What could have been.
That is a thought that can be very dangerous. The whole woulda/coulda/shoulda thing can drag a person down, sometimes all the way. I'm sure you all know people who spend their entire lives blaming past mistakes for the misery of their present, or even worse, blaming everything but their own choices and actions for how badly things turned out. We all have things in our past that could have gone differently and changed everything else. Some handle them well and learn from them. Others don't. And only rarely do they really ruin it all for us, notwithstanding Jackie Smith.
It is important in thinking on these things that you keep some perspective, focus on what you have accomplished, or at least admit that it could be a lot worse. For instance, as a Dallas Cowboys fan, I can always take immense solace from the fact that I am not a follower of the Eagles or the Redskins. Heck, even with their recent blings, I wouldn't want to be on the Giants bandwagon, either. Schadenfreude works for me, and I am always able to feel good about football, even when the Cowboys are not putting up as many wins as I would like.
As it turns out, even extremely successful people also sometimes wonder how things could have gone. Troy Aikman sat down for a podcast with Rich Eisen, along with Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. The Triplets were discussing the Cowboys' championship teams of the nineties. In this minute and a half cut, Troy basically says the Cowboys left some Lombardis on the table. And he blames the two JJs, Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones.
It's one thing to discuss just how many of the problems of the Cowboys over the last couple of decades can be laid at Jerry Jones' feet here at BTB. We are all fans, we all have opinions, and they are just about equally valid (trolls don't count). But when a very intelligent HOF and ROH quarterback, who led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl victories in four years, starts talking about the issue, then I tend to go into receive only mode.
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What struck me the most was that Aikman sees the hypocrisy of Johnson and Jones as the big problem. He talks about how the team worked together, making the sacrifices to get themselves to the top. This was the message coming to the players, particularly from Jimmy Johnson. But then the owner and the head coach could not do the same. Their egos began to conflict with one another. The two-man team they had formed came apart, and the entire football team followed suit.
I have listened carefully to Troy's comments, and he seems to be putting the blame on both parties. In the beginning of his remarks, I thought he was going to point the finger at Jerry, but by the end, he seems to say that it was on both of them. He actually directs the hypocrisy charge more at Jimmy, since he was the one who preached the concept of giving up personal glory for the whole team.
It is a sobering thought. If the JJs had been able to play well with each other, just how many rings could that team have garnered? There has always been a belief that the team could have taken another championship in 1994 and gone four in a row if Jimmy had not ridden off into the sunset (or sunrise, since I think he went back to Florida). But would that have been all? If Jimmy had still had a hand in the acquisition of talent, could he possibly have kept the team from sliding so fast, and maybe gotten another ring or two?
It's hard to say, since there is no way to know what would have happened with Deion Sanders if Jimmy had remained. But it is a tantalizing thought. Would the team have gone all in for Neon? Would they then have avoided the salary cap issues that arose later? Could they have gone into a constant churn/reload mode? It makes one wonder.
That, of course, is all ancient history. The question is, have any lessons been learned from all that? In particular, has the one piece of the equation that has not changed, Jerry Jones, made any progress since then?
If you have been reading what I say, and what some others here have also ventured, you know that some of us really think he has. After the 1993 season, Jerry embarked on a long and agonizing search to find the right coach for the team. Which is to say, the right coach for him. He tried yes men who basically did what he said. He tried at least one ornery and opinionated coach who would gladly stand up to him. After five basically failed attempts to get the right match, he has settled on Jason Garrett.
This makes me think about the recent interview with Daryl Johnston (see the Related link above). "Moose" is another guy who inspires me to shut up and try to learn something when he talks, and one of his points about Jason Garrett really jumped out at me. He was talking about what makes JG5000 a good coach for the Cowboys, and here is point number four.
4.) "He has no ego."
I think this is a bit of hyperbole, because I would think that being the head coach of America's Team would grow an ego from nothing, but I believe I get the point. Jason does not care how much of the spotlight Jerry Jones needs. He does not have to see his name in lights or be proclaimed a football genius. His whole approach to his job is to do the best he can, to build the team from the bottom up, and find a way to win. He doesn't care about the things that Aikman saw driving a wedge between Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones. In other words, he may be the perfect coach for the Dallas Cowboys in Jerry Jones' lifetime.
And there is one other thing that occurs to me. Back when Jerry Jones bought the team and started the run with Jimmy, one thing was missing, or at least undeveloped, that now is in place. Stephen Jones was just a pup back then. I think that he has grown tremendously in his role with the team, and more importantly, I think he has grown in his father's eyes. Looking from the outside, it certainly appears that he has assumed more of a role in the day to day management of the team, and that is all to the good. I would suspect that he is very able to serve as a buffer between his dad's ego and getting the job done, something that did not exist in 1993. I am not saying that he could have salvaged the situation if he had experience back then that he does today - Jimmy Johnson does strike me as a bit of an egomaniac himself. But with someone as controlled and task focused as Jason Garrett, I think Stephen can easily handle any friction that might develop from Jerry and his penchant for claiming credit for every good thing that happens with the Cowboys.
There is something else that comes from Troy Aikman's comments. I know there are some who cringe at the term, but you hear echoes of the right kind of guy theme when he speaks about how players sometimes have to put their personal achievements aside in favor of the overall success of the team. Based on this and other things Garrett's former teammates are saying, I think they know exactly what he means when he talks about RKGs. It is, basically, players like Garrett was, like they were. JG5000 is trying to rebuild the nineties dynasty. Without the drama. If he succeeds, fear of the Star will be rampant.