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Dispelling the myth: Grading Jerry the GM - Part 4

The rich history of the Dallas Cowboys is a source of great pride for most fans of the aptly nicknamed America's Team. The franchise began in 1960 and finished 0-11-1 under their legendary Head Coach, Tom Landry. From 1960 through 1988, Landry guided the Cowboys to a regular season record of 250-162-6.

But Landry's regular season record was modest when compared to the post season records the team set from 1966 through 1983 when the Dallas Cowboys made the playoffs every year save one (1974). Amazingly, with only one wild card team selected most seasons, the Cowboys made the post season 17 out of 18 seasons, amassing a 20-15 post season record over that period, winning the NFC Championship game five times and claiming two Super Bowl titles.

Comparing the Cowboys from 1960 through 1988 to the Jerry Jones Cowboys of 1989 to the present reveals the dominance of the previous regime. Considering that the team began as an expansion franchise and did not post a winning season until its seventh season, the sustained success the team enjoyed is astounding. For perspective, Bill Polian was added in the comparison:

General Manager (seasons)

Regular season win ratio

Playoff games

Playoff wins

Post season win ratio

Playoff seasons

Conference championships

Super Bowl wins

Tex Schramm (29)

.607

36

20

0.556

18

5

2

Jerry Jones (23)

.538

22

13

0.591

12

3

3

Bill Polian (24)

.632

36

20

0.556

17

6

1

As can be deduced from the data, Bill Polian may be the best General Manager in the NFL over the last two decades. His career statistics mirror those of Tex Schramm. Not matching the statistics of two of the best General Managers in the history of the NFL is not an indictment on the quality of the man currently holding the position in Dallas.

Of course, the late Tex Schramm was the General Manager that Jones replaced. Therein lies the rub: Jerry is following one of the most successful executives in the history of the NFL, and is therefore compared to the record setting excellence established from 1966 through 1985 (Tex was the GM from 1960 through 1988). It is difficult to follow a legend: just ask Danny White.

But the situation surrounding Jerry Jones as a General Manager is more complex than. "Jerry had the misfortune of following a legend." As the previous posts have outlined, there are several points to be made in regards to Jerry Jones' performance as a General Manager:

  • 1. When Jones' post season record is taken in its entirety, the results rank among some of the best General Managers to work in the NFL.
  • 2. As evidenced with other General Managers, Jerry has experienced a fair amount of success with a franchise quarterback.
  • 3. In the newly imposed salary cap era, Jerry employed a strategy of forfeiting the future in order to prolong the window for winning another Super Bowl with Troy Aikman, which eventually led to the disintegration of the Cowboys.
  • 4. Upon hitting rock bottom, Jones made the difficult decision to hire a future Hall of Fame coach, Bill Parcells, to assist in resurrecting the Dallas Cowboys.

Bill Parcells was hired in 2003. Despite his apparent Hall of Fame credentials, however, the Cowboys still rank among the bottom half of the NFL in post season success despite an improved regular season record:

Team

Playoffs (W-L)

San Francisco 49ers

1-1

Houston Texans

1-1

Saint Louis Rams

1-2

Washington Redskins

1-2

Jacksonville Jaguars

1-2

Tennessee Titans

1-3

Atlanta Falcons

1-4

Dallas Cowboys

1-4

Detroit Lions

0-1

Miami Dolphins

0-1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

0-2

Kansas City Chiefs

0-3

Cincinnati Bengals

0-3

Oakland Raiders

0-0

Cleveland Browns

0-0

Buffalo Bills

0-0

Since 2003, Dallas has had the 24th best playoff winning percentage among the 32 NFL teams. The Cowboys are in a three-way tie for 15th in playoff games played since 2003.

Curiously, the Cowboys are ranked 9th in regular season wins since 2003. Eight of the top ten teams in regular season wins are also ranked in the top ten in post season victories. Those eight teams account for all nine Super Bowl Championships since 2003. Obviously, Dallas is not one of those top ten playoff teams.

Team

Regular season (W-L)

Playoffs (W-L)

New England Patriots

114-30

13-6

Indianapolis Colts

101-43

9-7

Pittsburgh Steelers

95-49

10-4

San Diego Chargers

88-56

3-5

Philadelphia Eagles

87-56

6-6

Green Bay Packers

87-57

6-5

Baltimore Ravens

87-57

5-5

New Orleans Saints

81-63

5-3

Dallas Cowboys

81-63

1-4

New York Giants

78-66

8-3

Despite an improved regular season record, however, the simple fact persists that a once proud franchise has not been the same since the 1996 season. Dallas' football team ranks among the best teams in the NFL during the regular season, but post season success has not accompanied the Cowboys as it has most other franchises ranked in the top ten in regular season wins since 2003.

As noted in the previous post, there is a strong possibility that Jerry Jones would not have survived the Dave Campo era had he been the General Manager and not the Owner. Despite making a popular and apparently sound decision by hiring Bill Parcells in 2003, Jerry would still be in a precarious position as the Cowboys General Manager if another person owned the Dallas Cowboys given the team's limited playoff wins.

Many fans cannot overlook the simple fact that the Cowboys have won merely two playoff games since the team's last Super Bowl championship following the 1995 season. All arguments against Jerry Jones as the General Manager stem solely from this piece of information. Whether Jerry made coaching hires that did not work in concert with his role as General Manager, or Mr. Jones traded away valuable draft picks for a player that did not perform up to expectations, or the Cowboys made poor decisions in the draft under Jones' leadership is largely based on the results the Dallas Cowboys have experienced since 1996.

Perhaps it is because the fans of America's Team focus on solely their team that similar moves by other organizations go unnoticed. Even past failures from this organization disappear in the wake of championship seasons. Ultimately in the NFL, the end is justified by the means, and the past is canonized only in the face of current success.

Jerry Jones' legacy is completely dependent upon the post season success the Dallas Cowboys have for the remainder of Jerry's tenure as the Owner of the Cowboys. After a spectacular start, winning three Super Bowls in four years, Mr. Jones has been in charge and largely responsible for the longest, most barren post season drought in club history. The exasperation brought about by this playoff drought is compounded by the overwhelming success experienced by the Dallas Cowboys from 1966 through 1983, and then from 1991 through 1995. If the Cowboys do not return to prominence before Mr. Jones moves on, Jerry may not see his name in the Ring of Honor.

Unless his son Stephen inducts him after he takes over the team...

Just a note

Thank you for reading. My goal in writing this long piece was to offer different perspectives on the most criticized owner in sports. It is easy to malign a man's performance during his darkest hour. For that reason, I accepted a self-imposed challenge to compare the accomplishments of Jerry Jones to his peers, and attempt to find reason for praise and optimism. In so doing, I hope that some of you found the information presented enlightening and thought provoking. I respect the opinions of those that vehemently want Jerry Jones to relinquish his role as General Manager, and did not intend to change your respective position. I look forward to reading everyone's comments this weekend. Thanks again for providing this forum.

Go Cowboys!

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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