Jerry Jones stunting Dallas' progress

Preoccupied with less-pressing matters, Cowboys boss fumbled early in draft

Originally Published: April 29, 2013
By Ashley Fox | ESPN.com

Remember Cabo?

In early 2008, Tony Romo was roundly criticized for taking his then-girlfriend, Jessica Simpson, to Cabo San Lucas the weekend before the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys' home playoff game against the New York Giants.

The quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys isn't supposed to take a vacation during the bye week before the playoffs. Heck, he historically isn't even supposed to have a girlfriend, not in season anyway. But at the time, Romo and Simpson were the "it" couple. They couldn't keep their vacation a secret. After photos emerged from their getaway, it was the storyline leading up to the game, and then again after Romo endured endless pressure from the Giants and threw a pick in the end zone in Dallas' 21-17 loss.

Adding insult to extensive injury, the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl, while Romo and the Cowboys went home, again.

On Thursday, Jerry Jones had a Cabo moment. Romo needed a Mexican beach and a blonde to prepare for his next big moment. Jones apparently needed five United States presidents and an adoring audience to prepare for his. While every other general manager in the NFL was disseminating false information and trying to orchestrate trades to better his draft position, Jones was attending the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University. Jones should have been re-evaluating his draft board instead of rubbing elbows with political power brokers and dignitaries.

[+] EnlargeEric Reid
Stacy Revere/Getty Images Jerry Jones didn't get enough value in the trade that allowed the 49ers to land Eric Reid.

Later Thursday night, Jones threw his own pick in the end zone. He allowed himself to get fleeced by the best team in the Cowboys' conference, one that is already loaded with talent and stands in the way of Dallas' quest to win its first Super Bowl in 17 years.

For some inane reason, Jones opted to help San Francisco land the player it coveted in the first round of the draft -- Louisiana State safety Eric Reid -- and did so at a discounted rate.

Jones traded Dallas' No. 18 overall pick for the 49ers' 31st and 74th picks. Jones should not have settled for a third-round pick, not from the team that has been to the NFC Championship Game the past two seasons, winning it once. The 49ers are the team the Cowboys are chasing. Given their young, talented roster, the Niners didn't need any additional help. Jones should have insisted on a second-round pick. That would have constituted full value for the Cowboys' 18th overall selection.

And even then, the Cowboys could have used a safety, too. They could have plugged Reid in as a starter. They also could have used a defensive tackle, such as Florida's Sharrif Floyd, who fell to the Vikings at No. 23, or another wide receiver, such as Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson, whom the Vikings traded up to get at No. 29. Instead, Jones dropped back to select a player he could have gotten on Friday night and most likely could have gotten some time on Saturday. Wisconsin center Travis Frederick isn't a first-round talent. Even Frederick was shocked to be a first-round pick.

ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder queried five teams after the first round and none had Frederick as a first-, second- or third-round talent. One had Frederick as a solid sixth-rounder. Another said he was a sixth- or maybe even a seventh-round pick.

Jones drafted Frederick 31st overall, when he had so many other roster spots to fill. Jones drafted purely for need -- and a position need that teams do not usually fill in the first round -- rather than taking the best player available. The Cowboys picked up San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar in the second round and Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams with the third-round pick they received from San Francisco. Nevertheless, it is the first-round picks that are the foundation of teams. Teams that hit on players in the first round, like the Niners, typically grow to become better teams. Teams that don't, like Oakland, usually fail.

Before the draft, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said, "If you draft too much for need, I think your team by definition gets worse."

That's why he looked ill after Jones traded down in the first round. Garrett has to win now. He needs better players. He didn't need a center in the first round. Everyone inside the Cowboys organization is held accountable for the team's success, including Garrett and Romo.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett and Jerry Jones
AP Photo/James D SmithJerry Jones, right, insists on being GM, but he hasn't brought the Cowboys closer to a title.

Everyone, that is, except the general manager, who has a job for life because he is his own boss.

Jones can do whatever he wants. The Cowboys are his team. He can pick players and hire and fire coaches and run off to support George W. Bush whenever he wants. He is accountable to no one, except the fans, who might be disillusioned by Jones' draft but who nevertheless will pack Jerry's World in the fall and continue to line his pockets with money.

The Cowboys are 128-128 in the past 16 seasons with one playoff win. Dallas isn't close to challenging the 49ers for NFC supremacy. The Cowboys aren't the gold standard of anything other than how to build an audacious stadium with a distractingly large video board.

Yes, Jones makes money, and plenty of it. But isn't the overriding goal to win a championship? In this business where so few (the owners) have so much, what differentiates them is the hardware. Jones won three Lombardi trophies with Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer as his head coaches, but those trophies have more than two decades worth of dust on them.

By overvaluing a center in this draft, Jones hasn't moved the Cowboys any closer to another championship. His decision actually hurt that effort. And you can see how this will play out: The Cowboys will be mediocre again, fans will be upset and Garrett will take the fall.

And Jones? He will hit the reset button and start all over again, when what he should have done Thursday is remember Cabo and spent the morning doing what every other general manager in the NFL was doing: his job.