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Complacent Cowboys Stuck in Neutral

Their renowned moniker as “America’s Team” has attracted many disputers as the Cowboys have continued to sink into a pit of self-aware mediocrity.

Jerry Jones
Jerry Jones

Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones prior to a game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

With 21 division titles, eight Super Bowl appearances and five Lombardi Trophies to their name, the Dallas Cowboys can definitely defend their place as one of the most successful franchises in sports history. However, their renowned NFL moniker as “America’s Team” has attracted a fair amount of disputers in recent years, as the franchise has continued to sink into a pit of self-aware mediocrity.

After missing the playoffs for the last three seasons, and with a familiar middle-of-the-road record of 5-5 coming into week 12 this season, the Cowboys are undoubtedly doing further damage to their once sterling reputation as an NFL power. Surely a team with an admired standard of excellence would do everything in its power to uphold its winning tradition and grand stature, right? In most cases, yes, but alas, longtime owner Jerry Jones and his Boys have decided to simply sit idly by while their shiny iconic Texas star loses more of its luster.

Arguably, what made Jones successful when he bought the franchise in 1989 was his aggressive, gunslinger mentality. As he had in his businesses, Jones made bold and controversial moves right off the bat, including firing legendary Super Bowl-winning head coach Tom Landry in favor of a young, brash Jimmy Johnson. Of course, that decision was validated when Johnson went on to build a dynasty in Dallas, winning two Super Bowls of his own. Johnson may not have been successful right away – as the Boys went 1-15 in his first year at the helm – but Jones had proven that he was willing to roll the dice in order to win. Unfortunately, in light of his recent decisions (or lack thereof), the gamble in this Texan appears to be long gone.

Jones’ first recent offense was re-signing quarterback Tony Romo last offseason. Sure, Romo has proven to be a capable starting quarterback in his career. Some would even put him in the league’s top 10 this season, but at age 33, was he worth a $108 million, six-year extension? Not by a long shot. By sticking with a leader like Romo – who is 61-46 as a starter in his career and 1-3 in the playoffs – Jones is basically saying: First-round playoff exits are the new standard of success in Dallas.

While trying to piece together a winning team around Romo isn’t completely unforgivable, sticking by head coach Jason Garrett could be, especially considering the once-prideful Jones is still in charge. Despite posting a 26-24 record during his tenure with Dallas, Garrett is inexplicably Jones’ “guy” for the foreseeable future. In the past, these substandard results would’ve brought out Jones’ firing pistol, but for some unknown reason, Jones seems just fine with where the Cowboys stand under Garrett and even went as far to say Garrett would be the head coach in Dallas next season, no matter how 2013 ends.

“We’re positioned to get in the playoffs. We see logically how to get in the playoffs. We have that, for all practical purposes, in our control,” Jones said on Thursday, according to ESPN.com. “Now that’s a pretty good spot to be in after 10 games. A lot of this story is to be played out, but it does not have a bearing on whether or not he will be our coach next year. It has no bearing on that.”

The Cowboys have yet to make the playoffs since Garrett took the reins full time in 2011, but with the NFC East experiencing a down year, this season could indeed be his best chance. Still, it’s baffling that Garrett’s coaching seat remains ice cold while the Cowboys continue to squander talent and potential.

While there are quite a few to chose from, perhaps the biggest example of Garrett’s mismanagement is the surprising misuse of running back DeMarco Murray. Even with Murray –  who is arguably one of the league’s most explosive runners – in their backfield, the Cowboys have continued to rank near the bottom of the NFL in rushing (28th in 2013) every season under Garrett and it’s not because Murray is failing to find running room. Murray is averaging a stellar 4.9 yards per carry (2nd among running backs with more than 100 carries), but has still been largely ignored by Garrett’s offense and has only received 111 totes in eight games this year.

While the problems in Big D are abound, they are also pretty glaring. So, why won’t Jones step up to fix them? Could Jones’ failure to make drastic changes and act swiftly be due to sheer stubbornness? It’s certainly possible. Not only does Jones seem like the type of man who can’t admit when he’s wrong, but he’s also the same man who, in an interview with Bob Costas before a game last season, said he would fire himself as general manager if he wasn’t also the owner. At least he knows where the franchise’s faults lie.

To add to the bizarre delusions floating around in Jones’ old skull, he also said this week that he’s doing been doing some of his best work in years this season, according to an ESPNDallas.com report. And yes, he was referring to his work as the Cowboys’ GM and owner.

When looking at the Cowboys, it’s clear that most of the blame should be directed up top. While the team could certainly be performing better, it’s Jones’ job to make necessary changes and bring in personnel who demand results. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, no one in Dallas in demanding much of anything or of anyone. To retain their stature in professional sports, the Cowboys will need to do more than point to past triumphs and the glory of old, and until they get serious, they won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

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