In some ways, Jerral Wayne Jones' overseeing of his Dallas Cowboys is cartoonish. This is especially so when the owner/president/general manager puts on a fourth hat, "chief marketer,'' and peddles his product in the same way that, say, Chester Cheetah pushes "The Cheese That Goes Crunch."
But suddenly, Jerry's Cowboys are something more than empty calories. If they defeat Washington tonight on Monday Night Football, they will be 7-1, the healthiest start in the sport.
And Dallas' owner/president/general manager won't have to hype or sell or market his way to deserving the honor of "first-half NFL Executive of the Year.''
Don't laugh. This is no cartoon. This is no joke.
Now, Jerry Jones will never escape his penchant for The Sale. You will remember last year when Jerry made an announcement of quarterback Tony Romo's supposed "Peyton Manning/Roger Staubach-like" involvement in the offense, saying he was expecting "Peyton Manning-type time on the job'' for Romo and in another interview saying, "What we want to use more than we ever have, is the kind of thing that Staubach contributed on the field."
And you will remember coach Jason Garrett then saying: "It's similar to every quarterback situation in the league. I have been a quarterback in this league. I have been around those dynamics. I have been quarterback coach. I have been the offensive coordinator. In every organization you are trying to get that rapport with the quarterback and the offensive coordinator. … He has been our quarterback for six years now. So his voice matters to us. It has mattered for a long time."
So was there a chasm between owner and coach? A truth vs. a lie? An infrastructure crack. No more than there is a chasm between the marketing department that sells the Cheetos and the engineers who manufacture them.
Cheetos aren't really "cheese," you know. Nor do they actually "crunch." They were probably supposed to be yellow (like cheese) instead of orange. Surely they weren't supposed to leave residue on your fingers. They are fattening and unhealthy and empty calories.
But none of that matters when the cartoon cheetah dons his sunglasses and tells you Cheetos are "The Cheese That Goes Crunch.''
Jerry Jones is, among many other things, a real-life version of Chester Cheetah. More, Jerry Jones is arguably the greatest salesman in the world. By age 21, he'd sold $1 million of life insurance in a year while also co-captaining his national championship Arkansas football team – oh, and he convinced Miss Arkansas to marry him.
Peddling life insurance is sales.
Captaining a football team is sales.
Successfully wooing a Miss America finalist to the chapel is sales.
When Jones signed Romo to a monster contract, he couldn't help, when talking about Romo, selling the player, justifying the new $108-million contract, and inviting us to share in The American Dream of "America's Team.''
So Jerry is a liar? No. Jerry is Burt Lancaster in "The Rainmaker,'' Jerry is Robert Preston in "The Music Man,'' Jerry is Jon Hamm in "Mad Men.'' They want you to join them in The Ecstasy of Faith! It's the passion of the sale that drives Jerry Jones to say "Super Bowl or Bust'' when there never is going to really be a "bust.'' It's the passion of the sale that drives Don Draper to convince us that cigarettes are "cool,'' conveniently ignoring his knowledge that they are also deadly.
Hundreds of times, I've watched Jones do what he calls (in his Little Rock twang) "a-geein'-and-a-hawin''; just "visitin''' with individuals or small groups that come away fully charmed. Dozens of times I've watched Jones deliver speeches before huge crowds. In that setting, he's still "a-geein'-and-a-hawin'' but his devotion and passion for the Cowboys cause becomes wildly inflated. He can literally drive himself to tears when discussing his "product.''
"Nobody in the NFL wants to win more,'' Cowboys Hall-of-Fame legend Troy Aikman tells me, "than Jerry. Nobody devotes more resources to doing so than Jerry, either. Nobody.''
Jones' position on Romo's Cowboys was, as with much of what he says in interviews, an exaggeration. But Jerry Jones' passion for Your Cowboys is not a lie.
Romance is sales. Writing is sales. Jerry Jones' job (at least in part) is sales. It's the link between everything from Dr. King's "I Have A Dream'' to a deodorant promising to be "new and improved'' to Jerry Jones rolling with the "America's Team'' idea because if enough of us keep thinking it, it remains the truth.
Because all "America's Team" really is, you know, is an idea.
But this year's team has substance to go with the style. The ideas have become victories.
