There seems to be a growing gap in perception between the Dallas Cowboys and, well, just about everyone else in the world. I have already talked about how the team gives the impression it is not really looking at itself and its situation realistically. That just got compounded by statements made on Monday by Stephen Jones, who has always seemed to be more grounded than his father, owner and GM Jerry Jones, while being a bit more forthcoming than head coach Jason Garrett.
He believes the Cowboys have just as good a chance as anybody else to get there (the playoffs).
"We are just a game out of the wildcard, two games out of the division lead," Jones said. "We are going to fight and play hard. We have played a lot of these good teams. I feel like on any given Sunday we can play with them."
The statements were met with a torrent of derisive and sarcastic replies on Twitter, most along these lines:
I have taken the position in the past that Stephen Jones is the future of the Dallas Cowboys, the heir apparent to take his father's job at the head of the franchise, and demonstrates a more rational, measured approach to things than Jerry Jones. This sounds more like something the father would say, however. It undoubtedly was meant as a statement of support for his coaches and players, but it just comes out as kind of ridiculous and very empty.
It certainly does not have much impact on how well the team plays on the field, but it does seem oddly disconnected from what anyone watching the Cowboys sees. They do not play with everyone, particularly early in games. They are fighting through a seemingly endless string of injuries, and on the radio I heard either Mickey Spagnola or Bryan Broaddus remark that Jason Garrett said the team was having trouble getting enough healthy players on the field to have a full practice. That does not sound like a team that has as good a chance as teams with, say, a winning record at this point of the season. And it totally disregards the repetitious issues with slow starts, offensive impotence, excessive penalties, and unfavorable turnover ratios.
I'm certain that the real message here is that the team will not quit, even though the odds are very long, but it does not come across that way. This gets into the old argument about when perception becomes reality. There clearly is a popular viewpoint that the Dallas Cowboys, and particularly Jerry Jones, are out-of-touch and only care about making money, with no ability to run a real football program. This drives me crazy as an admitted Dallas fan. I fully believe that Jerry Jones is driven by the desire to win, and makes his decisions to do so. He just makes wrong decisions a lot of the time, but his desired outcome is always to win another Lombardi Trophy.
This is, frankly, something that has become on a personal and subjective level troubling to me. I have always basically bought into the concept that words mean things. I look to people who run and lead organizations to mean what they say. That is why I get so concerned about the way the statements from the big three, Jerry and Stephen Jones plus Jason Garrett, come across. I begin to worry just how much they are a matter of style, and how much substance is really behind them.
Cognitive dissonance is setting in. I am repeatedly hearing that the team has a plan, that things are proceeding, that this is a winning organization, but the product on the field is not matching up with those statements. The fact I have never been impressed with people who talk a good game but fail to follow through definitely plays a part in my discomfort. It just hurts to see the team I have followed for decades increasingly becoming a laughingstock on the national level. Clearly, statements like the ones Stephen Jones made are feeding into that perception. I saw it on Twitter and I heard it on sports talk radio. Everyone was laughing at this. Ratings for the Cowboys are slumping in the Dallas market. No one has ever been able to take the title of America's Team away from the Cowboys, but they are in danger of giving it away.
Nothing is really going to fix things until the team starts winning, I know, but I would like a little inspiration to keep me believing in the team. Right now, I am running out of it, and poorly thought out comments like this do not help. There is clearly a mental aspect to the game, and right now the Cowboys seem to be completely adrift in that facet of things. I know that you can't put stats on the mental approach, the intangibles, but you can't ignore them either. The worst part is that the statements coming from the top of the Dallas organization just sound confused. After a while, you begin to wonder just how deep that confusion goes.