Commentary

Jerry Jones too reactionary as GM

Emotional investment in Cowboys has proven to be more hindrance than help

Originally Published: December 12, 2013
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- The biggest Dallas Cowboys fan sits in the owner's box each game at AT&T Stadium.

He signs all of the checks, raps and dances in commercials, and has the final say on 99.9 percent of all decisions. Rumor has it Jerry Jones did let his lovely wife, Gene, make the ultimate decision on the Sky Mirror.

[+] EnlargeJones/Ratliff
AP Photo/James D SmithJerry Jones' handling of the Jay Ratliff situation couldn't have been much worse.

Jerry loves the Cowboys more than anyone else. He has the most sweat equity, and he's the most emotionally invested.

It's also why he's been a poor general manager.

A GM can't be a fan. It's not a job conducive to sentimentality.

At times, a GM must be ruthless. He must be pragmatic. He must make the most difficult decisions without flinching until the moment of truth ends. He can't sign players to fat contracts based on past performance. Or pay aging stars, as he's done so many times.

The best general managers have no issue lying to us, but they never, ever, under any circumstances, lie to themselves. Jerry lives in a world of lollipops and gum drops, where kids eat cake and ice cream for dinner and adults spend every weekend on the French Riviera.

It's all poppycock.

There's zero wrong with being a fan -- unless you're the GM. Fans, by the very definition of the word, are fanatics. All they want is for their home team to win. Fire this coach. Cut that guy. Trade for this star. Sign this dude. Who cares if it makes salary-cap sense? Or common sense?

Is that any different, really, than Jerry demanding a change from the 3-4 defense to the 4-3 defense because the Cowboys lost to the Washington Redskins in the final game last season and didn't make the playoffs?

Is that any different than hiring a 73-year-old defensive coordinator who had been out of the NFL since 2008 and experienced mixed success at USC just because he used to be one of the best? Did you catch what Jerry said about the Cowboys' defense after the 45-28 loss to the Chicago Bears? He said the defense needed to be more complicated and blitz more. Heck, Jerry fired the guy, Rob Ryan, who excels in that type of defense, because he needed a scapegoat after the Cowboys missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

That's what happens when your GM has a fan-based mentality. Fans are passionate and emotional. Check any reporter's Facebook page or Twitter timeline during the home team's game. The emotions run rampant, which is great.

Fans are completely invested. A GM can't get consumed by the moment. A GM must take a much broader perspective.

Right now, the Cowboys have no organizational philosophy. That's the GM's fault. He provides no direction. The examples are countless.

The Cowboys spent the entire offseason putting a draft board together that had Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd ranked as the fifth player. Floyd fell to them and they passed. No team ever passes on the fifth player on their board. If you do, it means the process is a joke and somebody should get fired because the GM doesn't trust the board.

The Jeremiah Ratliff situation is one of the biggest indictments of Jerry as a GM on so many different levels.

Jerry spent much of last week moaning and groaning about Ratliff playing for the Bears. Why? It was his own fault. Jerry should've pulled Ratliff into his office and given the aging defensive tackle two options: Play for the Dallas Cowboys, or don't play this season, and see what kind of deal you get having essentially missed two consecutive seasons. After all, Jerry ripped up Ratliff's contract for some reason in 2011 and gave him a huge contract extension. Ratliff missed the last 10 games of last season, all of the offseason, and failed to get through the conditioning run at the start of training camp without another injury.

Jerry needed to be ruthless. Instead, he released him. It was yet another bad decision based primarily on emotion, whether he felt sorry for Ratliff or wanted him gone out of spite.

Rest assured, more decisions like that are coming because the Cowboys' owner is never, ever, going to admit his decision-making as a GM is the franchise's biggest albatross.

When the season ends and the Cowboys miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, Jones will either fire Bill Callahan or Monte Kiffin as coordinators and tell coach Jason Garrett whom to hire. After all, Jerry hired Kiffin and made Callahan the playcaller, no matter what Garrett says about it being a collective decision.

Or Jerry will change his mind, fire Garrett and start over.

Again.

Let's go through this one more time. Since 1997:

* The Cowboys are 135-134.

* They have one playoff win and just four 10-win seasons.

* Only Buffalo, Kansas City and Oakland have hired more than the six coaches Jerry has employed.

* Dallas, Washington and Detroit are the only NFC teams that haven't appeared in the NFC Championship Game.

The one constant: Jerry.

Any other GM would've been fired by now, but Jerry isn't replacing himself, and it's a waste of time to suggest otherwise.

All you can do is hope that some day he stops being a fan and starts becoming a real GM.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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