The NFL playoffs begin today.
Like all but one of each of the last 18 years, the Dallas Cowboys will not be among this weekend’s winners. That’s 17 of the last 18 Januarys spent at home.
This may seem unremarkable unless you consider the perpetual disappointment of this wasted franchise. Do you think the Detroit Lions or Buffalo Bills would be ranked near the top of NFL team memorabilia sales if they posted just one playoff victory in 18 years? Somebody is fooling somebody here. There are a lot of fools drinking Cowboy Kool-aid.
And therein lies the wicked wizardry of the man responsible for brewing the punch, behind the curtain, at the controls, pulling the levers.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jerry Jones.
WHO’S JERRY JONES?
Okay, first things first. Who’s Jerry Jones?
He’s the megalomaniacal owner of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. He’s owned one of the world’s premier sports franchises (ranked number three in the world according to Forbes, valued at nearly $2 billion) for nearly 25 years.
Jones played college football at the University of Arkansas. He made his fortune in the oil and gas business.
By the way, Jones isn’t a Texan. He’s originally from Arkansas.
THE DALLAS PROBLEM
If Washington is all about power and Los Angeles is all about fame, then Dallas is obsessed with two things — image and money. Little else matters.
This makes fertile ground for Jerry Jones who thrives on illusion. Build the NFL’s biggest stadium and keep on perpetuating the myth the Cowboys are on the verge of a championship, and the assembly line keeps moving.
But let’s look at the record.
What would sports fans in other cities do if Jones was running their team? If this was all happening in Philadelphia, Cleveland, or Chicago, there would be riots in the streets. They’d be hanging Jones in effigy. He’d need an armored car to get around town.
Yet Dallas sells out just about every home game. Like pigs rushing to a picnic because they smell bacon.
Of course, fans are going to cheer for their team no matter what. That’s the nature of things. But let’s face it. Cheering for a Jerry Jones-owned team is like rooting for North Korea in the Olympics. It’s just wrong.
The fans know, of course. Jones’ (mis)management of the team has been a slap-the-forehead disaster. He’s become the Michael Brown of the NFL (he’s the former FEMA guy, ala “you’re doing a helluva job, Brownie.”). Yep. Jones has done one helluva job. Crashing and burning the franchise. Anyone else who would have posted these results would have been fired from management and run out of football.
It’s like picking Matt Millen as general manager — for life.
MY FIRST AND LAST COWBOYS GAME
I attended my first Dallas Cowboys game at the Cotton Bowl. The year was 1970. I was eight years old.
Dallas beat the Detroit Lions in a playoff game that day 5-0. I’m not kidding. That was the final score. The lowest final score of an NFL playoff game in history, I think.
Here’s the CBS Television recap of the game. I found it on YouTube:
Fast forward 18 years later.
The last Dallas game I attended was Tom Landry’s final game as head coach, played at Texas Stadium in December of 1988. The Cowboys had just suffered through a miserable season and lost that final home game to the Philadelphia Eagles, who were coached by Buddy Ryan. I’ll never forget all the drinking in the stands that freezing day. None of us knew it at the time. As we watched the expressionless man in the hat calmly walk off the field following the loss, that would be Tom Landry’s final game.
Aside from Vince Lombardi and possibly Paul Brown, Tom Landry was the greatest NFL coach of all time. In terms of the pure science of Xs and Os, I believe he was the most innovative in history.
I remember that Landry used to have his own TV show in Dallas. It was seeming dull on the surface, but it was also incredible — that is, if you were really into football. He would sit with a film projector every week and run the previous game’s plays over and over again, showing the intricacies of his offensive and defensive schemes with a pointer. It was like getting a free football clinic. Of course, you’d never see an NFL coach doing that today.
THE MODEL FOR NFL OWNERSHIP
Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys in early 1989 from a piece of shit named Bum Bright, a crusty old Dallas banker. A horrible man.
Before that, Clint Murchison had been the owner for nearly three decades. But he was forced to sell the team in the late 1980s. What a prince of a man Murchison was. No one remembers this story. When everyone in Dallas was screaming for Landry to be fired after the 1964 season, following his fifth losing season in a row, Murchison did the unimaginable. I mean, the UN-FUCKING-THINKABLE.
