My 10 FishTips On the Dallas Cowboys latest misadventure with the drug-addled Randy Gregory and the team’s "Second Chance Valley Ranch’’ approach to behavioral issues:
FISHTIP 1: I guess I need to dump the nickname "Second Chance Valley Ranch’’ and move onto, oh, “The Star At Frisco Island Of Misfit Toys.’’ The Cowboys can change headquarters but until they change their approach to the overseeing of players like Gregory - now facing a 10-game suspension after failing a fifth drug test in the last 13 months or so - there will be no real change.
FISHTIP 2: But what should that “change’’ be? My man Gavin Dawson at 105.3 The Fan has long been a proponent of Dallas avoiding what he calls the “Blue Light Specials,’’ the players with injury histories or drug histories or other such red flags. But can you build a successful 53-man team that is completely made up of Roger Staubachs and Darren Woodsons? Every team wants "high-character'' players (whatever "high-character'' means to you). That means there is a need for 1,800 Staubachs and Woodsons. You think there exist on our planet 1,800 of them? There truly aren’t 53.
Supply-and-demand, you know?
FISHTIP 3: Gregory is running a long con on the Cowboys. He’s at the team golf tournament high-fiving Jerry and Stephen Jones and Will McClay with the same hand he later (that week or that night) used to light up the chronic. Gregory has now registered five failed drug tests in the span of 14 months. That's the part that makes you not "feel sorry for him.’'
This is a loooooong con.
FISHTIP 4: But that’s not to suggest Dallas isn’t guilty here — guilty because under owner Jerry Jones, this organization believes it possesses some “secret sauce,’’ some “behavioral magic wand.’’ There is no “secret’’ to dealing with drug abusers. There is no “magic.’’ There are psychological and physiological answers available to the Cowboys, to every other NFL team, to every employer. Dallas does not have a “unique’’ approach.
Dallas has, in this and a handful of other high-profile cases, a failed approach.
FISHTIP 5: In fairness, though, there is no way to measure how many success stories are the result of the Cowboys’ leadership style. Nobody complained about Dallas’ “lack of success’’ in employing “bad guys’’ in 2014, when the Cowboys won 12 games. Nobody around here complained much from 1992 to 1995, either.
There were complaints before ’92. And after ’95. But not during … if you get my drift.
Everybody wants it both ways. You wish Dallas had drafted running back Le’Veon Bell instead of Gavin Escobar … but the Steelers’ gifted running back is now facing his second drug suspension in two years. (Put Bell and Gregory on the same Cowboys roster and what do you really have? A pair of guys who can take turns at the wheel as they drive together to rehab.)
Were we OK with a roster featuring Irvin, Newton, Lett, Williams, Haley, Sanders and so many more studs who walked a behavioral tightrope while winning Super Bowls? Most of us were, because morally right or not, the end justified the means.
If Rolando McClain and Randy Gregory combine on a game-winning sack to seal a playoff-game victory next January, will you cheer?
Meanwhile, if you watch the above video, CHQ's visit with new Cowboys defensive lineman Cedric Thornton, you get the impression that there is quality in this locker room, that there is a bond, that there is a reason to cheer for what you hope is a team with a preponderance of "good-character'' people.
FISHTIP 6: Part of the failure of the system may be the lack of qualifications of the otherwise good people in charge. In the story we broke here last February, the Cowboys assigned a young staff member to serve as Gregory’s roommate/big brother/babysitter. This young man — well-meaning as he surely was — does not have, to my knowledge, an educational or occupational background in psychology, psychiatry, medicine, law, law enforcement, or even parenting.
"Misadventures in Babysitting,’’ as this employee was Peter Principled into failure — failure including four failed drug tests by Gregory while directly under the Cowboys’ supervision.
One envisions Gregory telling his roommate, "G’night,’’ and then once the lights are out, sneaking off to the bathroom, placing a wet towel at the door jamb, and privately, gleefully, lighting up.
FISHTIP 7: A continuation of the broken system: One of Gregory’s negative influences, sources told me last winter, was Greg Hardy — who has a problem with what I’ve called “The Uptown Flu’’ that is so severe that despite his elite talent, cannot get an NFL job. What did the Cowboys do to attempt to steer Hardy in the right direction? They assigned him a “big brother,’’ too — but the person who got the job is the exact same person who’d just been fired from that same role by Dez Bryant, who in multiple interviews with me accused this person of mismanaging Bryant’s checkbook.
Yes, it’s true: The “adopted uncle’’ who allegedly mismanaged Dez Bryant was punished .. by being paid to mismanage Greg Hardy.
FISHTIP 8: The newspaper writes that, “Until the Cowboys understand the value of character, they won’t win championships.’'
Ah, if only “character’’ was as easy to measure as a 40-yard dash.
You know who takes on the same sort of players that Dallas takes on (a desire for the “Right Kind Of Guy’’ along with some “risk tolerance’’ because of a fix-‘em confidence)? The Patriots, the Steelers and the Seahawks.
You know what separates the Patriots, the Steelers and the Seahawks from the Cowboys?
The first three teams in that sentence win a lot more games than the fourth team in that sentence.
With all due respect to the newspaper’s myopic view of “character,'' if formulas to win championships were that easy, everybody'd win ‘em.
FISHTIP 9: We shouldn’t expect Gregory to participate in the start of training camp in Oxnard and I’m told maybe we shouldn’t expect him to play at all in 2016. (To me, as with Rolando McClain and his 10-game suspension: What’s the point of them lining up in Oxnard, doing nothing more than taking reps away from pass-rushers and linebackers who actually are going to have to play in games? I write here about Ro spending his time down at the ol' fishin' hole with Dr. Phil and Judge Judy.)
A sympathetic voice says, “Randy’s got things on his mind that are more important than football right now,’’ and I ping-pong back, “Randy’s always had things on his mind that are more important than football.’'
So do you put in the call to veteran pass-rusher Dwight Freeney? That seems like an easy fix, but Dallas, I’m told, is not presently inclined to chase the free-agent Pro Bowler just yet. Part of that might be due to Freeney not wishing to be in anybody’s camp (maybe he’d rather skip that part of football and get straight to the real games) and part of that is certainly due to the Cowboys’ desire to examine their young D-line campers first.
I think that’s a mistake, and one that will be magnified if a competitor like the Redskins opts to sign Freeney and he lines up against the Cowboys twice in 2016.
FISHTIP 10: Dallas fans needn’t overreact here specifically to the loss of one player; the absence of Gregory isn’t so key that it “closes the Tony Romo contention window’’ or anything like that. But while Jerry Jones uses the word “demons’’ to describe the problem, Cowboys fans can use other sets of words. Like, “Another lost season for Randy Gregory.’’ And “I wonder if the Cowboys are too cocksure in their faith in their fix-it system?''