Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Jerry Jones falters in his choices

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones vowed to make last season uncomfortable for the Dallas Cowboys' coaching staff after the team missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season -- and he did.

The owner took away play calling from head coach Jason Garrett and gave the job to Bill Callahan. He fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and hired legendary defensive guru Monte Kiffin, who had not coached in the NFL since 2008.

Then he gave Tony Romo a six-year, $108 million contract extension and unprecedented control of the Cowboys' offense.

Jerry Jones
Jerry Jones made plenty of changes in the offseason, but none of them seem to have worked out for the Cowboys in 2013.

Through 10 games, each move has been a disaster.

Jerry the owner deserves every bit of the blame just as he would've deserved all of the credit had the moves worked.

Jerry's biggest issue is he's too reactive.

He didn't fire Ryan because he didn't like the 3-4 defense, Jerry fired Ryan because the Cowboys lost to Washington in the final game of the season and missed the playoffs again.

When that happens to an owner with a $1.2 billion stadium and a restless fan base, you deliver someone's head on a platter. Jerry chose Ryan's head.

Well, this season's defense has been a well-chronicled disaster.

Dallas is the first team to allow four 400-yard passers in a season, and it would have been five if Drew Brees and Sean Payton hadn't shown mercy.

Brees didn't throw a pass during the fourth quarter of the team's 49-17 win. New Orleans notched an NFL record 40 first downs and 625 yards, the most the Cowboys had given up in the franchise's 812-game history.

Frankly, you could go on and on about all the things wrong with Kiffin and this defense, but you must start with the dumb decision to scrap a scheme the Cowboys had used for 10 years, in less than two weeks.

Jerry has always said he wanted a head coach to be in charge of one side of the ball because it gave the players indisputable evidence that the head coach was playing a role in the wins or losses.

That doesn't seem to make much sense, considering Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells were the best two coaches he has had since buying the Cowboys. Each man preferred to be a walk-around head coach.

Again, Jerry is a reactionary owner.

After the loss to Washington, Jerry didn't want to fire Garrett, his hand-picked head coach. Don't forget, when Bill Parcells left, Jerry hired Garrett before he hired Wade Phillips as head coach.

No good general manager operates that way, but we are talking about a man who never has to worry about getting fired, despite his team's 133-133 record since 1997.

Don't forget, the Cowboys also have just one playoff win in those 17 years. And if the Cowboys don't win the NFC East, football's worst division this season, you can expect Dallas to miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.

That would represent the longest streak since Jerry bought the team in 1989.

Jerry made Callahan the offensive coordinator, but the Cowboys aren't running Callahan's West Coast offense. They're running Garrett's timing-based passing offense.

The result is a hodge podge of everything and a commitment to nothing. The scheme has neutered Romo, who no longer makes big plays with his right arm.

Instead, he throws a variety of short passes and hopes his receivers can break a tackle and run for big gains. Occasionally that happens, most of the time it doesn't.

The deep ball? Aside from an aberration against Denver, when he completed nine passes of 20 yards or more, Romo rarely throws it downfield. He has 19 completions of 20 yards or more in the Cowboys' other nine games.

Romo is averaging a career-low 7.2 yards per pass, well off his career average of 7.9 yards per pass.

You would think Jerry would want more from his $108 million investment than a dink-and-dunk quarterback, but that's the fallout from making hasty decisions.

Romo is not without fault when it comes to the Cowboys' offensive woes.

He's selfish. Not selfish like Terrell Owens, but selfish nonetheless.

Romo trusts himself more than his teammates, so he'd rather complete a four-yard pass to Jason Witten or Cole Beasley than let DeMarco Murray run for four yards.

Callahan calls the plays, but Romo has veto power. He can change from run to pass. Or pass to run. Or change the play entirely.

So he must accept much of the blame for the Cowboys' lack of offensive balance. Dallas throws the ball 66.3 percent of the time. Only Cleveland and Atlanta throw it more. Of the five teams with the highest percentage of passing plays, none is above .500.

Throwing the ball as much as the Cowboys have wears down the offensive line, not to mention it affects the team's confidence when it comes to running the ball.

Ask him about it, and Romo gets defensive.

Too bad.

Last season, playoff teams threw the ball an average of 54.8 percent of the time. In 2011, it was 56.5 percent. In 2010, it was 56.1 percent.

The Cowboys have been above the league average each season.

Yes, teams can occasionally win a game with nine runs and 51 passes like the Cowboys did against Minnesota, but that's not a formula for consistent offensive success.

Romo and Garrett are forever talking about their desire for offensive balance, yet they never achieve it.

Why? It's just not important to them.

Hey, this is all Jerry's fault. All of his bad decisions over the years have left him with the epitome of a mediocre football team.

And it won't end until the general manager goes through his own uncomfortable offseason, accepts blame for the organization's failure and puts someone else in charge.

We understand that's not going to happen, but that's the only way for the Cowboys to become a model franchise again.