Ten-Point Stance: Jones, Cowboys stuck in slump with coaches

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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Sometimes it appears that Jerry Jones is the Cowboys' real coach as well as being GM and owner. (US Presswire)  
Sometimes it appears that Jerry Jones is the Cowboys' real coach as well as being GM and owner. (US Presswire)  

Jerry Jones was once again defending his head coach. This is a seemingly semiannual occurrence. Here we go again.

Jason Garrett is just beginning and he could evolve quickly into something better, but for the moment his hiring is under a microscope because the Cowboys are in danger of missing the playoffs. This wasn't supposed to happen. Garrett was supposed to be the cure.

During a radio interview this week, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jones was asked if he would fire Garrett if Dallas failed to make the playoffs. Jones became angry and replied, "That is not a question worth responding to."

Except it is. Because unlike what Jones has done off the field with the Cowboys -- taking a highly lucrative franchise and making it even more valuable -- on the field, Jones' Cowboys continue to be one of the more mediocre franchises in football.

Jones can build beautiful stadiums. He can wield power throughout the sport. He can make mountains of cash but one thing still eludes Jones: and that's winning. Actual winning.

For all of Jones' Hall of Fame accomplishments, his inability to replace Jimmy Johnson remains his greatest flaw. Since Barry Switzer's tenure ended in 1997, a run that included a championship won with Johnson's players, the Cowboys have won only a single playoff game.

This isn't as much a criticism of Jones as it is pure wonderment. How can someone who knows football so well, and is obviously extremely intelligent, struggle to find a competent head coach? Since 1998 he has hired Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips and Garrett. If you exclude Garrett, that lineup produced seven playoff appearances with seven losses and the lone win. That's pretty awful. Meanwhile, division competitors New York and Philadelphia have done well, with the Giants winning a championship and the Eagles playing in a Super Bowl.

Jones' struggles are relevant again because of Garrett's struggles. I can tell you, around football the Cowboys' problems are again a major topic of discussion. But there is no consensus as to why. Is it Jones' insistence on being so heavily involved in football matters? Is just a string of bad luck? Tony Romo?

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The best theory I heard this week is that the root cause was a combination of all of the above: poor choices in head coaches; too much meddling; bad luck; good drafts followed by horrible ones; a sense in the locker room that Jones is really the coach; more bad luck; and Johnson was a unique talent who almost any coach would have a difficult time following.

This season, the Cowboys have lost three double-digit fourth-quarter leads -- the most in the five-decade history of the team. Before this season, the Cowboys had blown double-digit fourth-quarter leads only twice during in their 51-year history.

No, Garrett likely won't get fired but this season does not look good.

Meanwhile, Johnson recently was asked on Twitter if he ever felt the itch to coach again. "I have an ointment for that," he responded.

Hey, Jerry: He didn't say no.

2. On Tuesday night the Chargers sent a release saying 2,000 tickets need to be sold to avoid a blackout Sunday night against the Ravens. The team is in the thick of a playoff race and having a hard time selling out? Many NFL writers, including me, have ridiculed the Jacksonville Jaguars over their ticket woes. The Chargers seem to have this type of announcement every week. It feels like the team is ready to pack up for Los Angeles.

3. Pay attention to this group: the National College Players Association. They recently opened up a Twitter account and it's clear from some of the tweets the group plans an attempt to unionize college players. Good for them. Many college athletes are glorified indentured servants. (Rant over).

This is the mission statement of the group as expressed on Twitter: "The National College Players Association (NCPA) exists to provide college athletes a voice and the means to secure basic protections." Ding, ding, ding ... union.

One NCPA tweet: "Forcing players 2 spend many hrs traveling 4 more TV/BCS $, will Big East ensure players that dont graduate have $ for continuing education?"

Another: "NCAA is more powerful than we think if it cn convince us that a $2000 cash payment is not pay...mayB the sky isnt blue"

And another: "UCLA fb player @jefflocke tells @latimes "This is a multibillion $$$ industry, & players dont have enough 4 groceries."

What does this have to do with the NFL? I've heard some general managers say, repeatedly, it's only a matter of time before college players unionize and work with the NFL's union. One speculated that could happen within five years, and when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 10 years a college football union would work with the NFL's to end the draft and make top college prospects free agents instead of having limitations on rookie salaries.

4. A slightly pompous but very accurate take from former NFL player Matt Chatham on Tim Tebow. He wrote this for the WEEI.com blog. Here is the core graph:

"Tim Tebow is purportedly the world's greatest teammate. But nobody in professional football needs his team more than Tim. And no team has given up more to accommodate the inadequacies of one player in recent professional football memory than the Denver Broncos. At this point, it's working for them -- a triumph of TEAM, not Tebow. I'm a fan of watching him play, warts and all. I'm just not a fan of the weekly executions of Cause-and-Effect in the aftermath.

"The list of Tim's strengths and weaknesses has been covered exhaustively by everyone with a pen or a microphone. What's undeniable is that he is exceptionally entertaining, as well as exceptionally skilled at some very specific things. But what frequently gets its corners trimmed with a dull, flailing ax is that during this grand show to which we're all a party, football remains the ultimate team sport. Attempts to frame it any other way -- especially with the extreme example of the 2011 Denver Broncos -- is a lazy lie."

5a. Champ of the week: Commissioner Roger Goodell. He suspended hard-headed James Harrison for one game. Player mentality needs to change and Goodell will change it one way or another.

5b. Chump of the week: Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey. Hate to do this. Some of my best friends are kickers, but after missing a winner against Arizona he had a tying kick blocked against New York.

5c. Tweet of the week: "Lol!!!" -- James Harrison's immediate reaction following his one-game suspension. Not. Getting. The. Message.

6. Derrick Mason, once one of the NFL's elite receivers, was cut by the Texans. This occurred only a short time after being cut by the Jets. Mason's career is ending very quietly and very sadly.

7. Wayne Weaver will be missed.

8. The most underrated defense in the NFL right now: the Arizona Cardinals.

9. One NFL television analyst said he wouldn't be surprised if Giants runner Brandon Jacobs was fined by the NFL for his -- ahem -- suggestive dance after scoring against Dallas. Out of curiosity, I checked. The NFL isn't going to fine Jacobs. Imagine the uproar that would be created if it did.

10. If Steve Spagnuolo is fired by the Rams -- a distinct possibility -- it would be a huge mistake. The Rams aren't bad because of him. The Rams are bad because of injuries and a depleted talent base that will take years to restock.

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