Since the season ended, Jerry Jones hasn’t been able to decide where to go next. Should he keep Monte Kiffin or Bill Callahan?
He’s recognized it was a huge mistake to fire Rob Ryan last year. That’s the same Rob Ryan who took the worst defense in the league and made it into a Top 10 unit. Now he’s afraid to make the same mistake again, so he’s keeping the failed 2013 together, it would seem.
The famed historian A.J.P. Taylor once wrote that we learn from our mistakes how to make new mistakes. That’s what’s taking place with Jerry Jones now. He’s so gun-shy to be seen hitting the panic button (as he did last year) that he’s going to stick with coaches who are demonstrable failures.
This is what happens when you make a mistake and laud it all offseason as a saving grace. That’s the way the Rob Ryan firing was portrayed.
Matching Personnel with the Scheme
All training camp, Jerry and the defensive players said they were happy to have a scheme that was easy to learn. They wouldn’t be confused by all kinds of exotic calls. But once the season started, the vanilla defense gave up points to everyone. In only one or two games were they approaching an average NFL unit. By the end of the season, people were grumbling about the lack of in-game adjustments.
Sure, the defense had plenty of injuries in 2013, but most NFL teams deal with injuries. The thing is, several of the Cowboys injuries were predictable. Jay Ratliff had been worn out as an undersized nose tackle. For years, people have wondered aloud why Jerry Jones didn’t give Ratliff more help in the form of decent backups, or even move him to 3-4 defensive end and get a much bigger, younger nose tackle. It was obvious that Jay Ratliff had paid the physical price for the lack of decent defensive tackles along the front.
Yet when the team went to a 4-3 lineup–a scheme which would require 2 tackles instead of 1–Jerry Jones decided the team had the depth not to spend premium draft picks on the position. That’s absolutely insane, since the first thing you do when changing to a new scheme is change your personnel to fit that scheme. When Bill Parcells moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4, the first thing he did was draft Demarcus Ware–a classic 3-4 (weakside) outside linebacker. He didn’t just leave the 4-3 outside linebacker in place.
So when we got to the regular season and Jay Ratliff couldn’t go, this was not a surprise to many fans. It was to Jerry Jones, showing he simply doesn’t understand NFL football, after all these years.
Don’t even get me started on Sean Lee. He’s great when he’s healthy, but I don’t want anyone feigning surprise that he got hurt again. That’s happened every year for the past 4 seasons.
Jerry Jones on the Defensive Staff
I love how all these other teams know what needs to be done the day the season ends, but it takes Jerry extra time to decide whether to keep the defensive coordinator on the defense
. The defense set all kinds of records for awfulness and the offensive coordinator who seemed to have his duties curtailed by the end of the season. Frankly, these are two guys who should have never been hired for those positions in the first place.
As he does each offseason, Jerry Jones has taken weeks to make a decision. He’s asking everyone in the organization what they think. Meanwhile, all the best and brightest new coaches are taken off the market. Once things get picked over, Jerry will bring in more retreads that he’s comfortable with. He’s got to find guys “he’s comfortable with”. The idea Jerry needs to review this stuff is ridiculous, but it brings me to a point.
Smartest Guy in the Room
It just shows what happens when your GM is the smartest football guy in the organization. In Dallas, he’s the dumbest football guy in the organization. He constantly needs “advice” on what to do next, so he goes from advisor to advisor, from one consultant to the next. Media members have said before that insiders say Jerry takes the advice of the last person he spoke with. In other words, he’s totally lost.
With 90% of the NFL teams, the GM already knows what needs to be done. If they don’t, the owner fires him. It’s just so frustrating, but it’s like this story is on a loop.
GMs Are Made, Not Appointed
In most NFL organizations, the general manager works their way up through the system.They prove to be an excellent scout (or more rarely, an excellent coach). Then they prove they’re an excellent head of scouting, and then on to being a player personnel director. They move up the ladder, proving they understand the position each step of the way.
By the time a GM gets to the top of the organization, he is often the smartest football guy in the organization. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, a “football guy” at the top of his game.
Not in Dallas, though.
In Dallas, Jerry Jones proved he was the smartest guy in the Cowboys organization…at the oil industry. He’s the most brilliant businessman. He’s great at making deals and attending to the business of the Cowboys. This doesn’t apply to the front office of the NFL, though. Frankly, it doesn’t even apply to the salary cap, which Stephen Jones handles–and which the Cowboys obviously have major problems keeping under control. Each year, the Cowboys have no money to spend on free agents, because their salary cap is a total mess.
So Jerry Jones got the job as GM because he was a great businessman. That does not prepare him to spot talent. That does not prepare him to evaluate football skills and physical attributes, to project out what a player might be like 1 year, 2 years, 5 years down the road. So Jerry Jones has to constantly be asking his underlings what they think.
That situation lends itself to the kind of office politics and sycophancy that seems to rule in the Dallas front office. People who are good at making a case–but might not actually know the most about player evaluation–end up feeding Jerry information. Since the guy making the ultimate decision isn’t the smartest guy in the room, he’s prone to having a person like Jason Garrett be able to point the finger at a Rob Ryan and say, “He’s the reason we lost,” even when that is blatantly false. The man in charge doesn’t know any better.
Jerry Jones: A Football Guy
Oh, Jerry would argue that, after 25 years as GM, he’s now a “football guy”. I’ll give him that much. Jones has put in enough time that he’s been trained on the job. He’s put a whole career into learning the job. But there are good football guys and bad football guys. In Dallas, the bad football minds stay in power. Failure remains in place.
Do You Like Those Three Rings?
Jerry Jones and his apologists will say that he won 3 Super Bowls, so those Super Bowl victories from 20 years ago are all the justification he needs. But anyone who lived through the Jimmy Johnson Era knows who was making all the tough calls in those days. Jimmy Johnson had come from the college ranks. He’d recruited all the players the Cowboys were drafting in the early 1990’s. He knew these players better than his opponents, and (like Pete Carroll now) he built a team of talent unparalleled at the time.
Jerry Jones benefited from that, but he was not the chief reason the early 90’s Cowboys won Super Bowl. The best that can be said about him is he was smart enough to hire Jimmy Johnson. But Jimmy was his college roommate. Jerry Jones hired his college roommate, who just so happened to be the perfect man for the job. In other words, Jerry Jones got lucky. If Jerry Jones’ college roommate had been Rich Kotite, that’s what we’d have gotten.
Ever since Jerry Jones shoved Jimmy out the door, he’s been trying to prove he’s the reason they won those Super Bowls in the 1990’s. But with each succeeding year, he proves even more that he certainly wasn’t the reason they won those titles.
In the Hunt
As further proof Jerry Jones doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s been talking for two months about how the Cowboys were “in it” up til the end, as if they’re competing in the best division in football. The only reason they’re “in it” every year is their division stinks. The NFC East stinks, and they still can’t win it. Just awful.
The best thing that could have happened to the Cowboys would have been for them to be in the NFC West or the AFC West. Had they been in those divisions, Dallas would have been 4 games out of 1st most of the season. All of December, Jerry would have known he was out of the playoffs. That might have spurred him to make the kind of changes the team needs. But as long as 8-8 is good enough to have you 1 game out of 1st (and thus the playoffs), Jerry Jones and his cronies can still fool themselves.
The best GMs have to be the ultimate realists. That certainly isn’t the case in Dallas.