It has been largely discussed and argued whether or not Jerry Jones is to blame for the Cowboys failures over the years. I’ve read that the blame goes to the Cowboys coaches. I’ve read the blame goes to the players. I’ve read that the blame goes to Jerry Jones for not having a true football person in charge instead of Jones doing it himself. I’ve also read that maybe the Cowboys just aren’t as talented as many make them out to be especially in recent years. Maybe it’s a combination of all these things, but the truth is that the Cowboys are no closer to a championship now than they were ten years ago or even five years ago.
In this writers opinion it’s time for Jerry Jones to give up his power and hire a true football person to run the show in Dallas. When Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 and hired Jimmy Johnson it was Johnson who had all the power with football decisions. Bill Parcells had some of the power when he was the coach. All other years it was Jerry Jones making the decisions. Taking a look over the years since Jones has been the owner shows me that the Cowboys enjoyed success when a true football person was running the show. I understand that teams have coaches and scouts that are involved in football operations, but there needs to be more as far as talent evaluating. People like Jimmy Johnson, Bill Parcells and Ernie Accorsi to name a few were great when they were in football. Others like Bill Belichick and Jerry Reese are the ones making a difference currently. I also understand that not every draft pick is going to be a success in the NFL, but you need to be more right than wrong while trying to build a championship team. With that being said let’s take a look at some things while Jerry Jones has been the owner.
With Jimmy Johnson as the head coach and in charge of football decisions he pulled off the mega trade that sent Herschel Walker to the Vikings for five players and eight draft picks. It’s true that the players that came from the Vikings didn’t amount to much, but I think Johnson knew that when making the deal. It was the draft picks he wanted. During the Jimmy Johnson era here are some of the picks for the Cowboys…Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnston, Mark Stepnoski, Tony Tolbert, Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Alvin Harper, Dixon Edwards, Erik Williams, Leon Lett, Larry Brown, Kevin Smith, Robert Jones, Darren Woodson, Kevin Williams and Darrin Smith. Johnson also drafted Jimmy Smith, but after being plagued by injuries early in his career Johnson had no choice but to let him go. Of course Smith went on to have a great career with Jacksonville.
To go along with the blockbuster Herschel Walker trade in 1989 Jimmy Johnson also traded quarterback Steve Walsh to the Saints in 1990 for a 1st and 3rd round pick in 1991 as well as a 2nd round pick in 1992. Johnson also moved up four spots in the 1990 draft with Pittsburgh to select Emmitt Smith and all he gave up was a 3rd round pick. Of course there was the Charles Haley trade which some people say was the final piece of the puzzle in 1992. Johnson traded a 2nd round pick in 1993 and a 3rd round pick in 1994 to the 49ers to acquire Haley.
With all these moves for the Cowboys and all the draft picks that started to work out, Jimmy Johnson built a powerful team in Dallas that won back to back Super Bowls in 1992 and 1993. It was after the 1993 season when the relationship between Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones went bad and Johnson stepped down as the head coach. Some believe that Jones didn’t like that it was Johnson getting the headlines and the credit and wanted to prove to the world that he could continue the Cowboys success without Johnson.
After Jimmy Johnson rode off into the sunset with his two world championships Jerry Jones went to work as the man in charge. The Cowboys did win the Super Bowl again in 1995, which only made Jones believe more that he was able to run the team. But the 1995 team was still pretty much Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys and even with Barry Switzer as head coach it was the players who made that one last run and won Super Bowl XXX against the Steelers.
From 1994 to 2002 Jerry Jones went through three head coaches in Switzer, Chan Gailey and Dave Campo. In those years the Cowboys went just 4-4 in the playoffs and also missed the playoffs four of the nine seasons. They also suffered through three straight 5-11 seasons under Dave Campo from 200-2002. The talent level also dropped dramatically during these seasons with draft picks like Shante Carver, Sherman Williams, Kendall Watkins, Charlie Williams, Eric Bjornson, Kavika Pittman, Clay Shiver, Stepfret Williams, David LaFleur, Ebenezer Ekuban, Solomon Page, Dwayne Goodrich, Kareem Larrimore, Quincy Carter, Tony Dixon, Matt Lehr, Jamar Martin and Pete Hunter. Of course a few picks did work out during these seasons like Larry Allen, Randall Godfrey, Dexter Coakley, Greg Ellis, Flozell Adams, Roy Williams and Andre Gurode, but the bad outweighed the good which is why the success of the Cowboys suffered.
Jerry Jones did bring in some players through Free Agency from 1994 through 2002 that made a difference in Deion Sanders, Rocket Ismail and La’Roi Glover. Jones also brought in players like Bryant Westbrook and Tony Banks that never worked out for the Cowboys. He also traded for Terry Glenn from the Packers that made sense at the time. But he also made a head scratching trade for Joey Galloway in 2000 in which he gave up a 1st round pick in 2000 and 1st round pick in 2001 to Seattle.
