Being Jerry Jones
While Doug Mataconis will love this interview, James Joyner and I need a stiff drink or two after reading (however, I cannot afford the Johnny Walker Blue): Jerry Football
Since the start of the 1997 season, the Cowboys have established themselves as the NFL’s masters of mediocrity, with a record of 136-136 and only one playoff victory. Each of the past three seasons, Dallas has finished 8-8, missing the playoffs by losing its final game ignominiously to a different division rival. Each subpar season further separates Jones’ first flush of glory — three Super Bowl titles in just four years, the last Lombardi trophy raised in January 1996 — from front-office dysfunction and fans’ impatience stretching nearly two decades now: the litany of blown draft picks and trades, hapless head coaches, overpaid and underachieving free agents and squandered on-the-field chances.
"We would have thought that, with Romo as our quarterback, with a coach, a young coach, like Jason Garrett, that we should have been in better shape to compete," Jones says at Valley Ranch. "So I’d be highly critical.
"On the other hand, I would have to look at what the GM has been — what he’s been in the past and, I would like to think, capable of what he can do in the future."
At some point, you would think, he would have to admit that 1989-1996 and 1997-now are two district eras.
"I’ve never wanted anything as much as I want to win the next Super Bowl," Jones says, smiling.
Well, except not bad enough to hire a real GM.
And here’s the problem with Jones:
"When we were on the clock, I said, if we pick the other guy — any other guy — it would be a ticket to parity, more 8-8 seasons," Jones says. "The only way to break out is to gamble — take a chance with that first pick, if you wanna dramatically improve your team. That’s why I wanted Manziel, but I was the only guy who wanted him. I listened to everybody … and I’m … not … happy …"
Jones likens himself to a riverboat gambler whose success depends on a well-honed "tolerance for ambiguity." It’s a fancy way of saying that when a big bet goes south or the accumulated risks outweigh the potential rewards, he can still function at a high level.
"The riverboat gambler can be his most charmin’, he can be his most clever, the smartest, and not know it’s all gonna end on the next card and he’s gonna be thrown overboard if it’s the wrong card," Jones says. "And a part of havin’ a tolerance for ambiguity is looking for the more positive and bein’ able to handle the negative because you’ve got more goin’ on."
Riverboat gamblers don’t win Super Bowls. Jerry wants to be the smartest man in the room who finds the diamond in the rough and through all the smarts he has about other about other things just doesn’t see that this is at least part of the reason that Dallas has been .500 for so long:
On the Radio City Music Hall stage, as Martin donned a Cowboys baseball cap and hugged Goodell, Jones seethed back in the draft room. "There’s only one thing I wanna say — I’d have never bought the Cowboys had I made the kinda decision that I just made right now," Jones whispered to Stephen. "You need to drive across the water rather than lay up. And we laid up for this one. … We just didn’t get here makin’ this kind of decision."
No joke, years of being the riverboat gambler has led to .500 ball.
Fans can recite Jones’ personnel misses and flops: Passing on Randy Moss in the 1998 draft (Jones apologized for this a dozen years later); trading four draft picks for 28-year-old wide receiver Joey Galloway, who never caught a pass from Aikman, in 2000; drafting QB Quincy Carter in the second round despite coaches’ and scouts’ warnings about his problems; choosing RB Felix Jones over Chiefs star Jamaal Charles and Coach Phillips’ choice, Titans star Chris Johnson. When I ask Jones for a decision he wants back as GM, he doesn’t hesitate. "I think when we traded two No. 1s for Roy Williams," he says of the 2008 trade for the Lions receiver who was released in 2011.
Except, well, Jones gets it wrong. The Cowboys didn’t actually trade two first-round picks for Roy Williams. They gave up a first-, third- and sixth-round pick in 2009 and got a seventh-rounder in 2010. It seems a bit unfair to correct Jones like this — the man has been GM for 25 years and shouldn’t be expected to know the particulars of every transaction carried out under his name. Or perhaps the three picks the Cowboys gave up just felt like two first-rounders. But at the same time, this is his biggest regret as GM — and he can’t get the details right.
Dale Hansen is correct:
"Jerry Jones has become one of the biggest jokes in north Texas," says Dale Hansen, a venomous, 34-year veteran sportscaster on WFAA in Dallas and the critic Jones most despises. "He has one of the most important jobs in all of American sports, maybe in the world: He is the general manager of the Dallas Cowboys. And based on his record, there is not a single team in the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA or the NHL that would hire him to be their general manager. Hell, he couldn’t get a job in Major League Soccer as the general manager. … It’s almost tragic that he has allowed it to happen — not only to the Dallas Cowboys but to himself."