Many things have changed in the 16 years since the Dallas Cowboys last won a Super Bowl. In those 16 years the franchise has seen five head coaching changes and an innumerable amount of player personnel changes - specifically the quarterback position, which has been occupied by five separate "franchise" quarterbacks. The defense has been overhauled multiple times. Some players, like 5-time Pro Bowl strong safety Roy Williams, just dropped off the planet of relevance. Some players, like 1-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Roy Williams, should have never worn a Cowboy uniform in the first place (the guy has a standardized celebration for first downs, of which he never achieves).
In all of the turmoil and all of the upheaval, through all of the tremendous hype (Tony Romo) and all of the ridiculous embarrassments (Quincy Carter), one constant has held true. The general manager has always been the same.
Jerry Jones has seen everything in his 23 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys. One of the things that he has seen, surely with disgust, was the week 8 beatdown his beloved Cowboys suffered last year at the hands of their NFC East rival in Philadelphia. The Eagles absolutely crushed the Cowboys in every aspect of the game, going so far as to score on their first six drives. He even admitted afterward that it scared him, saying, "After the butt-kicking they gave us up in Philadelphia, I'm scared." You would think Jerry Jones would have the responsibility to fire the general manager that has won 1 single playoff game since 1996. You would think that, but Jerry Jones' ego cannot stand firing himself. Now that Al Davis is no longer with us, Jones and Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown are the only owners in all of professional football that act as general manager. Jerry Jones, Al Davis, and Mike Brown. Think about that. Jerry Jones has won 3 Super Bowls (with the last happening in 1996). Al Davis won 3 as well (the last happening in 1983). Meanwhile, the Bengals have never won a Super Bowl. It's not exactly recently elite company.
Jones is becoming increasingly uncomfortable about the state of his franchise. Sometimes, he seems far too pleased for an owner that hasn't won anything in years... and at other times he finds chaos where there shouldn't be chaos; like when he criticized top draft pick and rookie Morris Claiborne last month while Claiborne was recovering from a sprained MCL in his knee. He hires coaches but impedes on their power and control of the team. Jones might have won a national championship at the University of Arkansas, but he treats his team like a dog. It's almost as if he never played a game of organized football in his entire life. The most successful coach he has hired since Super Bowl XXX was Bill Parcells, who kicked Jones out of the post-game locker room. It was Bill Parcells that squeezed juice out of a dead lemon and built this team. Which points to another aspect of Jones' poisonous relationship with his own franchise, the fact that he has never won anything
As the team's general manager he has never won anything without Tom Landry's direct influence, even if the lot of those teams were drafted by himself. Any Cowboy fan will tell you that when Bledsoe went down in the middle of the 2006 season, no one expected his backup to be any good. But, Tony Romo was good. Setting aside the ridiculous late-game collapses that he is famous for, he helped turn that team around. The Cowboys went to the playoffs that year for the first time since the 1990's. Parcells left after that season, and Wade Phillips was hired to handle a great team that Parcells put together. Those Cowboys responded by winning the 1st seed in the NFC playoffs, receiving a 1st round bye, and getting pummeled by the New York Giants (who would go on to defeat the almost perfect Patriots in Super Bowl XLII). DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin were also Parcells decisions. Jones was general manager then, but Parcells and Jimmy Johnson remain to this day the only coaches Jerry Jones has ever paid who established order and control over the team. Wade Phillips is not a good head coach, he is a great defensive coordinator, but he is not a good head coach. But, he's from Texas and he's Jones' friend. Phillips was never going to pose any problem in the grand scheme of Jones' ego. Jason Garrett is a good football mind, but he too allows Jones to pretend that being owner means you get to tell the players what to do and how to do it. The Rooneys don't do that up in Pittsburgh and they now have one more Lombardi trophy than the Cowboys.
It's just a giant pool of wasted promise, because the truth is that Jerry Jones is one of the best owners in the league. Hell, he's one of the best owners in all of professional sports. He never moved his team like Al Davis did. The Raiders downgraded stadiums in their move from Los Angeles back to Oakland, and to this day the only team in the NFL that shares a stadium with another sport is the Oakland Raiders. Jones shells out for his squad. Players want to play for the Dallas Cowboys, but not because they win as much as because they treat their players right. Like Mark Cuban or George Steinbrenner, Jones is a great owner.
Franchise quarterbacks don't come along that often. Not that often at all. Tony Romo happens to be a franchise quarterback, and the prudent thing to do to best take advantage of the closing window of this era is to step aside. Let go. Follow the example of Art Rooney, Jr. and pick the best football mind you can, then let him pick the coach. Let him draft and sign the players. And let the coach do his job. Don't stand like a hawk in the locker room after a loss. Anyone who has played football will tell you that the established hierarchy between player and coach is paramount to success.
The Cowboys defeated the defending champion New York Giants on their own field on Wednesday. It's true, the Giants became the first defending champion to lose the first game of the following season since the post-Elway 1999 Denver Broncos. Regardless, it simply will always be difficult to have any kind of faith in this team as long as Jones stubbornly micro-manages the entire operation. I think the vast majority of Cowboys fans around the world would soundly agree.
Let go, Jerry. And let the chips fall where they may.