• September 2, 2014

Allan Mandell On Sports How to fix the mess in Dallas

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Posted: Sunday, January 5, 2014 4:30 am

Is there any way to make sense out of this Jerry Jones mess? And can it be called anything other than a mess?

The Dallas Cowboys have now gone four years in a row without a postseason appearance. Their record is 30-34 since 2010. If Jerry Jones had a general manager over these past four years with any name other than Jerry Jones, that general manager would be given the boot — by Jerry Jones. So, yeah, it’s a mess.

Texans love their football as much as Jones loves looking at a mirror. So this mess is a major source of frustration for the Cowboy faithful. The core problem, as most Cowboy fans seem to agree, is that Jones the owner isn’t firing Jones the general manager.

Jones quickly showed he was an annoyance in 1989, the year he bought the Cowboys. Jones had that I’m-one-of-the-boys mentality by standing on the sidelines during the second half of many contests. Still does it. Yeah, he owns the club and can stand anywhere he wants.

But an owner standing on the sidelines during the ball game is disrespectful to the men who play and coach in the NFL — people who have earned the right to be on that NFL sideline, either by athletic talent or through years of hard work learning the coaching craft. Jones bought his way on the sideline. How can Jones presence on the field not feel offensive to Cowboy players and coaches?

Do you remember Jim Finks? He played professional football, then coached it, then, as general manager, built those great Minnesota Viking teams which were a league power in the late 1960s and stayed strong through the mid-1970s. The Chicago Bears, then a pitiful laughingstock of the league, hired Finks as their general manager in 1974.

Ed McCaskey, having married the daughter of NFL founding father and original Chicago Bears owner George Halas, had some stock in the team and so he asked Finks, “What can I do to help us win?”

Finks’ reply was, “Ed, you’re an owner. You own. That’s what you do.”

McCaskey got the message. His job was to sit up in the press box, munch on some cheese and crackers, sip some wine and enjoy the games. Own. And leave the football decisions up to the general manager and coaches.

It was Finks who drafted future NFL Hall of Famers Walter Payton, Dan Hampton and Mike Singletary and plenty more all-pros who contributed to making the Bears an NFL power — the punctuation mark the 1985 season, when Chicago was 15-1 and won the Super Bowl.

Of course the Cowboys have won three Super Bowls during Jones’ 25-year reign: 1992, ’93 and ’95. The problem — at least Jones sees it as a problem — is that his first hired coach Jimmy Johnson got the proper credit for building those Super Bowl teams — even though Johnson wasn’t around for the third crown in 1995.

Johnson, having been a collegiate coach for close to three decades was exceptionally skilled at evaluating talent and then coaching that talent to perform at a consistently top level. While Johnson had been busy building himself into a talented football man, Jones was busy building his bank account through his oil drilling business. Nothing wrong with that. This is America.

But making cash as an oil man does not make you an NFL drafting guru.

There’s a very clear solution to this mess in Dallas. It’s been stated numerous ways by many different NFL observers, including Cowboy fans, and former NFL players and coaches.

Jerry Jones can solve the mess. He can and should do one thing, and only one thing.

Own.

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