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Jerry Jones: Lightning Rod

The Cowboys are in turmoil again. And as always, the owner and general manager of the team has planted himself in the middle of things. That may not be as bad a thing as you might think.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The reports of the demise of the Dallas Cowboys are still a bit premature, of course. The team just has to win against a bad Washington Redskins team, and they will be playing for the division title in the last game of the season for the third year in a row. And even if they lose, a stumble by the Philadelphia Eagles against the Chicago Bears would still make the last game winner-take-all in the NFC East.

But it is understandable that many are bracing themselves for the worst. After the still incomprehensible meltdown against the Green Bay Packers, it does seem a stretch to believe that this edition of the Cowboys can recover and take the division crown. Should the team fall short (which certainly is a possibility), there are likely to be some major changes.

One thing that absolutely, positively will not change is the owner, general manager, and supreme head honcho of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones. There are a few . . . many . . . legions of fans who feel that things will never get better as long as he remains in charge.

Well, they should be hoping they are wrong, because barring sickness or his demise, Jerry Jones is not going anywhere, and even if he leaves, he will turn the reins over to his children. And Stephen Jones, who is to all appearances the general manager-in-waiting, looks like he is going to run the team pretty much the same way. In a radio interview, as reported in the Dallas Morning News, he made a statement that sums up the Jones family's belief in themselves.

"We're gonna win a championship sooner than later with Jerry at the helm," Stephen Jones said.

It's a simple equation, really. They own the team. They think they know what's best for the team. So they do what they think is best. And that includes handling all the GM stuff without outside help.

This has led many to hold an opinion, often expressed, that it is going to be hard to entice a good head coach to come to Dallas when the time arrives for one. However, I saw an interesting take on Jerry Jones and his unique role as not just the owner, but the public face and acknowledged final arbiter for all decisions with the Cowboys. Ross Tucker of the Sporting News puts forth the theory (based on his own experiences) that Jerry Jones does not really do anything all that differently from most NFL team owners - he is just more honest.

I've seen during my time in the league and heard of a number of other situations with other organizations where a team owner very quietly makes a decision behind the scenes and then it is up to the general manager or head coach to fall on the sword and take the blame when the move blows up in the franchise's face.

You probably haven't heard about those moves, right? That's because no head coach or general manager would ever let that get out, at least not publicly, for fear that they would never get another job in the NFL. The other owners would never forget any coach or executive who talked out of school in that way but make no mistake about it, it happens much more than people realize.

That's why I like Jerry Jones. He doesn't hide behind a general manager. He makes the decisions and he tells you he makes the decisions. Any failure by the Dallas Cowboys is his failure and he owns it.

This opens up a possibility that I have had rattling around in my head for a while. Jerry Jones may not look at the current state of the team as something that calls for a lot of firings, which almost everyone assumes is going to happen should things go badly the past couple of games. There is a belief that several people will be terminated even if the Cowboys do wind up winning their division. But given the way Jerry Jones accepts the responsibility for his decisions, he may decide to keep things fairly stable. A large part of the problems the team has is with the personnel. The Cowboys simply do not have enough talent and depth, particularly on defense, to handle the injuries that have once again plagued the team.

And that does fall pretty squarely in the lap of the general manager. Maybe he is going to determine that he needs to focus on providing better players to his coaches, rather than turn over a bunch of those coaches again. He may decide not to repeat the process from last offseason, when he fired his defensive coordinator and forced a new play-calling system on his head coach. There was a lot of debate about how much input Jason Garrett had in those moves, but the perception is that Jerry made those calls. That just puts it all back on his shoulders.

How does that affect things if the prevailing belief is correct and massive changes are in store for the Cowboys' coaching staff? I think working in Dallas is seen by many prospective hires, if not most, as a good job. We know Jerry Jones can afford to pay well. It may also be a plus for many to know the owner is going to be open about his influence on the decisions made.

Good, bad, or indifferent, there is no doubt that this is the way Jones wants it to be. He willingly takes the criticism in bad times, because that is the only way he is going to be acknowledged when the good times roll around. He certainly does not run and hide when things don't go well. He may not be all that good with the decisions he makes. But he is certainly willing to take responsibility.

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