Jones is an incredibly busy owner, wearing so many different hats that it sometimes makes it difficult for the Cowboys consumer to separate "Jerry the Football Guy'' from "Jerry The Owner'' from "Jerry The Papa John's Pizza Dancer.'' But Jones' management fingerprints are all over this 6-1 start. His familial admiration for Garrett prevented the coach's firing last year after a third straight non-playoff 8-8 campaign. In fact, Jones gave Garrett more power by allowing him to appoint his own coordinators -- a key alteration in the Valley Ranch organizational flow chart. Meanwhile, Jones elevated Will McClay's position in the personnel department, and stayed true to McClay's board when drafting guard Zack Martin, the rookie who is playing at a Pro Bowl-level.
Was Jones interested in Johnny Manziel instead? Yes. But he's the overseer of the decisions ... and Dallas decided to take Martin, just as the Cowboys in other recent drafts select Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant, Travis Frederick, DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams, Bruce Carter, Tyrone Crawford and other foundation pieces of what is now a contender.
It was Jones who made the tough call to let DeMarcus Ware go, a cap-smart decision that asked defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to patchwork together an affordable-but-productive line. It was Jones who refused to let Bill Callahan walk after he was demoted beneath new hire Scott Linehan, giving Dallas substantial brainpower on offense. It was Jones who served as the point man for the recruitment of Rolando McClain, the controversial middle linebacker who is now a star for Dallas. Jones' relationship with Tyron helped make that team-friendly new contract possible. Jones' relationship with Dez is one of the reasons his lack of a new contract is not a problem inside Valley Ranch.
Jones and long-time Cowboys personnel man Tom Ciskowski have a running inside joke about the public's perception of the boss' decision-making.
"Jerry likes to tell me, if we make a decision that works out, Jerry was involved,'' Ciskowski tells me. "And if we make one that doesn't work out, Jerry wasn't involved.''
That's a twist, of course, of what Jerry's detractors like to believe: That Dallas' 6-1 record means Jason Garrett, Will McClay, Stephen Jones and the players are responsible for the "6'' And the "1''? Must be Jerry's fault.
But should be buying public is smart enough to know that Chester Cheetah isn't real. Smart enough to know that Cheetos aren't cheese. Smart enough to know that they don't actually crunch. No reason, then, why we can't be smart enough to recognize the difference between Jerry's "Ecstasy of Faith'' and the real work being done by the Cowboys -- and their first-half "NFL Executive of the Year'' owner/president/general manager -- to merit that faith.
As we ready for the AT&T Stadium 7:30 kickoff (with me joining Brad Sham and Babe Laufenberg on the pregame on 105.3 The Fan), get your facts about the historical rivalry here in our "Cowboys 100''! Do we really need to "throw out the records" for this game because it's a rivalry? How dominant is Garrett on challenges? And find out who converted the largest third-down of Romo's career. DeMarco is giving gifts and so are we in 'Cowboys 100' because it's Washington Week!
Here's a key tidbit from our Mark Lane, part of his weekly "Cowboys 100'' series, on referee Tony Corrente:
This week’s referee, Corrente, last refereed a Dallas game in the 2013 season-opener against the Giants. Since the year 1999, Corrente has refereed nine games with the Cowboys, who have posted a 4-5 record. Washington is 3-8 when Corrente referees their games.
I presented to Dez Bryant the news that he's in the top three in the NFL in receptions converting third downs into first downs.
"I almost wish you wouldn't have told me that,'' replied Dez, trying to keep it humble but then also answering a my question about why he's cut a little weight. "I don't know ... because it looks good.''
The Cowboys looked good in every way as they spend the weekend with final tuneups for Game 8. On Saturday, Doug Free (who might return to practice as early as next week) was the only rotation player not practicing, as Tony Romo, Anthony Spencer and Bruce Carter all working (with Rolando McClain and Justin Durant seemingly being featured in Nickel work). It's all-hands-on-deck time and a chance for numbers to explode against the struggling Redskins, who have lost eight of their last 11 meetings with Dallas.
If the Cowboys offense gains 400+ total yards on Monday against the Redskins, it will set a new franchise record for most consecutive games with 400-plus yards, with five.
It's enough to make Dez Bryant blush. Almost.
This is where Cowboys fans get smarter.
It’s funny how different things are a year later. In 2013, Dallas and Washington both entered the first matchup of the season as below .500 teams, searching for an identity. In 2014, Dallas might have forged the most identifiable identity of the NFC. Their upcoming opponents, however, are still searching for a starting quarterback, much less an identity. Washington benched Kirk Cousins in last week’s victory over the Tennessee Titans and have named for University of Texas star Colt McCoy as the starter until Robert Griffin is completely healed. Griffin is ramping up his practice reps and there remains an outside possibility that he may see action on Monday night. That makes this an interesting team to prepare for.
