America’s Team. The Cowboys have been known as “America’s Team” since 1978, where the narrator of a film about the Cowboys stated that the Cowboys were America’s Team. Now being America’s Team, comes with a lot of criticism and high expectations. The Dallas Cowboys have lived up to a lot of the expectations in history, but have struggled to make it back to the Super Bowl since 1996. Ever since then, the Cowboys have won three playoff games. Many fans have claimed the Cowboys to have been a failure due to the lack of winning, and the inability to make it back to the Super Bowl. Even America’s Team, has struggled.
Since their last Super Bowl, the Dallas Cowboys have made some great decisions, and some not so great decisions. The Cowboys always seem to be on the news for every decision they make, which makes it clear which decisions the fans like or don’t like. The Cowboys have seen to go about building for the future in strange ways that may not make sense. As the Cowboys have made some questionable decisions, they have also made some good ones. Many of these wacky or great decisions come from Jerry Jones.
Jerry Jones may be considered one of the most loved, yet hated owners in the league. The Hall of Fame owner helps add drama to a team that has some of the most questionable decisions.
20 Worst: Drafted Quincy Carter
The Cowboys star quarterback, Troy Aikman, was up for retirement and it was time for the Cowboys to draft their next generation quarterback. In the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected Quincy Carter. Carter was expected to be the face of the franchise after Aikman retired, but he never seemed to live up to the Cowboys’ expectations. In his years in Dallas, he was never able to play at a high level. In each of Carter’s three seasons, he threw for more interceptions than he did touchdowns. Carter also suffered a few injuries which kept him out of some games throughout his three-year career with Dallas.
In his three seasons, he was only able to make it to the playoffs once. In his playoff appearance, he failed to throw a touchdown pass only throwing for 154 yards. What the Cowboys thought would be their next future star, turned to be their biggest upset.
19 Best: Draft Tyron Smith
When the 2011 NFL Draft came around, and the Dallas Cowboys had the 9th overall draft pick, many fans may have wanted a fancier, flashier name than what they got. Instead, the Cowboys drafted Tyron Smith, offensive tackle from USC. At the time, it may not have seemed like the best draft pick, but the Cowboys made an excellent selection with Smith. Smith has been one of the best offensive tackles in the league since he got drafted, and has managed to stay healthy through most of his career.
Smith was the start of building up the best offensive line in football. Smith then began the Cowboys’ plan to build a dominant offensive line, and that is exactly what they did. Throughout Smith’s six seasons, he has already been to four Pro Bowls and was a first-team, All-Pro during 2016. Smith’s contribution and has been incredible, and has been known as one of the Cowboys’ best draft picks within the past 20 years.
18 Worst: Signing Greg Hardy
Once considered one of the best defensive ends in the league, now considered one of the worst signings by the Cowboys in history. Due to his actions, Greg Hardy was suspended for four games in his first season with the Cowboys due to domestic violence. Hardy was already known as a problem off the field, which led to some concerns for teams wanting to sign him. The Cowboys have had a history of drafting players with background issues, and this player just adds to the list. The Cowboys have been unable to replace DeMarcus Ware, and still are currently looking for their next star pass rusher.
In 2015, the Cowboys thought they had their man when they signed Hardy to a one-year deal worth just over $13 million. Hardy played well with the Cowboys with six sacks and an interception, but failed to prolong his career due to off the field issues. If Hardy could have stayed clean off the field, this may have been one of the better decisions they have made.
17 Best: Drafting Jason Witten
It may feel like old news of when the Cowboys drafted Jason Witten, but it was one of the best decisions the organization has made since their last Super Bowl run. The star tight end has been so dominant for the past 14 years. Witten has played phenomenal on the field, as well as being one of the role models of the NFL. In Witten’s four-year career, he has only caught for less than 500 yards once. He has also managed to catch more than one touchdown pass in 12 out of his 14 seasons.
Witten has been an easy target for Cowboys quarterbacks to throw the ball too. He may not be the most mobile tight end, but he has great hands and has the ability to block. Witten has also been a leader on this team, being one of the captains. Many times players have stated that they look up to Witten as a leader.