He signed Landry to a ten-year contract. TEN YEARS!
Can you imagine that? Would any team owner grant a head coach, who had just lost five straight seasons, a TEN YEAR deal? That shows a staggering degree of faith. That was the genius of Clint Murchison. He owned the team and let Landry (and Tex Schramm) run it. He stayed the hell out of the way.
Well, after the contract was signed, Landry went on to post 20 consecutive winning seasons coaching the Cowboys, a record that has not been matched to this day. And barely anyone knows the name CLINT MURCHISON anymore. Sometimes, the best management decision you can make is staying out of the way and letting the people you hire do what they do best.
Jerry Jones could sure learn a lot from Clint Murchison.
MEETING JACK DEL RIO
Now, here’s where I come in.
Right after Jerry Jones bought the team, fired Tom Landry, and brought in Jimmy Johnson from the University of Miami to coach the team, I was hanging out at a local bar called Dave and Busters. It was in North Dallas. Forest Lane, I think.
Late one night, three Dallas Cowboys players came into the bar and sat beside me and a pal of mine. One of the players was the Cowboys starting middle linebacker. His name was Jack Del Rio. Later, he would go on to become the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s now on the coaching staff of the Denver Broncos.
The Cowboys had just moved practices to their new facility at Valley Ranch. Del Rio revealed that the new head coach, Jimmy Johnson was an absolute master of psychology. Think about that for a moment. Jimmy Johnson’s education wasn’t in coaching. It was in psychology. Perhaps that’s what made him such a great coach, not only in college but in the pros, as well.
At one of the very first team practices, which just so happened that same day when the three Cowboys came into the bar, Johnson brought several kegs of beer out to the practice field. It was hot that day. He iced down the cold beer and invited all the players to enjoy the brew.
Now, you must keep in mind that Dallas has just come off a miserable losing season. Jimmy Johnson was the new head coach. Why would Johnson do this? This wasn’t a time to celebrate and make friends.
Del Rio was smart. Middle linebackers have to be smart. He saw what Johnson was really up to, one reason perhaps why he later ended up coaching an NFL team himself.
He figured out Johnson was using the beer kegs as a test of his players. The new coach wanted to see who was there to practice and work hard, and who was there to fuck around and party. Jimmy Johnson wasn’t bringing beer to a Dallas Cowboys practice to make them all like him. He was using the beer as a benchmark.
Johnson was a master of psychology. Anyone who thinks that south Texas accent and good old boy image are signs of ignorance certainly doesn’t know Johnson, a master motivator and the second most important figure in Dallas Cowboys history.
By the way, had Johnson not been run out of Dallas six years later by the meddling Jerry Jones, you probably would have seen the greatest NFL dynasty of all time. I’m talking right up there with Lombardi. Dallas would have fucking destroyed and dominated the 1990’s and maybe the decade beyond, had Johnson been left alone to coach the team. He would have potentially surpassed Tom Landry as the greatest ever. I’m convinced of that.
Jerry Jones, in fact, derailed the Cowboys from becoming the most winning team in NFL history. I am convinced of this.
But something else happened. Jones was left to run the team on his own. After they won the Super Bowl in 1996, Dallas has won exactly ONE playoff victory since that time. Only four NFL teams have posted worse results in this period when it comes to playoff futility.
MORE ON JIMMY JOHNSON
Remember what I was saying about Jimmy Johnson and psychology?
When Johnson was contemplating his draft choices, he would try to interview as many of the players as possible beforehand. He always asked seemingly innocent questions of the players, but which had hidden meaning (to him).
Once, a potential high draft pick was asked if he wanted to be picked by the Cowboys. The player answered something like he’d play anywhere for anyone if the money was right.
Johnson immediately scratched that player’s name off his list.
“I want people here who say, ‘let’s go out and beat the New York Giants,’ not players who are motivated by the size of their contract,” Johnson explained later. He wanted players who wanted to win and who were motivated by being part of history.
