A Family Mess: The Dallas Cowboys

BY: ADRIAN JARDING | Ball State Sports Link

It was February 12, 2000 and the Dallas Cowboys were desperate for a player to replace the future Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, who had just retired because of a spinal injury he suffered the previous season.

General manager and owner Jerry Jones made a call to the general manager and head coach of the Seattle Seahawks Mike Holmgren about giving up not one, but two first round picks for the rights to Joey Galloway.

Galloway had held out for half of the 1999 season and was considered very raw. The Seahawks were surprised they got offered two first round picks and happily shipped him off. Galloway was a failure in Dallas and the move hurt the team for years to come. He lasted four seasons with the team and finished with 151 receptions for 2,341 yards and 12 touchdowns.

This was one of a multitude of moves which ultimately have done nothing to help the future of the Cowboys.

The moves are what the quarterback of the Cowboys in 2000, Hall of Famer Troy Aikman alluded to in his weekly appearance on 1310 The Ticket. A faint promise to fans by Jones that things will get better with this one change or fix.

The truth is things won’t get better until they have a “complete overhaul” as Aikman put it.

The Cowboys are as desperate to win now as they were then. Jones believed the incredibly raw and unproven Galloway would gel with Aikman and be the next big target. He ultimately was not and Aikman retired by seasons end because of his frustrations regarding the way the organization was being run.

The Cowboys of today had a crushing loss to the Titans on Monday Night Football in Dallas, and Jones was visible with his frustration during the broadcast. The Cowboys are in need of change, but he never looks at himself or the family. He only looks at the people in the organization.

Since Jimmy Johnson left in 1994 the Cowboys have a history of making countless changes to “fix the team.”

They fired Dave Campo for continually finishing 5-11 with an average roster. They released Terrell Owens after 2008 even though he came off of a really solid season for being a “headcase.” They even brought in Greg Hardy to help with their pass-rush, despite the negativity surrounding him coming off of his domestic abuse charges.

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons
The outspoken owner of the Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones has made many moves over the years which have been questionable and are often ineffective. Photo: Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

It’s all apart of the open wound which they have trouble healing. They apply band aids when they should put cream and a wrap over the band aids to make it heal completely.

The NFL is different in many regards to other leagues in terms of how teams are run. Typically, the owner hires the general manager, who hires the coach, who work together to build a roster. The Cowboys are the only NFL team whose owner is also the general manager which has been the biggest problem.

Jerry and his son Stephen Jones, who is the director of player personnel, are completely in charge of building the roster. It’s been that way since Jerry bought the team in 1989. The difference is that Jimmy Johnson had a lot more control and say over personnel when he was the head coach until 1994. Since that time the responsibility has fallen on Jerry and Stephen to shape the team in their image, not the head coach’s.

The trouble is that they’ve been stagnant since winning a Super Bowl in the 1995 season, thanks in large part to the talented team Johnson left them with. Since that time, they’ve limped on and have tried several times to build a contender, but simply didn’t have the right pieces in many areas to make that hurdle.

They’ve come close a few times but ultimately, it’s been futile.

“They apply band aids when they should put cream and a wrap over the band aids to make it heal completely.”

From an outside perspective, there seems to be a lack of understanding of what is wrong within the organization. As Aikman pointed out, it’s not as simple as replacing the head coach or finding new personnel. You have to look at how the organization is run, the people you have working, the atmosphere of the locker room, the team culture and so on.

Running a football team is a complicated task and pushing a few buttons won’t cut it. The past has shown they are ineffective at building a championship roster and culture. The only way to change things will be to get fresh blood and for the Jones family to take themselves out of the football side of the team.

The loss against the Titans was a culmination of what many like me have seen for years and what Cowboy fans have been naïve to believe.

There is no belief they can win in the tight moments. They are terribly inconsistent and there seems to be a lack of chemistry between the personnel and the coaching staff. They had ample opportunities to win the game, only to blow each opportunity which has been the story of the organization since 1996.

I like head coach Jason Garrett and think he would be better off somewhere else where he can get out of the overexposed spotlight which is above his head at AT&T Stadium. I think he’s been handed a roster which is talented but is not cohesive because of the culture which is controlled by the Jones family.

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is frustrated over a call during the Monday night loss against the Titans. Photo: Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports

They are a brand more than a team.

The Cowboys are a family affair. They are controlling the business side and the football side. The only thing is you can’t make business personal, which Jerry has often done in the past. It’s like he’s trying to prove he can win a title without the cloud of Jimmy Johnson over his head to show he knows football.

Let’s compare his team to that of another organization which was also family oriented but had no attachments to the football side once another coach left, the San Francisco 49ers under Eddie DeBartolo.

DeBartolo also ran the team like a business but left the football side of things to general manager Carmen Policy and head coach Bill Walsh. He supplied them with cash and resources to win, but never interfered with any of the personnel decisions they made.

Walsh won three Super Bowls during his reign from 1979 through 1988. When he retired DeBartolo hired George Seifert while keeping Policy and again didn’t feel the need to take over the football side.

Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., Carmen Policy
Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo (left) and general manager Carmen Policy (right) had unprecedented success during their reign in the 80s and 90s.

Seifert won two Super Bowls during his reign from 1989 through 1996. The 49ers have rarely been relevant since DeBartolo was forced to give up his ownership of the team after gambling troubles in 2000.

He never let anyone in his family touch the football side of things and left it to more qualified people who have been in the game for years. While Stephen has studied the game for years, he also was given the job from Jerry and didn’t exactly pay his dues by climbing the ladder.

If the Cowboys want to be a contender year in and year out, then they should restructure the entire organization from the ground up. They need to change how things are run and let an actual football staff take over and just focus on the business side.

It’s just like how the bosses in the Godfather films never do the actual dirty work, they just assign others to do it who are more experienced and profit from it. Once they do this, then people will once again fear the Dallas Cowboys.


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