In recent weeks, after an offseason filled with soaring promise and high expectation has crashed and burned almost before it began, Cowboys Universe has exhibited a particularly noisome negativity. The expressions of frustration at Dallas's current record have run the gamut; almost no one in the organization has escaped criticism. Perhaps the foremost recipient of Cowboy fandom's collective ire, however, has been the team's owner and General Manager, one Jerral Wayne Jones
The criticism of Jerrah has taken myriad forms: as an owner, he has let a lax culture rule the team, spent too much time on non-football pursuits (everything from the new stadium to promoting Manny Pacquaio fights), and stubbornly refused to fire Wade Phillips after the disastrous end to the 2008 season; as a GM, he allowed the offensive line to get old, has overseen too few successful drafts and has built a team with an unfortunate talent imbalance (what good is depth at running back, wide receiver or outside linebacker with an aging and injury-prone O-line or pedestrian safeties?).
Almost all of us currently are experiencing buyers remorse: Jerry promised a Mercedes, then sold us a lemon (in my case, this is quite true; I bought tickets to the New Orleans Thanksgiving game back when they were first coming available, thinking that prices would only go up as an epic battle of 9-2 NFC front-runners crept ever closer. Silly me)--and there's nothing we can do about it.
Many members of the BTB community have weighed in on the Jerry issue, with varying degrees of insight and venom. The general consensus--as it has been for years now--is that, for this team to be successful, Jerry needs to "fire his GM," to step down and let a "football man" take over day-to-day operations of the team. In the aftermath of the latest debacle, a convincing loss to a tepid Jacksonville team, Jerry said he would be willing to take drastic measures to overhaul the team. Cowboy fans jumped at this; immediately, speculation began that he would be willing to bring in just such a football-savvy mind.
It's highly debatable whether Jerry would actually consider firing his general manager. Jerry's an impetuous and impulsive dude; in the heat of the moment, he might admittedly have been willing to step aside. Once the heat of this moment cools, however, my guess is that it's far from likely that he'd be willing to step aside. The man who proudly claimed, upon buying the team, that he would be involved at every level of the operation--from "socks to jocks"--is going to remain in this position for the rest of his natural born life (and, like his hero and mentor, Al Davis, perhaps for several years after he is dead).
Although the Cowboys have had some measure of success since the hasty exit of Jimmy Johnson almost twenty years ago (there have been winning records and playoff teams), it's hard to argue that the Jerry years, post-Jimmy, have been anything short of disastrous by the lofty standards set by the organization earlier in its history. What seems most vexing is the lack of consistent mission in the Cowboys organizational schema. Priorities seem to shift from year to year, indicating that there is no long-term plan against which the Dallas braintrust checks its decisions. As I said above, Jerry is an impetuous dude; sticking to a long range plan isn't his forte. If this is indeed the case, it's not likely that our favorite team is likely to have a coherent mission until Stephen Jones takes over someday down the road, if at all. As a result, they may have winning seasons; they may even go deep into the playoffs once every decade or so. But consistent winning? A Dynasty? I fear such shiny baubles require a stronger-minded front office.
As Cowboys fans who want a team of which they can be proud (and a dynasty would be nice, too), this is disconcerting. We have one option, it seems: to wait Jerry out. As Al Davis' long tenure has shown, this can be a prolonged denouement, with public appearances that are a better fit for The Walking Dead than for the NFL Network. So, here's the burning question: what do you do? Follow a team even if the vast preponderance of evidence points to the fact that change is unlikely? If so, how rabidly?
I have been a Cowboys fan for 35 years, ever since I saw Roger Staubach slice and dice the Rams 37-7 in a glorious 1975 NFC Championship game rout. This team has been in my blood for a long time--too long, certainly, for me to shift allegiances. So, I'll have to wait it out. I'm sure most of you will adopt the same strategy. Right now, I'm having a hard time imagining that it's going to be pretty; if you're unsure about that, just ask Raiders fans how much fun they've been having the last few years.