Well, Johnson got his players. Eventually. Thanks to the Minnesota Vikings, who made one of the biggest blunders in league history. Within three seasons, Dallas made the playoffs. In his fourth season, they won the Super Bowl. In his fifth season, they won the Super Bowl again. And in what would have been his seventh season, the team Johnson built won the Super Bowl yet again. That’s three championships in seven years, after going 1-15 the first year. Truly staggering.
THE JERRY JONES ERA BEGINS
Since Jimmy Johnson basically said ‘forget this” and flew off to South Florida to semi-retirement, and after Barry Switzer stuck around for three seasons using Johnson’s players, his assistant coaches, and blueprint for winning championships, Jerry Jones has run the team pretty much all by himself. Oh, let’s don’t forget his ass-kissing sons, Link and Larry (I don’t know their real names — Link and Larry just sounded kinda’ funny). And so, Jones bears the sole responsibility for what’s happened to the team since.
Off the top of my head, let’s make a list of the blunders Jones has made over the years. Remember, he’s the owner, president, and general manager of the team.
But before airing out all the dirty laundry, let’s give him props on one thing. Aside from winning just one playoff game in the last 18 years, Jones has been a brilliant businessman. He’s truly a master illusionist. Jones created an immensely profitable sports franchise, the richest in football. He’s built a state-of-the-art football facility (although wrongly misplaced in Arlington — it should have been built near downtown Dallas). He’s a superstar when it comes to making money and keeping the fans’ faith alive. Give him that.
But the results of his management tell quite a different story.
THE EMPORER HAS NO CLOTHES
Here’s a partial list of the management mistakes made by Jerry Jones over the years:
1997 — After Barry Switzer had enough, Jones hired a new milquetoast head coach named Chan Gailey. Let’s see — here’s the Cowboys coaching lineage…Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, and then CHAN GAILEY. Which name doesn’t quite fit? He reportedly made this baffling decision just five minutes after meeting for the first time in his office. Gailey went on to coach two unremarkable seasons, despite having one of the NFL’s most talented rosters which still included Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin.
1998 — Everyone in Dallas begged Jones to pick Randy Moss with the eighth overall draft choice. Every Cowboys assistant pleaded with Jones to take the tall, sure-handed receiver who badly wanted to play for the Cowboys. Jones didn’t listen to his staff and ended up missing out on one of the best wide receivers of all time.
2000 — Stung from missing out on the Moss pick, Jones tried to cover his ass. He insisted on acquiring a vastly overrated wide receiver who was in the midst of a contract hold out during the final year of his contract. In fact, the player sat out for an entire season. Jones made a baffling trade with Seattle, obtaining a gutless player named Joey Galloway. The price? Not one, but TWO first-round draft choices. No player in the league would be worth that price. Galloway missed his first year with Dallas due to injury and never materialized to much. He was eventually shipped off to Tampa Bay for a candy bar.
2001 — In one of the worst picks in franchise history, Jones insisted on taking Quincy Carter as the top pick in the draft. For the next three miserable seasons, Jones explains to the media and fans that “Quincy Carter is the Cowboys quarterback of the future.” During one offseason, the franchise quarterback was busted for drugs and never played another down again.
2008 — Following a brief run of success when Jones finally brought in someone who knew what he was doing (Bill Parcells coached for three seasons), he eventually returned to his bad habits. Jones knabbed wide receiver Roy Williams, another soft player with no heart for the game. Jones surrendered the store for a player who, at best, had been marginal in Detroit, giving up a 1st, 3rd, and 6th round draft choice. Williams proved another flop, but then Jones made the error worse by signing him to a $54 million contract extension, which burdened the Cowboys with salary cap problems for two more years.
2009 — Just when Dallas seemed to have all the makings of a championship team finally in place, Jones inexplicably chose Wade Phillips to be the new head coach. No doubt, Phillips had done a good job as defensive coordinator in San Diego, but his leadership skills were sorely lacking. More like non-existent. Someone once said of Phillips that he couldn’t motivate a man on fire to jump into a swimming pool. This was a horrible decision that essentially burned through the narrow window remaining for Dallas to return to championship form. Phillips was a horrible hire.
