You may love Jerry Jones. You may hate him. You may feel a bit of both emotions when you think about the extremely outspoken and frequently outrageous owner of the Dallas Cowboys.
But you are very seldom going to be bored by him.
"All of those things give us a chance to take a team that is evolving into, if you look at the pluses yesterday (Sunday), evolving into a team that can be a team that can compete for the championship. Not next year, this year."
Just to make sure, the host asked him to clarify, and Jones repeated that he meant this year. As in 2012. He feels that way about the team that gets flagged like 47 times a game and doesn't seem to understand the usefulness of hurrying up with less than half a minute to go while trying to get into position for a game winning field goal.
Now, the second thing you probably ask (the first being "Why do you just keep talking?") is whether the owner/GM of the Cowboys is watching the same team the rest of us are. This team has been up and down more than a hyperactive nine year old on a trampoline. With the exception of the season opener against the New York Giants, they have been struggling against their own mistakes as much as against the opponent. Even in that impressive victory to start things, Dallas had to overcome 13 penalties. I'm not going to recount the tragedy of errors that led to the three losses this year, since we have already talked about them at length here.
Surely, he can't be serious.
Well, actually, I think he is, no matter who you call Shirley. So, is he just totally out of touch with where the team really is? Is he being a cheerleader for the team, despite the reality? Or is he talking about something that could actually happen?
Rainer Sabin at DallasNews.com blames it all on the Giants. Last year, not this year. He reminds us that JJ has been talking about how the G-men struggled to get into the playoffs at 9-7 and then went on a run. He also brings up the fact that they had a core of players who had been there and done that four years before, and is, shall we say, frank in his evaluation of Jones' statements.
It's a ridiculous assertion. Perhaps more disturbing than the comment is that Jones holds that particular Giants team in such high esteem and uses it as a model example. The Cowboys should have greater aspirations than finishing 9-7, sneaking into the playoffs and making a miraculous run to the Super Bowl.
But it's hard not come to the conclusion Jones would be content with that scenario unfolding. Then again, it's easy to see why a man who peddles false hope would be.
This fits into the meme of how horrible a general manager Jones is and how he keeps putting a crappy product on the field and trying to convince everyone that the glory holes - er, days are just around the corner. It also makes the assumption that the team is not going to improve significantly this year, and that the 9-7 miracle run is the only possible path open to the team.
Dallas does face a daunting challenge. They have a road game coming up against a struggling Carolina Panthers team, and then they have to face the surging New York Giants and a currently undefeated Atlanta Falcons team in the next two weeks. For the Cowboys to get out of that stretch of games without at least two losses will take a lot more of the positives we saw against the Ravens, like improved offensive line play and the continued resurgence of Felix Jones, and a loss less of the mistakes, particularly mental, that ultimately cost them the victory.
There is, of course, the argument that Jerry Jones can hardly say anything else at this point. Well, he could just keep quiet about the team's prospects, but we know that is about as likely as Lady Gaga giving up makeup and high heels. He can't very well say he has given up on the team at this point. Although they have slumped to last place in the NFC East, they are only one game behind the Giants in the loss column. IF (and I can't make that IF big enough) they can find some consistency and eliminate the maddening mistakes, the Cowboys can be competitive with anyone. Besides, as we saw in 2010, Jerry Jones now has to have futility knock him down and jump up and down on his chest before he will acknowledge it.
Dan Graziano at his NFC East blog took a much more detailed and thoughtful look at Jerry's remarks. He mentions something head coach Jason Garrett told him back in Oxnard.
"We're trying to build our football team for 2012, but we're also trying to build a football program. To put a program in place that's going to have sustained winning for years to come. 'Build' is an important word for us."
That sentence looms even larger at this point of the season. Garrett is very much trying to put a winning team on the field, but not at the expense of having an even better team in coming years. This team often looks like a bunch of pieces, some really good and some not so much, that just haven't been properly fit together yet. If all the various parts that have worked well at different times during the season get on the field and moving in unison, this could be a very good team. The question, outside of that IF I mentioned above, is when.
Jerry Jones is just saying that he thinks it is going to be sooner rather than later. And Graziano, while he may not think it is likely, does not see it as totally outside the realm of possibility.
Meantime, though, he's not insane to think the Cowboys could improve over the final 11 games and make a run. We've all seen teams whose rebuilds have borne fruit earlier than expected. The chance is excellent that whichever team wins this year's Super Bowl will be a flawed one that many people failed to see coming. Off of a game like the one his team played in Baltimore, you can understand why Jones would dare to hope his could be such a team. Off a game like the one his team played against the Bears before the bye week, it would have been tougher to understand.
Frankly, I would not expect JJ to ever be much of a realist or pessimist. If I had taken a huge risk on a floundering sports team and built a billion-dollar sports empire and the glitziest sports/entertainment venue in the solar system, I might tend a little strongly towards the glass half full perspective myself. Jones is a true believer, in himself and, by extension, in the people he hires, like Jason Garrett and all those guys who wear the Star on their helmets.
He really thinks this can happen. And there is a chance, however remote, he is right. But it is all up to the team now, because it can only happen on the field.