- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- Whenever Jerry Jones speaks, you must remember there are two Jerrys.
There is Jerry Jones the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium and countless other business ventures. And there is Jerry Jones the general manager of the Cowboys.
In pumping up the 50th anniversary of the Academy of Country Music Awards that will come to AT&T Stadium next year, Jones had his owner hat on when he said the following:
“As you know, the Cowboys have not gone to the playoffs in several years. We have not gone. Yet we're the most popular TV show there is on television. We lead all teams in TV ratings, 24 out of the last top 25 shows were NFL games. And any time your Cowboys play, they're up there at the top and leading.”
In other words, the Cowboys are famous for being famous, not for what they actually do. It’s a maddening statistic that Jones always cites. There is nothing incorrect about it, but are the Cowboys popular because they play good football? Their .500 record over the last decade-plus suggests otherwise. Are the Cowboys popular because they are a team others loathe? There is probably some of that, too. Are the Cowboys popular because of the inventive ways they lose and the types of games they play? There is some of that too.
All of it adds up to a ratings bonanza and why the Cowboys, despite their record, will be on national television so much in 2014 when the schedule is released soon.
ESPN NFL columnist Ashley Fox took Jones to task for the comments over the weekend. She didn’t separate Jerry the owner from Jerry the general manager.
Most important is whether Jones can separate the two titles? He is the only owner/general manager in the NFL. Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown doesn’t carry the title even if the final call is his. But Brown does not have the outside business interests of Jones. He is not trying to turn Paul Brown Stadium into a destination spot the way Jones has done with AT&T Stadium.
Of course, Jones also has had to pay off more than $700 million of the stadium since the city of Arlington’s contribution was capped at $325 million.
The sad fact for Cowboys fans is that there is never a clear-cut answer as to whether football is the No. 1 priority when it comes to how Jones operates the team. Jones will say it is and always will be, and there is no doubt he wants to win badly.
However, when Henry Melton made his free-agent visit, Jones was away from Valley Ranch tending to other business interests. Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett handled the visit and Melton signed on with the club. But how many other general managers wouldn’t be on hand when a free agent, especially one as important as Melton, is visiting? It is between none and nil.
When the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum opened last spring on draft day, Jerry Jones was there for the spectacle. How many other GMs would be there on a draft day? All of the work leading up to the draft was complete by then, but it again leads to questions about the priorities.
When the Cowboys lost 37-36 to the Green Bay Packers last season, Jones was asked on 105.3 The Fan if he worried about fan apathy.
“Not with games like the other day,” Jones said. “That’s a show, if you want to look at it that way.”
How many other GMs would look at it that way? None.
But how the Cowboys have operated this offseason might be the beginning of something different in how Jones separates the owner from the general manager. The Cowboys made difficult decisions on DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Miles Austin. They have eschewed the big-name signings and even the Melton deal is essentially for one year and $3.5 million.
Will they be bold and move way up in the first round? It doesn’t sound like that is in their plans. They could move down and collect more selections, which would be smart. They could take the best player available approach, which would be smart too.
It will be up to Jones the general manager.