2012 — Dallas finished the regular season as a .500 team. Much of the blame for yet another disappointing season fell on the shoulders of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who managed to keep things together despite any real stars and several injuries. So, Jones fired Ryan, who was quickly snapped up by New Orleans. This past season, Ryan completely transformed the Saints defense, which used to be one of the worst in the league to one of the better units in football. Meanwhile, Dallas ended up with the worst defense (in yards and points allowed) in the 54-year history of the franchise.
Entering the 2014 off-season, Jerry Jones seems intent to keep both Jason Garrett as head coach and Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator. I actually feel sorry for both of these men, especially Garrett who simply is not head-coach material and seems trying to do an impossible task — to win with Jerry Jones making the key decisions. But letting either one of those two coaches go would be Jones admitting he was wrong. And that can’t possibly be allowed to happen.
This once-proud franchise is doomed as long as this meddling maniac continues to run the team.
READ MORE HERE: Excellent article in The Nation about NFL owners.
“PLAYOFFS! YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT PLAYOFFS?” — REDUX
Oh, I almost forgot. This week’s NFL playoff game picks.
NOLAN DALLA: 2013 NFL SEASON RECORD
104 WINS — 78 LOSSES — 6 PUSHES
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS — 6 WINS 3 LOSSES 0 PUSHES (+$2,010)
FUTURES BETS GRADED — 6 WINS 3 LOSSES 0 PUSHES (+2,985)
STARTING BANKROLL: $10,000.
CURRENT BANKROLL: $20,602.
NET GAIN: + $10,602.
BEST BETS: 21–18–2
THIS WEEK’S PLAYS: (first posted last Sunday night, some lines have moved)
San Francisco -2.5 (-115) at Green Bay — $805 to win $700
49ers are far superior in every phase, except at QB where they are at a huge disadvantage. 49ers game plan is to play solid defense, run the ball, and let the best crew of WRs in the NFL catch Kaepernick’s wobbly balls and make yardage. The formula works. Green Bay’s defense is awful. I can’t see the Packers matching up well here and will gladly lay the points. (line remains -2.5 — lay anything at this price, but not -3)
Kansas City +3 (-120) at Indianapolis — $880 to win $800
Colts record is deceptive, but they have managed to beat some good teams (SEA, DEN, SFO). The difference is Chiefs running game. I expect them to control the line of scrimmage and win outright. (line dropped to -1.5 in some places, which means I like the game, but for a lesser amount, unless you can get the +3)
Philadelphia -2.5 (-125) vs New Orleans — $750 to win $600
How can you not fade the Saints outdoors? Hurts to bet against New Orleans, but that’s clearly the right side based on what we’ve seen. Need to snap this up because I’m sure this moves to -3, if not higher by game time. (line has not moved, to my surprise — I guess there is some support for New Orleans in this game)
Cincinnati -7 vs. San Diego — $1,100 to win $1,000 <<<BEST BET>>>
Chargers should have lost the game last week to Kansas City practice squad. Everyone was on bench for Chiefs, but they still somehow almost won outright as double digit dog on the road, and would have knocked San Diego out of playoffs were it not for a missed field goal. Chargers are the NFL’s softest team, and should have a handful against a team that’s perfect at home and scoring a ton of points every week. Huge game for Bengals who I expect will roll up the score and cover easily. (line is still at -7)
TEASER: Cincinnati -1 with Kansas City +9 — $990 to win $900
If you like the favored Bengals at home where they seem unbeatable, and Chiefs on the road in game that seems like a toss up, then you have to tease the two.
NOLAN DALLA: 2012 FINAL NFL SEASON RECORD
98 WINS – 87 LOSSES – 6 PUSHES —– (+ 34.6 units / 1 unit = $100)
STARTING BANKROLL: $10,000.
ENDING BANKROLL: $13,460.
NET GAIN: + $3,460
BEST BETS OF THE WEEK: 14-7-0