Jerry Jones and the Great Misconception

As sports fans, we sometimes allow ourselves to get so caught up in the way things have always been, that we ignore change when it does occur. We often associate a certain trend or tradition with a certain team or player. Sometimes that association is etched so deeply into our minds, that that particular perception sticks with us even when it is no longer reality.

Sports are filled with inaccurate perceptions. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers no longer have a "smash-mouth" offense who will "run it down your throat." In reality the Steelers struggle to run the football at all. However, our minds have been conditioned by decades of Bill Cowher and Chuck Knoll, so we associate the Steelers with conservative, power football. Many of us still think of the Big Ten as the dominant conference in college football. It is difficult for us to picture Shaquille O'Neal as anything less than the unstoppable entity he once was.

There are many inaccurate perceptions about Jerry Jones. Some are simply untrue, others are just no longer true. In recent years, the press has seemed hell-bent on forcing Jerry Jones into the same category as Daniel Snyder and Al Davis. Nowadays, Jerry Jones' name is often accompanied by a smirk and a snicker. This is the part I don't understand. If you are a nobody like ESPN's Jemele Hill or Tim Hasselbeck, who the hell are you to poke fun at a billionaire with three Super Bowl rings? There are many who wish to categorize Jerry Jones as a wild, untamed, free-spending, football know-nothing. To you, I offer these truths to your misconceptions. 

"Oh, you that know Jerry Jones. Those Cowboys aren't a team, they're just a collection of free agents."

Really? Take this into consideration. When the Dallas Cowboys kicked off the 2008 season against the Cleveland Browns, the Cowboys' starting lineup consisted of 16 players (9 on offense, 7 on defense) who were lifetime Cowboys. Adam Jones started for an injured Terence Newman, so in reality you could push the number to 17. Furthermore, the kicker, punter, nickel corner, third down back, and situational pass rusher were all homegrown Cowboy products. Of the 58 players currently under contract with the Dallas Cowboys, 33 have never worn another uniform. The truth is, the current Dallas Cowboys have been constructed in the same fashion that most championship teams have. This team was built through the draft, and supplemented via free agency.

"Jerry Jones is all about flash. The Cowboys are built from the outside in."

Is that so? Back to school we go. For those who insist that Jerry Jones is an owner who is obsessed with flash and perimeter players, chew on this. When the Cowboys selected Felix Jones in the first round of the 2008 draft, he became the first offensive player selected by the Cowboys in the first round since 1997. The Cowboys selected Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Bryant with the 63rd selection (2nd round) of the 2002 draft. Before that the Cowboys had not used a first or second round selection on a receiver since taking Miami wideout Kevin Williams with the 46th pick (2nd round) in the 1993 draft.

Yes, Jerry Jones spent big money to bring in Terrell Owens in 2006, and Roy Williams this past season. Before that, when was the last time the Cowboys brought in a big money running back, quarterback, or receiver? Well I guess there was the trade for Joey Galloway. Yeah, about a decade ago, let it go.

Jerry Jones has spent first rounder after first rounder trying to shore up the Cowboys defense. In the last decade, his biggest free agent splashes have been defensive guys like LaRoi Glover (DT), Jason Ferguson (DT), and Anthony Henry (CB). When the Cowboys have spent money on offense, it has gone to offensive linemen like Marco Rivera (OG), Kyle Kosier (OG), and Leonard Davis (OG). Does this sound like a team constructed around perimeter players, or team built around defense and offensive line play?

"The Cowboys sign everybody! That Jerry Jones just goes hog wild in free agency!"

Is that right? Contrary to popular perception, the Cowboys have not been major players in free agency for quite some time. The last time the Cowboys made a big splash in free agency was in 2005, when Jerry Jones aided his "football guy" Bill Parcells in putting his signature on the Dallas Cowboys. That season, Dallas brought in Jason Ferguson (DT), Marco Rivera (OG), and Anthony Henry (CB), none of whom are with the team currently.

In 2006, the Cowboys signed six free agents. This particular group was headlined by Terrell Owens (WR), but he was the only big-money guy. The Cowboys signed mid-level players Akin Ayodele (LB), and Kyle Kosier (OG) to mid-level deals, and acquired some "nuts and bolts" type of players in Ryan Hannam (TE), Jason Fabini (OT), and Rocky Boiman (LB). The Cowboys signed only Leonard Davis (OG) and Ken Hamlin (FS) in 2007. Davis got big-time money, but has also turned in two Pro Bowl seasons. Hamlin was plucked out of the free agent salvage yard for cheap, and had a Pro Bowl season of his own. In 2008, the Cowboys were non-factors in free agency, outside of the low-risk signing of Zach Thomas (LB).

Here in 2009, Jerry Jones has fought temptation by not overpaying for Ray Lewis as many expected. He refused to overpay to retain Chris Canty, and did not overextend himself on guys like Albert Haynesworth or Gibril Wilson. No big names, no blockbuster trades, just more nuts and bolts. A slight upgrade at weak inside linebacker (Keith Brooking), a slight upgrade a backup quarterback (John Kitna), a formidable replacement for Canty at end (Igor Olshansky), and a new strong safety (Gerald Sensabaugh) who can actually cover. All that for less than what it would have cost to retain Chris Canty. Who's not a football guy?

When Jerry Jones does throw money at free agents, it is usually to retain his own guys. Sure, he may have paid a few guys before he really had to. It's fair to say that he jumped the gun by extending Terrell Owens, and possibly Marion Barber. On the other side of that coin, imagine the kind of ransom Jay Ratliff may have commanded this off season had Jerry not extended his contract in late 2007. Imagine what it would have cost to retain Terence Newman after Nnamdi Asomugha wrecked the curve with his ridiculous 3-year/$45.3 million contract.

Locking up Tony Romo was a good thing. Keeping Flozell Adams was a must considering the alternatives. Giving DeMarcus Ware whatever the hell he wants before he hits free agency is a not even up for debate. Isn't continuity the thing that everyone praises the Colts and Steelers for? What in the world is wrong with spending money to keep your own guys?

"Jerry Jones wants to make money. Winning is not the priority in Dallas."

Are you nuts? Jerry Jones wants to win so bad he can't help himself. I'm no business expert, but I bet Jerry Jones didn't build his billion dollar empire by sitting back and letting other people work. Jerry Jones is a go-getter, and go-getters don't sit on their hands, they make moves. Jerry Jones, like many other successful people, got to where he is by rolling the dice. That's the only way he knows how to play. Maybe Jerry does meddle a bit, but it is because he wants to win so bad that he feels he needs to be involved. By the way, he does own the team.

Inaccurate perceptions aside, Jerry Jones has not been the wild, un-educated free-spender that most perceive him to be. Jerry Jones has built his team largely through the draft, and made defense a priority. No one likes to admit their mistakes; billionaires more so than the rest of us. While Jerry may not come out and admit his errors, he always corrects them. Since the season's conclusion, Jerry Jones has blown up no fewer than three of his own projects. Pacman Jones is gone, Tank Johnson is gone, Terrell Owens is gone.

Jerry Jones isn't perfect, but what owner is? He may be a overbearing and a bit of a meddler at times, but this is America's team. I like the fact that Jerry Jones shakes things up when results don't meet expectations. I like the fact that he rewards his own players with fat contracts. I like the fact that he has the gumption to bring in a Terrell Owens, and I also like the fact that he knows when it is time to let him go. Say what you will but you won't budge me on this. I love the fact that Jerry Jones is the owner of my favorite team.

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