Bill Parcells agreed to be the Cowboys next head coach after the 2002 season. With a resume that included two Super Bowl titles with the NY Giants as well as turning the Patriots around and reaching the Super Bowl in 1996. Then turning the NY Jets around and getting them to the AFC Championship in 1998. Parcells was a winner and Jerry Jones was looking to get the Cowboys back on track. Although Parcells had the power to make player decisions, Jerry Jones was not about to give up all his power. Parcells was the Cowboys head coach from 2003 to 2006 and in those years the Cowboys did improve their play. The made the playoffs two out of the four seasons under Parcells, but never won a playoff game. Parcells brought in some quality players for the Cowboys in Terence Newman, Jason Witten, Bradie James, DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears and Marion Barber. There were also some draft picks that never worked out for the Cowboys like Al Johnson, Julius Jones, Jacob Rodgers, Stephen Peterman and Bobby Carpenter. Jerry Jones once again brought in a few good players through Free Agency like Matt McBriar, Mark Colombo and Kyle Kosier. Jones also brought in Terrell Owens in 2006, which did work for a while, but I don’t think Parcells was ever happy with that decision. Bill Parcells stepped down as head coach after the 2006 season with a 34-30 record. The Cowboys were playing better and had made some great strides while Parcells was there, but they still were not able to reach elite status like when Jimmy Johnson was there.
Jerry Jones hired Wade Phillips as the Cowboys next head coach in 2007. Phillips had success in the regular season for the most part during his time as head coach, but it just seemed like as coaches before him that the Cowboys just could not get over the hump. In 2007 Phillips coached the Cowboys to a 13-3 record and they won the NFC East and earned home field in the playoffs. But in their first playoff game the NY Giants beat the Cowboys on their way to their own Super Bowl Championship. In his almost four seasons as the Cowboys head coach Phillips brought the Cowboys to the playoffs in two of the seasons and even won a playoff game for the first time since 1996. The quality of the team was still lacking something, but Jerry Jones did draft players like Anthony Spencer, Felix Jones, Mike Jenkins, Dez Bryant and Sean Lee. Jones also drafted some players that just never worked out like Jason Williams, Brandon Williams, James Marten, Deon Anderson, Martellus Bennett, Robert Brewster and Sam Young. In 2008 Jerry Jones made the decision to trade for Lions wide receiver Roy Williams. Jones was questioned on what he gave up to bring Williams to the Cowboys. Jones gave up the Cowboys 1st, 3rd and 6th round picks in 2009 as well as a 7th round pick in 2010.
The bottom fell out for Wade Phillips in 2010 when the Cowboys started 1-7. Jerry Jones fired Phillips and promoted Jason Garrett to head coach for the rest of the 2010 season and then of course Garrett became the official head coach heading into the 2011 season. The jury is still out on Garrett and Jones first draft when Jones selected Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray. These players seem to have a lot of upside, but only time will tell just how good they will be in the NFL.
What it really comes down to is that the numbers show that the Cowboys were more competitive when a true football person was in charge of the personnel. Just look at the list of players that have been a part of the Cowboys when they were competitive compared to when they were not. It all pretty much speaks for itself. Add in the trades that worked compared to those that did not. I’m not saying that Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells never drafted players that never worked out or made some bad trades. No organization is 100% perfect in building a team. The decisions made with an organization need to end up more positive than negative during the building process. They also need to be that way once a team is competitive and trying to stay that way. Teams that have football people running the show have shown they have more success than those teams that don’t have football people in charge.
As much as I hate using the NY Giants as an example that is what I’m going to do. George Young was the Giants GM from 1979 to 1997 and he built a powerhouse in the 1980’s and into the 90’s as the team won two Super Bowls and were competitive many other seasons. He brought in quality players like Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Morris and Carl Banks. He was also responsible for selecting Bill Parcells as the Giants head coach in 1983. After Young stepped down the Giants made Ernie Accorsi there GM in 1998. Accorsi brought in players like Osi Umenyiora, Chris Snee, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Brandon Jacobs. He also pulled off the trade with San Diego to bring Eli Manning to the Giants. Under Accorsi the Giants won two division titles and made the playoffs four times. They also advanced to Super Bowl XXXV in 2000, but lost to the Ravens. After Accorsi stepped down the Giants moved onto Jerry Reese in 2007. Reese is responsible for players like Ahmad Bradshaw, Hakeem Nicks, Aaron Ross, Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants are also on the verge of their second Super Bowl championship since 2007. These are true football people who know what they are doing. They know how to build competitive teams that have opportunities to fight for a championship. Are their decisions 100% positive all the time? Of course not, but they are right more times than they are wrong and that is what gives them the chance to win.
When it comes to Jerry Jones he has proven time and time again that he just does not have what it takes to be a GM in the NFL. He needs to step aside and allow a true football person to take over and build the Cowboys the right way. Jones has done some good things as the owner and GM, He wants to win more than anyone and his passion for the Cowboys shows that, but it’s just not enough when trying to build a championship team. It’s true that Jones has made some good decisions over the years and has brought in some quality players, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. The Cowboys fans deserve to be proud of their team once again and to watch them fight for more championships. The only way that is going to happen is if the organization (Jerry Jones) decides to go in the right direction and hires a true football person to get the job done the right way.