and hires easily controlled coaches like Wade Phillips to lead the team. And maybe he's just bad at the job.
In reality, though, it's a combination of all three.
But either way, Jones will be the Cowboys GM for quite a while, likely for life. And if that's the case, it won't matter who the quarterback or the coach is. Dallas won’t ever be in a good position to find Super Bowl-level success.
Jones must step down from the GM role, or this team will continue to flounder in mediocrity.