Retool, Rebuild, or Renunciation

During slow weeks national sportswriters, needing a subject in which to wax intelligent, pick the Cowboys as their newest doormat. Not that this comes as any surprise to the Dallas faithful, yet the erosion of the ‘Boys in blue is as ballyhooed as the Fall of The Roman Empire.

The piling on started during this year's draft. The oft-errant Mel Kiper in his summation of the real losers this season blasted Jones and company. In his ESPN recap he noted both second round picks of Carter and Dixon as talent selected in a reach. His thoughts were these two players should have been 5th to 7th round picks. He graded the Dallas draft giving them an F.

Last week The Sporting News senior football writer Paul Attner penned a lead article entitled, "Who Killed America's Team." Less mysterious than who shot J.R., the article pointed a finger at Jerry Jones. The team's fall from the upper echelon is directly attributed to Jones and questionable drafting.

Quoting Joe Theisman, "That's why the Carter pick was so confusing to me." Too many areas of need caused Theisman to shake his head at the selection from Georgia. "If you're drafting a guy at the 53rd spot, you almost must have a player who can come in and play for you right now, particularly when you are in a transition period…"

So many comments have been made about the situation Dallas finds itself in. And even ex-players like Brian Baldinger, of The Sporting News indicate the fault lies with Jones failure to accept what is. "What game plan," the offensive lineman said, "You don't see any philosophy in what they are doing. They are doing stuff without any rhyme or reason."

Even Troy Aikman, a most recent resident of Texas Stadium, chimed in, "The best thing that can happen is that they are at the bottom of the heap." His insistence that the team still feels they are contenders is witnessed in his continued statement, "Maybe that will get them to take off the rose-colored glasses and be realistic about what they have."

Yet to some observers Jerry is showing signs of a definite plan. The selection of Carter speaks to the realization that quarterback is the focal point of the team. Projecting ahead to next season the number of quality quarterbacks in the draft that can lead a franchise will be woefully limited. Taking a quarterback this season that possesses raw but obvious talent indicates Jones has a blueprint for the future.

Further suggesting the GM has learned from the past is his emulation of Jimmy Johnson's first season with the Cowboys. Any player that could pass a physical was brought into the fold in search of talent. Jones has raided the NFLE signing players at many positions. Notable is Denver Manns, a 5-8, 200 pound running back with speed.

As quoted in The Sporting News article, Jones commented on a fast turnaround due mainly to parity in the league by saying, "Everyone (team) should be 8-8…How soon we get back to the Superbowl will depend on how we do at quarterback." Another indication that Jones sees a rebound as doable if key players are in the right places.

The Cowboys are currently supporting 23 million dollars of dead cap. Money that has been paid to players not currently on the squad, and in some cases on other NFL teams. But at the end of the 2001-2002 season Dallas will be one of the franchises with the most cap room in the league.

From a low of 10 million dollars, the figure mentioned by Mickey Spagnola, sports writer on the Dallas Cowboys official website, to 26 million dollars eluded to by Jones himself. But the real professor of capology is Stephen Jones who last week was quoted as saying he expects the team to have a little above 15 million dollars. Plenty of ammo to attack first the free agent market and then the June 1st release date and fill in around the marquee players on the squad today.

For a normal franchise firmly ensconced in the limelight, drafting errors are magnified. Being America's Team shines the light of public scrutiny square on any transaction and multiplies the reviews ten-fold.

Are the actions of Jones a retool to quickly regain a top seed? Is this an all out rebuild and the leader of the Cowboys is keeping it quiet because of gate receipts? Or is Jones in a complete state of denial about the talent on this team?

There are those that will quickly tell you Jones has no clue. Then again the true homers will agree with Jones comment of the possibility of 10-6 this season.

Perhaps the answer lies in all three questions. The acquisition of Tony Banks says retooling. The drafting of Quincy Carter speaks to rebuilding.

But Jones own words may sum it up best. When asked why he doesn't hire a real football guy to chose the talent he said, "If I thought there was a (talent) guru in the world who could do far better than what we are doing, he would work for the Cowboys. I have never met him."

After that bold statement one can only surmise that denial is not only a river in Egypt. But perhaps a philosophy of a General Manager in Dallas, Texas.

Quotes by Jerry Jones and Joe Theisman attributed to an article written by Paul Attner. "Who Killed America's Team. Troy Aikman's quotes were made to Brian Baldinger. Mel Kiper's comments were posted under his heading on the ESPN website.

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