Commentary

Jerry stuck in Jimmy's shadow

Cowboys owner/GM needs another Super Bowl ring to rid image of football fool

Updated: August 16, 2012, 1:03 AM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

OXNARD, Calif. -- Jerry Jones' bust will one day be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The marketing genius and business acumen of the Dallas Cowboys' owner and general manager have been revolutionary forces in the NFL. As coach Jason Garrett said recently, when the history of the NFL is written, there will be at least a chapter on Jones.

Too bad the part of his chapter that focuses on football won't be very flattering. Not at this point, at least.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Johnson
AP Photo/Ron HeflinJerry Jones is widely perceived as a football fool for pushing Jimmy Johnson out of the door in the middle the Cowboys' dynasty.

Not unless Jones gets to grip a Lombardi Trophy that doesn't have Jimmy Johnson's DNA on it. And, while Barry Switzer proved right Jerry's claim that any of 500 coaches could win a Super Bowl with the mid-'90s Cowboys, Johnson claims the bulk of the credit for putting that roster together.

For all the money Jerry has made, for himself and the rest of the NFL owners, he's widely perceived as a football fool. That's the price a man pays for pushing a coach out of the door in the middle of a dynasty that quickly decayed into a franchise with one playoff win in 15 seasons.

The fact that Johnson shared some fault for the divorce that rocked Dallas doesn't really matter, not with perception being reality. Neither does the fact that Johnson's tenure as the Miami Dolphins' head coach was far from a glorious run.

Almost two decades and six head coaches later, the owner who loves the spotlight like no other is still trying to escape from Jimmy's shadow.

You'll never hear those words coming out of Jerry's mouth, but there's a reason he can't even bring himself to discuss his football legacy. Especially not after his team, the one he annually hypes and hopes is a legitimate contender, flopped the past two seasons on the heels of finally ending its playoff win drought.

"I don't even contemplate what a legacy means," Jones said. "A legacy has a certain finality to it. I don't even contemplate that without having some more Super Bowls for the Cowboys while I'm making the decisions, because I just know that the job is not finished until we get Super Bowl or Super Bowls."

We can spend all day discussing the reasons the Cowboys are mired in such a prolonged stretch of mediocrity. There is one major common thread in those teams: the only general manager in pro sports who has guaranteed job security.

Jerry says he self-evaluates and reevaluates and enacts change. Yet all that navel-gazing never leads him to even consider giving up the GM duties. Never will, either.

The man didn't pay $150 million to just sit in his luxury suite and let others run the show.

Jerry prides himself on being a legitimate football man. And he needs another Super Bowl ring to prove his point.

He wishes it were as simple as spending to make it happen. He's never hesitated to write a huge check if he thinks it'd help the Cowboys win.

Here's the problem: How often have those huge checks ended up being hurdles instead of helping? It's hard to win in the world of the salary cap when you give monster deals to dudes like Marion Barber, Roy Williams and Terence Newman, whose glory days are done.

"We've got to do it other ways," Jones said. "So it's a big part of me getting up every day and what I do every day to win a Super Bowl. I'm on a big-time incentive plan and I do take it personally."

The Cowboys' glory days -- Jerry used a slightly more colorful phrase in his camp-opening news conference -- seem so long ago.

There have been 11 teams to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl since the Cowboys last played on the game's biggest stage. The Cowboys are among the five exceptions.

Most of the Cowboys' current rookies were kindergarteners when Jerry and Barry did it their way, baby.

"There's a lot of me that can't realize that it's been that long," Jerry said. "Now, I know how to count and I know how to look at our teams, so I'm aware that it's been that long since we competed in the Super Bowl. On the other hand, one of the greatest things about sports and with where we are [is] we should always have the ability to compete. We should always financially have the ability to compete.

"We do, and so the promise of being able to have one right around the corner is there."

There's hype and hope. Always will be with Jerry.

Same goes with that big ol' shadow, unless another Super Bowl ring becomes a reality.

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