Let's take a moment to follow up on a theme I've been discussing for the past few years here at Blogging The Boys. Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones uses a much more participatory management style rather than the dictatorial one so often attributed to him. His son Stephen Jones has been taking on more and more of the daily general manager duties, leaving Jerry as much more of a "walkaround" GM than he was in the years right after he and Jimmy Johnson parted ways. Back then, Jerry Jones had something to prove to the world, and possibly himself. Now, for whatever reason, he has eased off and is letting others do the work of actually running the franchise while he has more of an oversight role.
The latest evidence of this comes from the Henry Melton negotiations and signing referenced in my previous post. This is the biggest move of the offseason so far for Dallas, but it is just part of what has been a consistent and apparently well thought out approach that looks to put the team in a much better position on the field and in relation to the NFL salary cap than almost anyone could have anticipated back in January. That opinion seems to be one shared by others.
Like I said, Jones is not a GM the way most guys who have that title are GMs. He is not going to pro days. He is not studying the third-team tackles in training camp.
But you do have to wonder if Stephen Jones is gaining more traction as the football voice with the Cowboys with how the team has operated this offseason.
My man @BenRogers has a solid point and my thoughts exactly. Feels like Stephen Jones is running the team.— Draft Cowboys™ (@DraftCowboys) March 20, 2014
I think this idea took a while to catch hold primarily because of two things. First, many people formed their opinions of Jerry Jones years ago and it is always hard to shake off a conclusion in the face of evidence, especially when the evidence is small and incremental things rather than a big event or a major, orchestrated announcement.
Second, Jerry Jones himself has continued to present the same message consistently that he is in charge. That second point is amplified by the fact that Jerry just loves to talk to the press and pretty much anything vaguely definable as a human being. His favorite role is Spokesman Extraordinaire, and he plays it to the hilt. Besides, he is absolutely correct to state he has the final decision on everything. The fact that he is largely just accepting what Stephen, head coach Jason Garrett, and others such as Will McClay are doing doesn't change that. It just makes the outcome better.
For the football side of the Jones family business, Stephen is clearly the heir apparent. But Dallas Cowboys Inc. is a lot more that just a football team. It is a brand, a stadium, a series of events, and a whole marketing and merchandising empire. One of the criticisms leveled at Jerry over the years is that he cares more about making money selling jerseys and Victoria's Secret gear than winning football games. I don't think that is at all true, but it is rooted in the fact that he has a lot more on his plate than figuring out who to select with the last pick the team has in the NFL draft.
I doubt that is ever going to be an issue for Stephen. He is not the only heir apparent. Just as Stephen has quietly been taking on more and more of the football decisions, I think his sister Charlotte Jones Anderson has been picking up more responsibility behind the scenes for the brand that is the Dallas Cowboys, including AT&T Stadium.
Dawn Macelli wrote an article that talked about Charlotte, whose titles include Chief Brand Officer, and her role with the team. She is already considered the most influential female executive in the NFL. And her role may be more important than Stephen's in the long run. It was the development of new and innovative revenue streams that allowed Jerry to pay for the team of the early nineties. He was so effective at it the NFL had to create the salary cap to keep him from turning the Cowboys into the NFL's version of the New York Yankees. He has continued to bring in huge revenues, resulting in his owning the most valuable sports franchise in North America, and more valuable than all but one other organization in the entire world. Maintaining that financial health and the incredible visibility of the team allows the Cowboys to weather decades-long slumps while still remaining a top draw for the networks and a dominant voice in league decisions.
The Dallas Cowboys will continue beyond Jerry Jones, whether he decides to retire or not. In a post-Jerry era, I would not be surprised to see Charlotte as the President and CEO, with Stephen as general manager and COO. (Brother Jerry Jones, Jr. will have some role entitling him to a share of the revenues, which is pretty much the way it is today, but he is not a major player.) Stephen will be the face and leader of football operations while Charlotte will manage the business of the Dallas Cowboys, including the myriad big ticket events that fill AT&T Stadium year-round. It is already scheduled to host both the NCAA Final Four and the first College Football Championship game within 10 months of one another. That kind of spectacle is what the stadium was built for, not just to be the home of the Cowboys. Jerry was thinking big when he made it the showplace it is, and his vision has paid off handsomely. That is what the organization needs, and I think Charlotte is the one who will provide it. Stephen is focused on playing the game and building the staff and roster to do so, which is plenty to have on his plate. With him handling that and Charlotte taking care of business, the Cowboys should be successful on and off the field for years to come.