The Cowboys have the opportunity to bury a division foe before the calendar turns to November. Here, we take a look at the advanced metrics that spell out how difficult of a task it might be.
Opening Monologue: 00:00:34It's Washington Week and NO ONE seems to care, why? Because Dallas has dominated the rivalry for the last decade and a half. Also, what can the defensive turnabout be attributed to? KD dives right in and checks off a list that includes Dez Bryant and 11 NFL players who haven't even played a down in 2014. Keith Mullins: 00:12:50Keith and KD go to work on the attitude of the Cowboys, the lack of a pass rush and other topics. They differ in opinion on the value of Sterling Moore and end things up with a conversation about teabagging. Can't miss. Mike Fisher: 00:48:23 Fish brings the goods as he and KD discuss the league's QBs and the value of running. Where do the Cowboys still have holes? What can be gleaned as we near the halfway point of the season. Straight from the Ranch.
I’ve been asked the questions dozens of times as the Oct. 28 NFL trade deadline approaches. ‘Is it true the Cowboys are trading for running back Mark Ingram?’ ‘Can Dallas trade for a pass-rusher?’ ‘Why doesn’t Jerry swing an over-the-top trade?’
Forget almost everything you heard on the Sunday network pregame shows. The Cowboys trade answers inside in my Premium Cowboys column.
"I think,'' Tony Romo said to start training camp, "over the course of the next four or five years, you'll see the best version of me.''
We are almost halfway through the Cowboys 2014 campaign ... and suddenly, the "best Romo'' is an "elite Romo'' - even after the contract extension some thought he'd never live up to. Check out Marcus Mosher's numbers-crunching here regarding Romo as a fourth-quarter QB ...
Check out our study of Romo's work since the contract extension ... and be impressed.
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Our own Mark Lane sat down with former Cowboys guard John Niland to talk about the glory years of the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry. When asked about how today's Cowboys do the Landry Shift in victory formation, the six-time Pro Bowler had this to say:
"I think it's great respect to the game and to the old Dallas Cowboys. I think it's wonderful. It's nice that they remember that sort of thing. Of course, I'm sure the coach put them up to it. I don't think that came out of Jerry's idea. You know, I'm just guessing at that. No, but I think it's a great way to respect the coach that obviously made that shift work for us. I mean, we used it every year I was there. We never deviated from it. It seemed to work. It did pretty good; we were in the playoffs every year.''
Mark's co-host for today's special pregame show on KXYL in Brownwood, Texas (which you can hear from 5-6 PM), Mark Cope, spoke with former Cowboys running back Preston Pearson, the man who pioneered the role of third-down back. Hear his take on the glory years of the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry:
The Cowboys have won seven straight regular season games five times in franchise history, reaching the playoffs all five times and winning three Super Bowls ... What does Washington coach Jay Gruden see from Dallas' defense? ""Their effort is No. 1. (Rod Marinelli) gets after his guys and those guys all run to the ball. They pursue to the ball consistently for four quarters. They fly off the tape at you with their effort." ... Want to be a Cowboys Insider with Premium coverage? Click here to take our free 7-day trial and then for 10 cents a day, you are among the most informed Cowboys followers on the planet! Take our 7-day free trial and come inside! ... The Cowboys have just seven sacks in seven games, putting them on pace for a franchise-low. "We're working at it, believe me, and we're coming up short," Marinelli said. "Moving guys around, trying to get maybe the proper match-ups, but then, it's just coming back to work and just keep going after it. They'll come. We've just got to keep fighting." Look for Dallas to do even more "moving guys around'' tonight. Because even though Rod likes to keep it simple, he'd also like to get some sacks ... Where should Dallas win this game? On third down. The Cowboys lead the NFL with a 57.4-percent success rate on third downs. The Redskins? They rank 31st, converting on just 31.7 percent. ... “It’s a divisional opponent,'' Orlando Scandrick says. "We need this W. We’re still in the first half of the season. What better way to close out the first half of the season than with a W at home against a division opponent?’’
“Oh, it’s gonna be loud. It better be loud. They better be loud, like really loud. It’s going to be fun. It’s the only game shown on TV. It gets no better than that.” - Dez Bryant.