I want to address some ideas that are in the air concerning Dallas, because the general consensus on each major point seems to contradict the other:
First, this chestnut : the Cowboys would be much better off if Jerry Jones would give the team over to a "football guy."
This one amuses me to no end, because it contains so much selective, short-term amnesia.
Ladies and gentlemen -- those of you tossing this one around anyway -- where were your minds in the years 2003 through 2006? You know, the years when Jerry handed control of this organization to one Duane Charles "Bill" Parcells.
Wasn't he a "football guy?"
I think he is. I think he's one of the best around. And what did Jerry get for his trouble? He got a clear organizational reboot. The scouting has been better. The talent level is higher. The organization, which flat-lined at 5-11 from '00 through '02, has had winning seasons five of the last six years. That's almost all on Parcells.
What it didn't get is a Super Bowl. And that seems to be the biggest complaint. The line "if Jerry would only hire a football guy" to me, is shorthand for, "I want a Super Bowl! I want a playoff win!. I want it, I want IT, I WANT IT!!!"
Because all a good football guy guarantees you is a better chance of winning. Nothing more. Which is precisely what Bill Parcells produced. Don't believe me? Allow me to show you the resumes of some of the best "football men" around.
Let's start in Indy, where Bill Polian rules the roost. He put together those great Bills teams of the '90s. He helped select or selected outright, several Hall of Fame players, from Bruce Smith, to Jim Kelly, to Thurman Thomas, and he picked a Hall of Fame coach in Marv Levy.
He then went to Carolina and had his expansion Panthers playing for the NFC title in their second year. He moved on to Indy and has run a model organization there. He hired another sure Hall of Fame coach in Tony Dungy and his list of first round picks cannot be topped.
He won his first and only Super Bowl in 2006, and he had to toil for 20 years before he got it.
Let's now turn our attention to Ron Wolf. He was Parcells' most trusted confidant when the Tuna worked in Dallas. Wolf cut his personnel teeth working for Al Davis in the late '60s and early '70s. He built the Bucs from the ground up with John McKay. He then made a brief stop in New York before heading to Green Bay, where he ran a model organization for a decade. His system has been copied by proteges like Mike Holmgren in Seattle. Wolf was the consummate football guy.
How many rings did Wolf earn as a GM? Try one. He got it in '96 and when his '97 team lost to Denver in Super Bowl 32, he angered many Cheeseheads by angrily and reflexively terming their title "a fart in the wind."
Let's go to Pittsburgh, where Bill Cowher was the ultimate power coach. He's the most sought after coach on the market, though he's decided to sit out another year. His 15-year run in Pittsburgh saw him win one title, and he had to work fourteen years to earn it.
How about Baltimore? Ozzie Newsome, is considered one of the best personnel guys anywhere. Yet, if his guys beat Pittsburgh on Sunday he'll be going to his first Super Bowl as a GM.
Let's move down to Tennessee, where Jeff Fisher has just finished his fourteenth season as head coach and is settling in as the de facto GM after ousting Floyd Reese a few years ago. His young team went 13-3 and flamed out. He's still searching for his first title.
What about the team of Tom Heckert, Joe Banner and Andy Reid in Philly? They've run the NFC's model franchise for a decade and if they can keep their run going for two more games they'll finally get to celebrate their first title.
Here are six of the best football guys/teams. They have over 80 years of combined experience.
And they have three titles among them. No one on this list has more than one.
A good football guy guarantees you nothing, except that you'll be in the hunt every year. Which incidentally is where the Cowboys are right now.
Which brings me to point two. There are fan factions lining up after '08. They've got their torches lit and want to drag someone or someones to the figurative guillotine. Some want Tony Romo's head. Others Terrell Owens'. Some want Wade Phillips gone. More want Jason Garrett in the past and hope another team hires him away.
Be careful what you wish for. Garrett, if the rumors of the week are to be believed, has put a T.O.-or-me ultimatum on the table:
The potential of the Cowboys losing Garrett to another team could accelerate the timetable for a decision about Owens. They had expected not to face a deadline until his $3 million roster bonus is due June 3. But that changes if Garrett finds himself in a position to leave the Cowboys and makes Owens' departure a condition of his remaining.
If this blurb has any meat to it, are we not seeing evidence of a take-charge kind of guy? Somebody who has a vision for the team and does not want it compromised by prima donnas and malingerers?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. But I'm wondering if the people calling for Jason Garrett's head on a pike may not be trying to oust the very football guy so many other Cowboys fans demand? Good head coaches must have good personnel evaluation skills. What do we know about Garretts'? Not much, but those crumbs speak well for him. He advocated for Felix Jones. Reports from last year's Senior Bowl had him singling out Donny Avery and Eddie Royal as desirable WR targets, and they were impressive as rookies.
Garrett is characterized as ambitious and sneaky by rippers like Mike Florio, but he's worked his way onto several short lists for head coach the last two years. Can that many GMs be that stupid? The Ravens and Falcons made excellent head coaching choices last year and both teams picked Garrett ahead of their current guys. Three teams looked at him this year.
Tony Sparano looked a lot smarter after he left Dallas. Can the Cowboys afford to have another young coach find success after leaving, or are they better off having him stay and change the culture from within?
What we may have is a case of Jerry the coaching GM being in direct debate with Jerry the free agent GM.
A lot rides on which Jerry wins the debate. And he needs to have it soon. St. Louis appears to be edging closer to Garrett.:
In Atlanta’s head coaching search last year, Garrett was the leading candidate when current Rams GM Billy Devaney was a part of the process. Garrett is from Jersey, as is Devaney, and yesterday after meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel with the top Rams brass, Garrett was impressive. He may have closed the gap on front-runner Leslie Frazier.