Texas is so football you don’t even know it.
Texas high school football is a religion, and the college game is even more so. Then you have the Dallas Cowboys – a team that is recognized the world over. The Cowboys star logo, is the NFL’s version of the Yankees pinstripes. When the Cowboys do well, the NFL is at its best, and there’s only a select few franchises you can say that about in the NFL.
Jerry Jones has been the ever-present symbol of the franchise, building a new stadium in 2009 also. Though his business acumen is there, he doesn’t have the on field success to accompany it. Recent seasons have not been kind to the Cowboys, as they've only won two playoff games since 1995, with their last Super Bowl win.
What follows is a list of 15 suggestions for the Dallas owner, which of course he won’t read (I’m not that naïve). I can’t say I wasn’t smiling at times while writing this piece (being a Giants fan), but what was always stuck in the back of my mind, was that the NFL is at its best when the Cowboys are playing well.
Think about that – would the NFL be that great without the Cowboys?
Of course not!
They are a necessary evil.
15 No one asked you Jerry!
His remarks are the problem really, because the media does ask Jerry Jones his thoughts on seemingly everything, from the woes of the Cowboys secondary, to the dwindling usage of the ampersand in the English language. Old man Jerry can’t help but fire off a few misguided truth bombs when stationed in front of a microphone.
Generally speaking though, the more successful organizations of the NFL have reclusive owners, or at least owners who let someone else do the talking. Consider this, how often do we hear directly from Paul Allen (Seattle Seahawks), Dan Rooney (Pittsburgh Steelers) or John Mara (New York Giants)? Rarely, if at all.
Sure there are exceptions to the rule, like Robert Kraft in New England, but generally speaking, the successful owner is a silent one.
14 Save Dak
Mark Sanchez is the current backup at the most important position in football for the Dallas Cowboys – he of "butt fumble" fame.
While I think that Sanchez has been somewhat poorly characterized over the last few years, he certainly is not the quarterback that you want your possible future franchise player to be learning from.
This mistake may not necessarily be the Cowboys fault either, as Tony Romo should be taking Dak Prescott under his wing, but the all too familiar injury bug has hit Romo again. Josh Freeman and Matt Flynn are floating around unsigned at the moment, and sure they’re no starters, but they’d be better options than Sanchez.
Look at some other teams backup quarterbacks; Nick Foles (Chiefs), Colin Kaepernick (49ers) and Matt Cassell (Titans). These are the sorts of names you need to help a young, inexperienced player like Dak.
13 Build the Defense
The Cowboys have never really had teams that were defensive juggernauts. Sure, they had solid defensive units, and generally speaking you would have to be good at defense to win as many Super Bowls as Dallas has, but they were never identified for their defensive prowess. Arguably the most famous era in the franchise's history was with the "triplets" (Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith) running the offense.
Today, defense has probably never been more important in the National Football League. With teams moving towards receiver based play, and having some great names on the roster, a solid defense is more than necessary. The cornerback position is particularly bereft of talent with the Cowboys at the moment, which does not bode well with games against the Giants, Falcons, Saints and Packers this season.
12 Dak it easy
Ezekiel Elliott, out of Ohio State, and Dak Prescott, out of Mississippi State, were the fourth and 135th picks respectively in this year’s NFL Draft for the Cowboys. The Cowboys appear convinced that they have their future quarterback and running back in Prescott and Elliott. If this works out for them, then it was a masterstroke by the organization, and Dallas fans can rejoice once more.
But no matter how convinced an organization is about the talent they have drafted, rookies need time to adjust to the pro game. Sure there are those rare cases where the drafted talent fits right in, but more commonly we see teams burn out their talent faster than a player can develop.
Elliott and Prescott need more than four preseason games to prepare for the NFL. Prescott in particular had a great preseason, but any fan, executive, coach or pundit will tell you that the preseason means little when it comes to talent evaluation.
11 Oh what a line!
Dallas has always had a strong offensive line, and this year appears to be no different. Dallas’ offensive line is consistently healthy and works well in both the run and pass game. The talent in front of Prescott should give him time to read the opposition, and allow time for routes to develop in the secondary.
Consolidating this talent for Elliott and Prescott will be crucial to any success for the Cowboys. Dallas needs to emphasize the talent here, and make sure it stays healthy and focused all season. It is the one area of consistency in an otherwise turbulent franchise.
The line is an area of the team that needs to be praised more publicly by Jones and others in the organization. This is tricky because the offensive line is rarely a spectacle to watch, but it just might be with Dallas this year.
10 Exhibit A: Cowboys fan
The typical Dallas Cowboys fan does not reside in the Dallas Fort Worth area, and often gives some vague excuse as to why they’re a Dallas fan being that “they grew up watching them on TV”. Excuse me sir, but you realize your state has a perfectly acceptable NFL team (or two) to root for!
The whole moniker of "America’s Team" does not apply to fans in an era of cable television, on-demand and streaming. Just go for the Seahawks like the other fair weather fans if you must.
Furthermore, to you local Dallas fans – just because the Cowboys have sucked for years, does not mean it’s acceptable to pummel rival fans within Jerry World each week. My usual routine on a Monday is to scan my fantasy points and then see what Facebook has for new videos under ‘Cowboys fans fight’.
It’s ridiculous how some fans behave in Dallas. Cleveland I can understand, but Dallas?
9 No more "America’s Team"
And another thing… What’s with this whole "America’s Team" thing in 2016? The way things are going for the Cowboys, they won’t even be "Texas’ Team" for much longer.
The Texans may still be troubled as a franchise because of their lack of quarterback consistency, but imagine what could happen if Brock Osweiler becomes decent this season? The Texans will dominate their division, and steal some of that limelight from the rowdy neighbors in Dallas.
