How Jerry Jones Has Put the Dallas Cowboys on Road to Rebuilding
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones professed he believes his team is very close to having the pieces they need to make a run at an NFL title. Back-to-back 8-8 finishes would say otherwise as clearly his players don’t have the mettle to get over the hump and even reach the postseason, let alone win there. Worse yet, there are warning signs that the brass business man has set his team up for a big time fall if the very near future.
Extending Tony Romo
Any time a team hands a six-year extension to a 34-year old quarterback who has won one playoff game in six seasons is clearly a team backed against the wall. That Dallas did with Romo. For all his fantastic plays and good numbers since he took over in 2006, the undrafted free agent from Eastern Illinois still can’t win when it counts. Twice in the past two seasons he’s had a chance to put Dallas in the playoffs with a win in the final game. Both times he failed. Yet ownership and the front office continue to offer excuses. They believe his struggles are always tied to little weaknesses in the roster. Apparently that belief was strong enough to where they handed him a new contract worth over $100 million. That is not sound business thinking. It is a confession of weakness.
Ignoring quarterbacks in the NFL Draft
The same weakness comes from a stubborn unwillingness to set the groundwork for a restart. While teammates continue to fervently believe in Romo, the Cowboys have made no attempts in six years to give the starting quarterback any competition. In fact Dallas hasn’t taken a quarterback before the fourth round since 2001 when they drafted Quincy Carter. Their last drafted passer was Stephen McGee in 2009. That lack of attention tends to haunt teams in the long run. The only “competition” Romo faces this season is Kyle Orton. That right there says the Cowboys are staking their championship hopes on one hand of cards. Otherwise they would’ve dipped into the quarterback draft classes a long time ago.
Constantly shifting defenses
Where Dallas has too much consistency on offense, the opposite is true on defense. Since Romo took over in 2006, the Cowboys have gone through three defensive coordinators in Mike Zimmer, Wade Phillips and Rob Ryan. Now they will install their fourth in 2013 in Monte Kiffin. This latest change is even bigger since the scheme will shift from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Anyone who knows the basics of pro defense understands each scheme demands totally different kinds of players. A 3-4 demands man-to-man coverage from corners and the defensive line to rush three up front and then blitz with any number of the four linebackers. In a 4-3, rush linebackers like DeMarcus Ware will have to shift from their natural upright position to putting their hand in the ground and the corner will play primary zone coverage instead of man. For a team anxious to win a championship while their “window” is still open, this is not the kind of change they need. It almost always takes a year or two for it to become effective, something the team hasn’t grasped for years.
Failure to find a head coach
Jason Garrett is a fine offensive mind who built Romo into a Pro Bowl quarterback. However, his ability as head coach doesn’t measure up with the best in the league. Since taking over in 2010 he has a .525 winning percentage. That means he’s barely won half his games. Jones feels the responsibility of calling plays has put too much on Garrett’s plate and hinted that duty will shift to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. This way Garrett can put his focus on the entire team. Still this doesn’t seem like a solution. Other head coaches around the league handle play-calling duties just fine as head coach. Mike McCarthy and Sean Payton won Super Bowls doing just that. That must signal a red flag that Garrett is not on their level. The best head coaches get the most out of their teams, talented or otherwise. Dallas has talent yet barely won half their games last year. That speaks to a man who doesn’t have his players believing they have what it takes.
Either way the Cowboys are not a preseason favorite for a championship now or in the future. That speaks to a team unable to find winners and an owner unwilling to admit when he’s wrong.