'Citizen Kane' And The Madness Of Ranking Cowboys Players And NFL Front Offices

On 'Citizen Kane' And The Madness Of 'Ranking' Cowboys Players And NFL Front Offices

Because I am just barely smart enough to recognize the bogus nature of "sports rankings," I rarely bother with this space-filling tactic. 

Now, I'm not talking about ranking - as in “evaluating’’ - prospects in an upcoming NBA Draft; digging to understand what to report on what the Dallas Cowboys are planning on Draft Day, or what they think about  players in general back there in the personnel department …

That's sports-important.

You’ll note the approach I take to annually "grading” the Cowboys on “the execution of their plan’’ … Not on whether “I like’’ their picks … Because relative to an NFL general manager, coach or scout, what the heck do I know? 

"The execution of the plan" is far more sports-important than my layman's opinion.

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No, what I'm attacking here is junk like NFL Network ranking the league's top 100 players. Football people I talk to think Zack Martin might be the best offensive lineman in football but he's only No. 58 on the NFL Network list. That puts him two slots ahead of Dez Bryant.

Are we sure? Are we sure Bryant shouldn't be 61st? Or 31st? Are we sure Martin shouldn't be in the top 10? Or 57th? 

Oh, and where did Martin - in just his third NFL season already a “perennial’’ All-Pro - rank a year ago on this list? 

He didn’t.

So in a year, Martin went from “nothing’’ to “top 58’’ … even though his level of performance didn’t really change?

What are the criteria here?

Who knows? Who cares?

Because this is the slow time of the NFL season, the same sort of mindless exercise is being applied to judging "the best front offices in the NFL."

A young fellow writing at CBS named Sean Wagner-McGough (who I'm sure is a lovely man) tells us the Dallas Cowboys rank as the 11th-best front office in football.

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Huh? Why?

Mr. Wagner-McGough notes "they weren’t really active in free agency (without being able to explain the intricate reasons why) and rips Dallas because it "didn’t capitalize on having two starting-caliber quarterbacks, failing to find a trade partner for Tony Romo" (without understanding that the circumstances were ... complicated. And involved a real human beings and real emotions, not just chess pieces).

The CBS writer, however, lauds the Cowboys because he “loved their draft.’’

Which, as I noted above as it regards my own educated-guess opinions … means nothing to me. Mr. Wagner-McGough’s expert opinion on Chidobe Awuzie matters … why?!

Besides, what is the criteria for being a “best’’ front office? Wins? Consistent contention? Rebuilding on the fly? Does the “judge’’ understand the relationships involved? For instance, in Dallas, Will McClay is able to do his job because he’s a unifier … and Jason Garrett is able to do his because a couple of 12-plus win seasons have let him accumulate power … and Jerry Jones’ faith in both has him as more of an overseer and less of a sleeves-rolled-up guy when it comes to personnel and the cap … with Stephen Jones truly performing the traditional “GM’’ role.

I defy the writer at CBS to know any of the details regarding the ties between the aforementioned four men. And if you don’t know the men, and their ties, and their goals — if all you know is the 12-plus-win-seasons part … How do you judge?

The late, great film critic Roger Ebert can be heard on the “Citizen Kane’’ video offering intimate details about the ground-breaking and classic 1941 film. At one point, Ebert points out that “Kane’’ wasn’t highly-regarded early on. 

Since 1962, however, Ebert wrote, “It is routinely voted the greatest film of all time, most notably in the international polls by the British film magazine Sight & Sound in 1962, 1972 and 1982. (And ’92 and ’02 and only in the last survey did it slip to No. 2, behind Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.’’) … So it's settled: “Citzen Kane’ is the official greatest film of all time …

“But people don't always ask about the greatest film. They ask, "What's your favorite movie?" Again, I always answer with 'Citizen Kane.' But is that true, or only convenient?

“Let us agree that all lists of movies are nonsense. … Despite the entreaties of countless editors, authors and websites, I decline to make lists of the best comedies, horror films, Christmas films, family films, Westerns, musicals, political films, silent films, films about dogs, and so on. That way madness lies.’’

There is madness, too, in trying to “rank’’ NFL players and NFL front offices. How does a quarterback compare to a guard compared to a kicker? And how does a Cowboys front office that is run differently than a Giants front office compare … compared to the Falcons or the Dolphins or the Seahawks?

There is really only one way to rank players and only one way to rank teams, and for these, I don’t need the media’s help.

The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl. That makes them the best team, with the best players, with the best front office.

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That take doesn’t promote “debate’’ and it doesn’t fill much space. But any other measurement?

That way madness lies.

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