Best move for Dallas might be new GM
IRVING, Texas The Dallas Cowboys’ master salesman and eternal optimist was off his game Monday afternoon. Jerry Jones, for once, looked like he wanted to be anywhere but in front of cameras and notepads.
Jones made his seventh head coaching change in 21 years as owner of the Cowboys, announcing a move that was anything but unexpected. Fans and the media had been asking for weeks what was keeping him from firing Wade Phillips, whose defense had become woefully inept, and replacing him with coordinator Jason Garrett … whose offense wasn’t playing that much better, to be honest, but it was the only choice Jones had.
That’s why he stalled, hoping for a miracle. That’s why Jones, in his own words, remained “in denial” until Sunday’s nationally televised 45-7 loss in Green Bay hammered home the obvious.
The Cowboys at 1-7 are anything but playoff bound, much less headed for the Super Bowl scheduled for Cowboys Stadium. Still, just to maintain hope that the players will perform with a renewed sense of accountability, Phillips had to go.
A bad team with a backup quarterback is in the hands of Garrett now. Jones made it clear that he could remove the “interim” tag from the head coach’s title “if the team plays outstanding and we have success.”
OK. Given the impossibility of that statement, what’s Garrett’s second option for hanging onto the job?
Realistically, there are three ways that Jones can go with this change.
One is that the team performs better (let’s remove “outstanding” from the criteria) and Garrett shows something in his presence that leads people to believe he can deliver as a head coach in 2011.
That one’s unlikely but not impossible.
Next up is that the team fails to display improvement and Jones realizes that to keep filling his Arlington palace, a bigger name must be hired.
Enter Bill Cowher or possibly (but not likely) Jon Gruden or (even less likely) a college coach hoping to prove himself in the NFL.
That’s the most likely result, but there’s one more.
It’s the one Cowboys fans have been clamoring to see for more than a decade. It’s one most of us in the media rule out because of Jones’ repeated denials of it ever being an option, but after Monday, I’m no longer sure.
That’s Jones stepping aside and hiring a general manager and (heaven forbid) letting him hire the next head coach.
It’s how pretty much 29 other NFL organizations do the job. Cincinnati has its own system with owner Mike Brown, and no one really knows what’s going on in Oakland these days with Al Davis.
But look at any Super Bowl winner of the last 15 years and you find franchises that have ownership and then a general manager and then a coaching staff.
What a concept.
Jones has never considered this an option. He contends that as a general manager with no worries of being fired, he’s more willing to take on risks that bring winning results.
It’s not a bad rationale except for the fact that it simply hasn’t worked that way. When this season ends, the Cowboys will have won one playoff game in 14 years. They will have missed the playoffs seven times in 11 seasons.
If not for the star on the helmet, their international appeal and a storied history that fades from memory, the Cowboys could be the Carolina Panthers or the Seattle Seahawks.
Except for those teams’ more recent trips to Super Bowls, of course.
I have seen Jerry work his magic on media doubters, shouting, “Chan is the Man!” at Gailey’s awkward news conference or introducing Terrell Owens while head coach Bill Parcells was practically hiding from the news in Florida.
Jones didn’t look or sound like that guy Monday. He looked beaten. He looked like a magician whose trick had been exposed and he had nothing left up his sleeves.
When he talked Monday about the Cowboys producing wins under Garrett, Jones was not as believable as he had been immediately after the Green Bay loss. That was when his anger flashed and he said he “didn’t have enough fingers” to put a finger on the Cowboys’ problems.
Maybe one day the real problem will become so apparent to the Cowboys’ owner that he will point an accusing finger at a failed general manager.
That’s a change that Cowboys fans will readily believe in, as opposed to a seventh trip around the coaching carousel.