Furthermore, have you noticed how J.J. Watt has assumed the torch from Peyton Manning in the last year or so as the most common face on TV? Sure it gets annoying, but Watt is almost "virgin pure" when it comes to his public image. This leaves Dallas without any national personalities to combat Watt's national presence.
8 Close the door on the past
Despite a new stadium built in 2009, the aptly nicknamed "Jerry World" and stars like Tony Romo and Dez Bryant on the roster, you can’t help but get the impression that the Cowboys yearn for the past. Names like Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders and Charles Haley seem to haunt the franchise, like a spirit of lofty expectations.
What permeated those great teams of yesteryear for the Cowboys was consistency, whether it was through longer contracts and player health, or simply good a coaching staff.
The Cowboys just don’t have the sense of patience that was around in previous decades. They don’t want to make a concerted attempt to rebuild the franchise, instead they seem content reminiscing and lamenting on past accomplishments.
7 The spectacle of Jerry World
Many visiting fans comment that visiting AT&T Stadium is one of their greatest sporting experiences. It’s an incredible beast in Arlington, Texas that has all the trimmings of a modern stadium. The 80,000 seater cost Jerry Jones $1.15 billion, some $500 million over the original budget. It’s the prototype of what a modern stadium should be.
But the spectacle of being in the stadium does little to diminish the impression that game day spectacles are put on a higher pedestal than on field success. Fans feel that if Jerry Jones put more focus on the team’s success than financial success, then the whole situation in Dallas would be better for all.
What good is saying you lead the league in "game day spectacles"? Newsflash Jerry, winning brings more money to the team than having the biggest scoreboard in the league.
6 Deal Dez
“The best Cowboys teams have always had a bi-polar nutjob wide receiver”, said a Cowboy loving friend of mine to me a while back. While it’s obviously a hyperbolic criticism of Dez Bryant to paint him as a “bi-polar nutjob”, there’s obviously a bit of crazy in him.
He’s a polarizing figure (pardon the pun) in the locker room, appearing to either have his teammates back, or be screaming and yelling at them because they screwed something up.
There’s no denying his talent as a receiver, but this young team needs cooler and more level heads on the roster. The best thing the Cowboys can do at this time to build up that team chemistry for the long term, is to deal Bryant to another team. It would be in his better interest also, moving to a team with a better structured coaching and executive staff, and a team with other weapons, so that he doesn’t have to assume the entire offensive burden.
5 Shiny happy people
The Cowboys shouldn’t stop with trying to deal Dez Bryant either, there are other players that could do with a quick cut from the franchise as well.
Just when the Cowboys got rid of the locker room cancer that was Greg Hardy (what were they thinking in signing him last year), they end up having to deal with DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory on the suspension list for being very naughty boys over the summer. We’re not talking about two players on the practice squad here either; we’re talking about two crucial members of the defensive line getting suspended for a month! That was the last thing Dallas defense needed heading into the regular season.
There have just been far too many mistakes being made with the signing of players for this franchise to go forward effectively.
4 Pull the plug on Romo
This will quite likely happen to poor old Tony if Dak Prescott builds on his solid performance early in the season. He looked calm in the pocket against a strong Giants pass rush, and if he is even slightly more durable for the Cowboys, the Dallas faithful will adore Prescott. He also won his first NFL start on the road against the Cowboys' biggest rivals in Washington.
You can’t help but feel sorry for Romo, his list of injuries are as bad as Captain Lance Murdoch when he crashed after trying to do that motorcycle stunt over Homer in The Simpsons.
The balsa wood strong quarterback appears to finally be on the way out in the big D, which means he finally may have time to focus on his golf career.
3 Fire Jason Garrett
Jason Garrett often does a solid job for what he has to work with. Jerry Jones, owner and general manager, picks and signs the team, supposedly without much input from his coach; the coach, you know the guy who is actually properly experienced in football as both a coach and player. But I digress.
For the Cowboys to move forward, Garrett needs to go. One of two things are blatantly obvious with his job here; either he is a "yes man" to Jones and merely placates his ego or, Garrett is incapable of getting the team to take the next step toward in becoming a Super Bowl team.
Fans identify him, whether harshly or not, with an era riddled with futility and instability. You can’t fire an owner unfortunately, so whenever this happens, you know who the first to go is. Hint: it’s not the players.
2 Hire Coach X
The list of available coaches who could replace Jason Garrett is extensive, so what I thought I would do is condense it down to four candidates with a short explanation as to why they’d work in Dallas:
- Jon Gruden – Big enough personality to deal with Dallas, plus he is a winner and will be a good manager for Prescott and Elliott. Probably is unlikely to leave his current gig at ESPN though.
- Jim Schwartz – Worked well in Detroit despite how it ended for him. Good defensive brain, who should help rebuild a poor one in Dallas.
- Kevin Sumlin – Would definitely leave Texas A&M for the Cowboys. Maybe a reunion with Johnny Manziel? Joking(ish)!
- Josh McDaniels – Only a team and opportunity like Dallas would pry him from New England. Like Belichick once got, McDaniels deserves a second chance as a head coach.
1 Get an actual GM
Jerry Jones has certainly succeeded financially as an owner. Forbes recently ranked the Dallas Cowboys as the second most valuable sports franchise (at $3.2 billion) in the world, behind only Spanish soccer giants Real Madrid.
But acting as general manager has not been his finest performance. He really needs to put the on-field future of the franchise in the hands of someone more knowledgeable about the current trends in the league. The league’s play is ever evolving, and so is the College game for that matter. It’s not as simple as it used to be. Bad drafts are franchise cripplers.
The old man needs to be an owner’s box fixture only and leave the day-to-day running of the team to someone more willing to do the research. The Al Davis method of running a franchise is antiquated, and it's time to hang up the Stetson hat as GM for Mr. Jones.