16 Worst: Trading For Joey Galloway
In need of a star wide receiver, the Cowboys did whatever they possibly could to bring Joey Galloway to Texas. In 2000, the Cowboys traded away two first-round draft picks to pick up Galloway from the Seattle Seahawks. One of the first-round draft picks that the Seahawks got turned out to be one of the best running backs in Seahawks history, Shaun Alexander. After the Cowboys let Emmitt Smith on his way to Arizona, the Cowboys could have also used a new star running back. But instead, they decided to take part in one of the worst trades in NFL history.
Galloway played well with Seattle, until his last season in 1999 where he missed half of the season. The Cowboys then went after Galloway giving away way too much to get the receiver. Out of his four seasons in Dallas, Galloway only played one decent season where he caught for 908 yards and six touchdowns. Even with those statistics, the Galloway trade was a complete failure.
15 Best: Releasing Lucky Whitehead
The release of Lucky Whitehead seemed to be a mediocre release that wasn’t a big deal. However, the release meant more than many may think. For once, the Cowboys stepped up and made the right decision by releasing him. Whitehead struggled, and may have had a good chance of being released after this season, was made as an example of what happens when you mess up under the Cowboys watch. In an offseason where the Cowboys suffered many suspensions, the Cowboys cracked down and let go of Whitehead.
Whitehead may not have had the production many would have thought, but he was a close part of this offense that gained a very close relationship. The release of Whitehead opens the eyes of other players and lets them know that no players jobs are guaranteed. The release also allows the Cowboys to give more reps to Ryan Switzer and other players to help improve the special teams.
14 Worst: Roy Williams
Jerry Jones has made many good moves in his tenure as Cowboys' owner/GM. However, making a move for Roy Williams in 2008 is definitely among his worst all-time moves. That season the Detroit Lions were in midst of an embarrassing 0-16 season, so Jones tried to take advantage by prying former Pro Bowler Williams for future first-, third, and sixth-round picks. Williams was signed for six years for a total of $54 million and with the Lions clearly needing to rebuild, they were happy to get rid of that contract. It seemed like Williams would be the ideal no.2 to Terrell Owens, but he was extremely unproductive in Big D. Williams would eventually lose his starting job to Miles Austin and was eventually cut after the team drafted Dez Bryant.
13 Best: Bring AT&T Stadium To Life
What used to be known as Cowboys Stadium, opened for the beginning of the 2009 season. The stadium is known to be a great experience for football fans of all over. America’s Team was due for a new stadium, and the stadium they got was above and beyond all expectations. The stadium is so large that it can also fit other sporting events as well as concerts. The stadium fits 80,000 seated, or 105,000 people with standing room. The stadium is the fifth largest stadium in the NFL, allowing fans from all over the country to come watch America’s Team in what is sometimes referred to as “Jerry’s World.” Jerry Jones has made many questionable decisions since the Cowboys’ last Super Bowl, but the idea of AT&T Stadium was an excellent idea. The stadium is most known for the gigantic screen above the field, that stretches from 20-yard line to 20-yard line. The Cowboys may have failed to perform on the field, but they definitely managed to bring to life an incredible stadium.
12 Worst: Allowing Many Off The Field Issues In 2017
There have been way too many off the field issues throughout the offseason before the 2017 season. So many that could extremely impact this team’s chance of making it back to the playoffs. The Cowboys have a lot of talent, but with so many suspensions, it may be hard to survive in a tough NFC East division. A big part of these suspensions comes down to the coaching staff. The staff needs to be more disciplined to keep these men out of trouble. Some players it tends to happen, but the Cowboys currently have five players suspended. These players include Rolando McClain, Randy Gregory, Damonte Moore, David Irving and Ezekiel Elliott.
The suspensions have taken away four key players to this defense, as well as their star running back. It’s unacceptable for a team to allow players to have these types of actions, which reflect back on the team. The coaching staff needs to find a way to keep these players under lock and ready to go for the upcoming season.
11 Best: Gave Tony Romo A Chance
Many people have their opinions on Tony Romo, but he may be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the last 20 years. Romo signed with the Cowboys in 2003 as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois. Romo’s legacy is filled with some of the poor highlights of Romo from his career. It all began when he muffed a fumble in Seattle, which led the Seahawks to defeat the Cowboys in a game that Dallas thought they had for sure. But, Romo had given the Cowboys organization everything he had.
