After the Vikings completed their 48-30 rout of the hated (by me) Philadelphia Eagles, I went to the gym. I watched the entire first half while on a treadmill, at which point the Dallas Cowboys had built a 26-3 lead over the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers.
As hilariously inept as the Cowboys can be, it never really occured to me that the lead wasn’t safe. I left the gym and went to do some shopping.
When I got home I sat down and logged on to my computer and saw Packers fans gleefully taunting Cowboys fans on twitter and facebook, and thought, ‘Wait, no, the Packers didn’t win, did they? They couldn’t have.’
Of course, they did.
It was funny, obviously, to see fans flaming Tony Romo again (instead of a defense that gave up 34 points in a half), but not terribly surprising that the Cowboys blew it.
Not when you consider the Dallas defense has been compared to the worst ones of all time, and that Romo, despite being overall one of the NFL’s better quarterbacks (at least statistically), has a pretty good habit of throwing horrible interceptions in the fourth quarter of close games.
And here’s the funny part. I felt bad for Cowboys fans.
Me, a long-suffering Vikings fan, felt sorry for Cowboys fans.
Yes, Dallas has won five Super Bowls while the Vikings have lost four (and not appeared in any during my lifetime), but the Dallas Dynasty is in the distant past at this point.
It’s hard, as a Vikings fan, to be optimistic that our team will ever get back to the Super Bowl. The last few years have been frustrating, to say the least.
On the other hand, as far off as a Super Bowl feels right now, the Vikings have come within one game of the Super Bowl three times since 1998. The Cowboys haven’t made it past the divisional round of the playoffs since they won the Super Bowl following the 1995 season.
There’s a reason for that, of course, and the reason’s name is Jerry Jones.
The high-profile owner who ran the architect of the Dallas Dynasty, Jimmy Johnson, out of town after the Cowboys won their second straight Super Bowl in 1993.
Allegedly (and I don’t think there are many that would argue this theory), Jones hated that Johnson got all the credit for building the Cowboys into what they were, and to prove how ‘easy’ it was to win with the talent they had, he’d boot Johnson and replace him with unemployed former college coach Barry Switzer and still win a Super Bowl.
Well, Jones/Switzer got their Super Bowl in the second year of the experiment, but, obviously, they were still carried by the core of players Johnson had collected (Aikman, Emmitt, Irvin, and the greatest offensive line ever assembled, not to mention a terrific defense).
They’d slip to 10-6 the next year, and 6-10 a year later, leading to Switzer’s ouster and beginning a downward slide that more or less continues today.
Switzer was replaced with Chan Gailey, who was replaced by Dave Campo, whose three year tenure (5-11 all three years) was hilariously sad.
Now. I’ll give Jerry Jones a little credit. Maybe he did have at least some input in personnel matters when Johnson was the boss. He had to have made some contributions to the Super Bowl winning teams. He probably does know more about the NFL than most other owners and even most average fans. He’s been doing this for 25 years, after all.
But for the owner to install himself as GM was misguided from the start, and it has made the Cowboys something of a laughing stock. Because the minute Jones put himself in charge, every non-Cowboy fan in the world (and probably many Cowboys fans) pretty much assumed that things would turn out exactly how they have.
Gailey and Campo were considered ‘yes-men’ who would do whatever Jones wanted, and after they didn’t work, Bill Parcells was brought in. That was seen as something of a concession by Jones, but after Parcells failed to get the Cowboys past a wildcard playoff game, Jones has gone back to being the boss. And in fairness to Jones, the Cowboys haven’t been terrible — they had 13 and 11 win-seasons under Wade Phillips, and have just one losing season since 2004.
But Jones isn’t a football man by trade. He’s a businessman. A fan. And he runs his team pretty much how a fan would.
The Cowboys haven’t drafted particularly well (and the draft was how the 90s dynasty was built), they’ve overpaid for free agents who were often past their prime, and taken fliers on every castoff or problem child the NFL has made available.
The Cowboys aren’t going to win this way. Jones doesn’t have a strategy, he’s just throwing stuff against the wall. I generally try to avoid speaking in absolutes, but I’m pretty confident that Dallas is never going to win a Super Bowl with Jones calling the shots.
They’re run by an incompetent leader who compounds his incompetence by exhibiting an overbearing and attention-seeking presence. It used to be a running joke amongst non-Cowboys fans that we’re all waiting for the day that Jones goes all the way with his real-life football fantasy and names himself head coach, but at this point I don’t think anyone would be surprised. You know he wants to do it.
What’s funny to me is how many Cowboys fans don’t really seem to have a problem with Jones. They talk about what a great owner he is despite his shortcomings as an executive, but what makes a good owner, anyway? The fact that he built a gigantic, oversized, overexpensive space ship of a stadium? So what, the NFL has a salary cap, so stadiums don’t exactly play a huge role in making teams more or less competitive. Yes, it brings in more revenue (theoretically), but most of that money just goes back into Jones’ pockets. He can only spend as much on salary as the league allows.
He wants to win, I’ll give him that, and I know that resonates with a lot of fans. I suppose it is reassuring to know your owner at least appears to value winning over his own bottom line.
But being a ‘good owner’ is not particularly impressive or important.
Whenever I see Jones I think of a story about former Bears GM Jim Finks. George Halas had just died, and his son-in-law, Ed McCaskey, would take over as the team’s primary owner. He asked Finks what he needed to do to fulfill his job as team owner.
Finks answered: “You’re an owner, Ed. Own.”
Jerry Jones needs to own.
I enjoy hating the Cowboys, but I feel bad for their fans, because I don’t know how I could invest emotionally in a team that is fighting such an uphill battle by not truly giving itself a chance to compete with the rest of the NFL. Every single year, they’re likely to suffer from poor coaching, poor drafting and constant distractions. That’s Jones’ fault, and it won’t change until he cedes power, which he’s made clear he has no intention of doing.
Jones called Sunday’s loss ‘the hardest loss I’ve ever experienced.’ Maybe that means he’s taking it personally. Maybe it means he’s finally accepting that he shouldn’t be in charge of an NFL team’s personnel department.
Then again, maybe it means he’s going to fire Jason Garrett and hire himself.
As a Vikings fan, I feel like my team is as far away from a Super Bowl as they’ve ever been.
But they’re closer than the Cowboys.
Sorry, Cowboys fans.*
* Except the ones who aren’t from Texas. You people are terrible.