Would the Dallas Cowboys Be Better or Worse off Without Jerry Jones?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistApril 17, 2014

Jerry Jones speaks in the press room at the 49th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision/AP)
Al Powers/Powers Imagery

The more Jerry Jones talks, the more you wonder if the Dallas Cowboys are the Kim Kardashian of the NFL—famous merely for being famous. 

Jones' latest foray into pissing off diehard fans took place last week, when he appeared to place popularity over on-field success in comments hyping the 50th annual Academy of Country Music Awards, which take place at his big, shiny stadium in Arlington next year. 

The money quote, courtesy of The Dallas Morning News

As you know, the Cowboys have not gone to the playoffs in several years. We have not gone, yet we’re the most popular TV show there is on television. We lead all teams in TV ratings. We lead, 24 of the last top 25 shows were NFL games, and any time your Cowboys play they’re up there at the top and leading.

Comments like those lead you to believe that Jones is in the entertainment business first and the football business second, which isn't criminal if your only role is CEO. But Jones is also the general manager of this football team. 

ESPN's Ashley Fox raises a good point

John Dorsey would get run out of Kansas City for saying such a thing. Think Seahawks fans would stand for John Schneider touting television ratings over the trophy Seattle just won? Or think 49ers fans would feel good about San Francisco's chances of dethroning Seattle if Trent Baalke said that?

It is ridiculous. That is what Jones has become.

It is important to separate Jones the owner from Jones the GM. We, in the media and as fans, tend to take complex, multilayered topics and make them black and white. Jones can wear two hats. And as ESPN's Todd Archer points out, when he made that latest inflammatory comment, he was speaking as the owner, the pitch man. It wasn't a football-related platform on which he was standing. 

But maybe what this means is that the owner and GM should have separate social security numbers. The general manager job in particular should be a full-time role, as is the case in every other front office in North American professional sports. 

By trying to juggle both jobs, Jones creates an optics problem for himself. People see him hyping the entertainment side of Cowboys football and it gives them the impression his priorities are out of order. But it's also true that every minute he spends away from football is a minute a full-time GM is devoting to the roster, to scouting and to the on-field product. 

Archer explains: 

When Henry Melton made his free-agent visit, Jones was away from Valley Ranch tending to other business interests. Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett handled the visit and Melton signed on with the club. But how many other general managers wouldn’t be on hand when a free agent, especially one as important as Melton, is visiting? It is between none and nil.

When the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum opened last spring on draft day, Jerry Jones was there for the spectacle. How many other GMs would be there on a draft day? All of the work leading up to the draft was complete by then, but it again leads to questions about the priorities.

None of this means, though, that the Cowboys would be better off without Jones. In fact, believe it or not, the man has been on a relatively decent run of late. Travis Frederick, Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware have all been big early-round draft hits. Terrance Williams was a steal, as was DeMarco Murray. Tony Romo wasn't even drafted and has become a steady franchise quarterback. 

It's been a while since he's had a blockbuster signing, but the Melton deal looks like gold. And it's refreshing to see him and his staff avoid Roy Williams-type gaffes.

The Cowboys haven't had a winning season since 2009, but they've had only one losing campaign dating back to 2005. They've gone 136-136 since 1997, which isn't good but only looks so bad when being compared to what happened in the half-decade that preceded that run. 

Dallas Cowboys since 1997
Win % (rank)Point dif. (rank)T/O margin (rank)Playoff wins (rank)
17 years.500 (14th)+111 (14th)-38 (23rd)1 (27th)
Pro Football Reference

And this offseason, Jones has handled a severe salary-cap crunch like a boss, cutting ties with some of the biggest names on his roster despite the fact such decisions would inevitably be unpopular with loyal fans unconcerned with the financial rationale. 

ESPN's Calvin Watkins also defends Jones' desire to win:

The Cowboys expect to reach the postseason every season. But the reality is they missed out by losing in the regular-season finale in each of the past three seasons.

Jones felt the sting of those losses and tried to fix the franchise each offseason, whether that meant firing assistant coaches, releasing top players or changing the duties of coaches and front office personnel.

He wants to win in the worst way.

Brad Gagnon/Bleacher Report

The question is whether the players and coaches feel that. If they, too, continually hear Jones play down on-field failures by pointing to off-field successes, will a trickle-down effect not impact the locker room? Has it already?

Regardless of how he used to act and how he may still feel personally, if he continues to publicly treat this franchise more like the Harlem Globetrotters and less like the Dallas Cowboys, it could further poison the locker room. 

You have to wonder how much better it would be with a proper hierarchy and more structure within that front office. But that's the trade-off. Jones would never go for something so conventional, because those systems inevitably spread power around.

But if you don't have Jones, who do you have?

This might be a case of the grass appearing greener on the other side, but long suffering fans of more conventionally run franchises in places like Arizona and Detroit would probably give up a limb for the right to have their team adopted by an owner who is as passionate as Jerry Jones. 

Had a full-time football cook been in the kitchen since the end of the Jimmy Johnson era, maybe the Cowboys would have hit on a few extra draft picks and would have made some better personnel decisions at various points in time. The problem is that history doesn't show you're any better off with a bottom line-oriented owner. 

The reality is that you won't be satisfied with the structure currently in place unless you're winning. And so there's a very good chance the Cowboys would still be mired in a playoff slump with a different owner and a full-time general manager, but not knowing is what hurts. Fans have the right to be hungry for something different, something a little more traditional. 

Maybe somebody needs to remind Jones what Super Bowls do for business. I'd imagine a winning team would be more valuable than anything else he's been selling. But even if the 71-year-old hasn't lost sight of his former priorities, change might be the only want to cure what ails this franchise. And since Jones and his sons aren't going anywhere soon, the only change fans can hope for is an epiphany that causes Jerry to start dividing up his responsibilities. 

Because I think everyone appreciates the man's passion. But misplaced passion is about as frustrating as back-to-back-to-back .500 seasons. 


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