Romo holds many Cowboys quarterback records, as well as having the fourth best quarterback rating in NFL history. Even with very little help on the roster, Tony managed to help get these Cowboys two playoff victories in the span of his NFL career. Romo gave it his all and showed that even an undrafted free agent can be a star in this league.
10 Worst: Allowing Emmitt Smith To Walk
There is only one way to handle a situation with one of the greatest players in the history of an organization: stay loyal to them. Unfortunately, the Cowboys could not do that with the all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith. Smith was getting old, and the Cowboys didn’t seem to want to match the contract the Cardinals offered him of a two-year deal worth $7.5 million. Smith’s production may have decreased due to age, but with a legend like that, you need to take care of him. The Cowboys are paying Tony Romo almost $11 million this season and he doesn’t even play anymore, yet weren’t willing to pay Smith to stick around for a little longer and finish his career in Dallas.
In Smith’s final season with Dallas, he managed to run for 975 yards and scored five touchdowns. Smith never ran for less than 900 yards in a season with the Cowboys, putting up incredible numbers. Even though Smith disappointed in Arizona, loyalty means everything.
9 Best: Let DeMarcus Ware Walk
Now, this may seem hypocritical because of loyalty, but the situation between DeMarcus Ware and Emmitt Smith are a little different. Smith won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys and was just looking to finish his career with a nice pay check, where Ware was still trying to cement his legacy with a Super Bowl ring. The Cowboys were nowhere near that happening when Ware left in 2013. The Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware, allowing him to find a new home to possibly win a championship.
As it was difficult for Cowboys fans to see a loved one leave their team, it was more rewarding when they saw Ware finally win a championship. Even though Ware winning didn’t benefit the Cowboys organization, it made many fans happy to see one of their favorite all time Cowboys players, walk away from the game with a Super Bowl ring. Although fans wish that Ware won it in Dallas, they would rather have seen him win one than never win one.
8 Worst: Passing On Randy Moss
It was pretty clear back in the 1998 Draft that Randy Moss wanted to be drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately, character concerns began to surface for Moss leading into the '98 draft. Despite his legendary performance during his pro day at Marshall prior to the draft, Jerry Jones just wasn't comfortable taking Moss due to the character concerns that had surfaced. When Moss was taken by the Vikings at 21st overall, he said teams "will regret it once they see what kind of a player I am and what kind of guy I really am."
For the rest of his career, Moss made it a point that he wanted to make Dallas pay. In Week 13 of his rookie season, Moss turned in a 163-yard, three touchdown performance on Thanksgiving in Dallas.
7 Best: Not Drafting Johnny Manziel
The Cowboys have a history of signing or drafting problematic players, but they dodged the bullet and made the smart decision of passing on quarterback Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M University during the 2014 NFL Draft. Mixed feelings went around when the Cowboys were on the clock, as many believed Manziel would be drafted to be the future successor of Tony Romo. Instead of going after the party animal, the Cowboys drafted offensive guard Zach Martin.
Martin has developed to become one of the best offensive guards in football, and has helped complete this dominant offensive line. He may not have been as exciting as a draft pick as Johnny Football, but his contributions to the game are way more than Johnny Manziel ever completed in his two years in the NFL. The Cowboys made the smart decision staying away from one of the most problematic players in NFL history.
6 Worst: Jason Garrett As Head Coach
It’s a love/hate relationship with fans and their favorite team’s NFL head coach, but in Dallas, it seems that everyone always hates Jason Garrett. In Garrett’s seven years as a head coach, the team has made it to the playoffs twice, losing both times to the Green Bay Packers. Many say that Garrett is too soft, and acts as a puppet for Jerry Jones. Garrett seems to follow all of Jones’ rules and goes by what the owner says, rather than going back his own personal experience.
Many believe the Cowboys need a hard nose head coach that is willing to kick and scream and take control of this time. Unfortunately, it seems that Jones is in control of this team, and Garrett is the temporary babysitter on the field on Sundays. After the three straight 8-8 seasons, Garrett should have seen his way out of Dallas.
