The Shot Heard ‘Round The NFL World

Our perception of the world around us is formed to a greater extent by the seven-second sound byte. Visual blurbs on television or single quotes in newspapers form our opinions on issues of the day. Yet in the world of professional football an effervescent remark by an owner can generate more newsprint and bandwidth use than a 21st century revolution in America. That is if that owner is Jerry Jones.

The 10-6 comment by Jones has done more than cause a few ripples throughout the press and fans alike. From a sampling of the Internet one would think that Jones had admitted he was the second gunman on the grassy knoll. His forecast more stirring than the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"I just can't think about starting a season and not having a winning record." Ever the optimist, the lead Cowboy sees the glass as half full. But there is more to Jones than meets the eye.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Cowboys over the last decade is the insistence by Jones to keep the level of play near the top. His active involvement in free agency and retention of top players has bolstered a team that's been sagging under the weight of eroding talent.

Yet playing the check-writing game has its drawbacks. The day comes when your core stars can't produce either through loss of skills or injury. A fate that met Dallas head-on in the 2000-01 season.

"We had a taste in our mouth last year we didn't like." Jones said recently. His admission that high expectations gave way to disappointment may have signaled the new philosophy from win-now to win-soon.

But Jerry boastings don't go spinning off into a fantasy world without one foot grounded in reality. "My philosophy is that I don't want to invest this year in any aspect that aren't building for the future." And so Jones tempers his bold prediction with a caveat.

"I've been criticized because I've said I have high expectations for this team, a team that is rebuilding," Jones said, with a nod toward starting over.

Stephen Jones takes a back seat to his father in press releases. But when asked, he sounds off in a manner more palatable for the doomsday critics that place Dallas just below the Odessa/Permian high school football team.

Speaking of his young players, the pro personnel director said, "We know they're going to make mistakes, but we have to give them a chance to improve. We don't want any question marks at the end of the year. We need to know who can play."

The younger Jones faces the rebuild and doesn't shy away from labeling 2001 as the foundation for brighter tomorrows.

Who can and can't contribute is job one this season for the Vice President of the Cowboys. So much so that Joe Bowden, one of the more experienced linebackers on the team has been cut in the first weekend of camp.

Campo joins Jerry in his optimistic outlook, albeit tempered by a sobering glance at his roster. "I don't think we're highly thought of because of the name guys we've lost over the years. It's going to be a physical camp and there is going to be a great deal of competition. Between our first unit and our second unit there's not going to be a lot of difference."

Jerry is inspired by the lack of success last year brought. He sees this as a challenge for the entire staff and players to rally together and show the skeptical world that all is not lost.

"The more people say you can't do it, the more people are saying you are taking on something that can't be done, the more fired up I get and the happier I am." His motivation is clear and he projects his ardor for disproving the condemnation onto his team.

"I think this will give us an edge," Jones said. "We have a unique opportunity to surprise a lot of people and at the same time develop a young and exciting team. I believe you can do both. It may sound like you're dreaming but I don't see it that way."

When sifting through the remarks of Jones one can see that he believes this team can be competitive, yet still follow a blueprint to rebuild a powerhouse. Other observations by Jones indicate his insistence that quarterback is the key to the Cowboys present and future.

"From my perspective the most important thing that I am looking at in this camp is how our quarterbacking evolves. Period." Jones goes on to say, "But we have to evaluate whether he (Banks) can be our quarterback for the next five or six years because we'll have a decision to make after the season about Tony Banks, about whether to look at quarterback in the draft."

But after all these thoughts Jones has made public through interviews and press conferences at training camp this weekend, perhaps one quote will stay with him more than any other.

"I think we've got a legitimate chance of being a winning team and that's 10-6 as far as I'm concerned."

Some sound bytes pass into obscurity while others remain in our consciousness as if a mental note is attached to remind us to validate its accuracy.

This quote may come back and bite Jerry Jones on his ever-slimming posterior sometime before November.

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