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I learned a long time ago that if a business is failing it is usually the manager’s fault.
That’s not the case with the Cowboys, as their business is definitely not failing. According to research done by Forbes they are tied with the New York Yankees as the third most valuable sports franchise in the world.
But in the NFL there is a big difference between a successful business and a successful team.
Jerry Jones has had success. And he's deserving of some credit—three Super Bowls in four years is nearly unprecedented, and only six other teams in the history of the NFL have had back-to-back Super Bowl wins such as the Cowboys had in 1992 and 1993.
Unfortunately, in the 16 years since their last Super Bowl, they have won only one playoff game. How does a team go from being perennial contenders to nearly irrelevant?
It’s become quite apparent that Jones isn’t good at scouting talent and is even worse at buying talent.
In 2000 he traded two first-round picks to the Seattle Seahawks for wide receiver Joey Galloway. With those picks Seattle drafted running back Shaun Alexander in 2000 and guard Steve Hutchison in 2001. Alexander went on to three Pro Bowls and was the rushing leader in 2004 and 2005.
Hutchison went on to seven Pro Bowls and is regarded as one of the best guards of all time.
Galloway tore his ACL and never again returned to relevance.
History repeated itself in 2008 when Jones traded a first-round and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions for wide receiver Roy Williams and then signed him to a $54 million contract. In 40 games, Williams managed only 1,324 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to pinpoint two situations that went horribly wrong and use them as evidence that Jones is the reason this team hasn’t been successful in nearly two decades. But perhaps the fact that it took six quarterbacks before the Cowboys would finally win another playoff game is sufficient.
And it’s worth mentioning that had it not been for Bill Parcells, Jones wouldn’t even have Tony Romo. Who knows where this team would be if not for No. 9.
Those types of personnel decisions can cripple a franchise for years (see the Oakland Raiders).
It’s not necessarily all about scouting the proper talent either. It’s about not overpaying for unproven talent. Coming into this season the Cowboys had $12.8 million in dead cap space thanks to contracts given to players like Terence Newman, Marion Barber and Leonard Davis. Going into 2013 they’ll face a similar situation and will have to be creative to meet the salary cap.
It’s unfortunate how the Cowboys problems seem to circle each other. For example, Doug Free who has seemingly forgotten how to play football will make $11.2 million in 2013. That’s a major cap hit for a guy that’s costing his team wins. What’s makes the situation worse is that even if the Cowboys were to cut Free, they’d still owe him $8.3 million in guaranteed money (which was paid up front but is amortized out over the life of the contract).
So not only does Jones not have an eye for talent, he doesn’t know how to work a salary cap. And yet he absolutely refuses to hire a general manager to assist him. It’s a shame that the Cowboys biggest problem is the only one that can’t be fixed.