5 Best: Building Offensive Line In Draft
The Dallas Cowboys are known to have the best offensive line in football. Of course, Ezekiel Elliott makes this team look great, but even a season before with Darren McFadden at running back, he rushed for 1,089 yards. The great Cowboys offensive line has helped the starting running backs over the course of the last four years each rush for over 1,000 yards. This offensive line has been broken up a bit with new signings, but the offensive line still looks dominant. The Cowboys drafted Tyron Smith in 2011, Travis Frederick in 2013, and Zach Martin in 2014.
These draft picks weren’t flashy, but they set up the foundation for this Cowboys team. Before 2011, this offensive line was a disaster. But now, this offensive line gives the Cowboys a shot no matter who is playing at the skilled position. These draft picks have helped this team dominate with the run game, and give their quarterback great protection.
4 Worst: Not Building Offensive Line For Tony Romo
Part of why Tony Romo’s legacy is so poor, is because of all the injuries he suffered. Romo suffered quite a few, one that actually led to the end of his career after the 2016 season. A huge part in this was the Cowboys' inability to build a good offensive line behind him for all the years he was under center. The dominant offensive line that they put together was just beginning to get put together in 2011, and the final piece wasn’t added until 2014.
The last few seasons of Romo’s career he was sacked over 30 times, with two seasons being sacked 36 times. Romo’s body was unable to take it anymore, which led to many injuries. The offensive line was awful for the Cowboys, and wasn’t really improved and as dominant as it is until 2014. Eventually it seemed that every time Romo got hit, he would get hurt. Many may criticize, but if he had a better offensive line throughout his career, there’s a good chance he may still be playing to this day.
3 Best: Draft and Name Dak Prescott The Starter
Many Tony Romo fans may still be upset, but the future is here, and that is Dak Prescott. Questions lingered throughout the 2016 season if Romo would ever become the starter again, but the Cowboys allowed Prescott to finish his rookie season and play it out. Prescott had a phenomenal rookie campaign winning the NFC Rookie of The Year Award, taking the Cowboys to the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs with a 13-3 record. Prescott may have not been able to surpass the Green Bay Packers, but he gave the Cowboys a lot to look forward to in the future.
Allowing Prescott to play out his rookie season allowed him to get experience playing a full season, and into the playoffs. Prescott was able to experience the challenges of having off weeks and time off, and playing under pressure. Even though the season didn’t result the way fans would have liked, Prescott showed that he can remain poised and help give this team shot to win. The most important things that Prescott did in 2016 that Romo could never do, he was smart with the football only throwing four interceptions, and he never managed to crack under pressure.
2 Worst: QB Controversy In 2016
It was almost as if Dak Prescott was constantly being threatened to lose his job if he made one mistake. For weeks upon weeks during the 2016 NFL season, the question always came up on who would be the starting quarterback when Tony Romo was healthy again. Jerry Jones said many times that Romo was their quarterback, until Romo became healthy and was clear to play, but Prescott remained the starting quarterback.
There was always that thought that Prescott could be taken out of a game at any moment to put in Romo, which could put a lot of pressure on Dak. Prescott always seemed to play calm and collective throughout the season even with the quarterback controversy. Normally, these controversies are formed by the media, where this controversy seemed to come from Jerry Jones. Jones never put his trust in Prescott, which constantly led to many questions on who would be the starting quarterback of this football team. Even with all the pressure, Prescott still managed to shine.
1 Best: Build Team Through The Draft
It’s not always about being the big buyers, spending the money in free agency to create a winning ball club. The Dallas Cowboys have done a wonderful job throughout the past few NFL Drafts, creating their current team. This way of building a team helps save money, as well as teach players from the beginning rather than them having to adjust to a new scheme. Notable players who are starting that the Dallas Cowboys have drafted are Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, and the core of the offensive line. There are many players the Cowboys have drafted that have made a huge impact on this team.
Going after and signing big players is always a huge risk, because you never know if they will fit into the new scheme of the Cowboys. When you sign as a rookie, you have a type of trial period where you’re getting paid, but not a big paycheck. The Cowboys can save money this way and help see which players they need to spend their money on. Building through the draft not also saves money, but it helps maintain a young team.