The fate of “America’s Team” doesn’t rest on the surgically-repaired back of Tony Romo or within the complex psyche of Dez Bryant or even upon the clipboard of embattled head coach Jason Garrett. The Dallas Cowboys’ destiny lies with the man who presides atop the exuberant monstrosity appropriately dubbed “Jerry’s World.”
February 25, 2014, marked the 25th anniversary of Jerry Jones’ purchase of the Cowboys. This will be the Cowboys’ 26th season under the unquestioned monarchy of Jones, the 71-year-old owner, president and, most importantly, general manager of the fifth most valuable sports franchise in the world.
As Jones goes, so do his ‘Boys, and since 1997 they’ve been following their owner down a path of severe mediocrity, flanked on all sides by dark alleyways crowded with egregious contracts, washed out draft picks and confounding front office decisions. The billionaire’s penchant for headline hogging and beguiling moves has doomed the Cowboys year after year, transforming a once dominant franchise into easily exploitable fodder for Deadspin, the twittersphere and everyone in between.
Jerry’s own personal world is one where the term “job security” has always applied to everyone but the man himself; the perks of being one’s own boss have never been lost on the former oil magnate.
Jones has a lengthy list of miscalculations to his name – Wide Receiver Roy Williams‘ $54 million contract extension and the three draft-picks given up to get him, fall outs with two Hall of Fame coaches in Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells based in large part on ego clashes, the disastrous Joey Galloway trade – that would have ruined any other General Manager in the league.
Yet, it appears a man normally so unwilling to cede any sliver of power – the cessation of power is what caused the demise of the Jones’ relationship with his teams two best head coaches since Tom Landry – may finally be listening, at least somewhat, to the advice of those around him. Whether it’s the ceaseless social media barrage that has drastically altered the sporting landscape or just an abrupt realization of a stubborn old man who needs to hoist the Lombardi Trophy high above his head once again, Jones appears to be, slowly, evolving.
Jones addressed what he had to in the 2014 NFL Draft. With Johnny Manziel sitting in his lap and the sports world ready to implode like a dying star at the very sight of “Johnny Football” holding up a Dallas Cowboys jersey, Jones selected Zack Martin, an offensive tackle from Notre Dame who has been converted to right guard to fortify a line that must protect its ailing quarterback.
In the second round the much maligned GM traded up to select Demarcus Lawrence, a defensive end from Boise State who toyed with defenses to the tune of 20 sacks in two seasons. Despite a broken foot that will keep the fleet-footed 6-3, 250 lbs., DeMarcus Ware replacement out for eight to 10 weeks, the pick was applauded as a wise “need pick” by draft scouts.
The 2014 offseason in Dallas was, by Jones often ludicrous standards, tame. And shrewd.
He didn’t chase down Jason Hatcher, foolishly throwing excess wads of cash as he may have done in the past. Jones signed Pro Bowl defensive end Anthony Spencer on a savvy one-year, $2 million deal, brought in Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton on a heavily incentivized contract and installed Rod Marinelli as Defensive Coordinator after one of the most disastrous defensive showings in NFL history last season.
It will take some time before the jury can weigh in on any philosophical change Jones may have undergone, but the brash septuagenarian has set “America’s Team” up for what will be a competitive season in an unforgiving NFC East.
Like an anxious teenager watching the virtual Madden NFL team he meticulously constructed for days on end, Jones will observe his own creation from high atop the Ivory Tower in “Jerry’s World,” wondering, like we all will, if he is really a changed man.