Reasoning Jerry's Latest Move

Jerry Jones' decision to muzzle his minions is the sort of decision that demonstrates both why he is the NFL most passionately driven owner and why he is perceived as a megalomaniac.

Three reasons why the Cowboys owner's new organizational gag order is a well-meaning flexing of effort. …

And three reasons why the gag order is an ill-advised waste of effort.

WELL-MEANING EFFORT: 1. Jones is absolutely right to be upset at the "leaks'' that do damage to his billion-dollar company. It's a good sign, really, that his "any Cowboys news is good news as long as they spell our name right'' approach to media is bumping up against its limits. This team is rotten with factions and self-proclaimed "stars'' and "unnamed sources'' and Jones' effort could be perceived by his employees as a buck-stops-here move.

At some point, the ban will be lightened or lifted. But this team has an awful lot of "team spokesmen'' – more team spokesmen than they had players who had great years, that's for sure – and there is some wisdom in ordering them to do some reps with their arms and legs instead of with their tongues.

2. Quote from Jerry: "Where I'm coming from here,'' he told some media folks in Indianapolis at the Scouting Combine, "is I just want to make sure you're not getting bits and pieces of information.''

Um, OK. I'm stretching a bit here. … but Mr. Jones is trying to help the media and therefore help the fans (his stockholders, i.e., you)? He wants you to get the straight dope? I'm stretching and he's stretching but. … OK.

3. You think Jerry Jones wants it both ways? Wants a tight ship AND a reality-show winner on his roster? Wants to scoldingly tell the local papers "no'' while invitingly telling the networks "yes''? Wants you to remain interested, fascinated, obsessed, with his football team – enough to spend thousands of dollars to visit Jerryassic Park – but wants you to control that obsession when it comes to your consumption of "misinformation''?

Damn straight he wants it both ways.

WASTE OF EFFORT: 1. The fact that the gag order extends all the way up to coach Wade Phillips further undercuts the in-house perception of him and his authority. (Not to mention the public perception and the "puppet'' crap, for what little that's worth.) It suggests that Jerry cannot trust the people he's hired – including his coach. He's entrusted this man, and this collection of men and women who help the Cowboys machine roll on every day, to be key cogs in his billion-dollar company. … but he doesn't trust them to conduct themselves properly while being interviewed by the ever-dangerous Jennifer Floyd-Engel?

Jerry, she's a lady from a newspaper. She's not Mata Hari.

As was the case with Bill Parcells before him, all gag orders really do is poison a team into paranoia and retard the growth of the underlings limited by them. It is a childish move. … and it makes the assistant coaches and scouts and other staffers feel like children. There are many organizations that have succeeded under the controlling cloud of such a rule (Parcells and his disciple Belichick are control-freakishly devoted to it and they've won some Super Bowls) but there are a dozen-times more organizations that have thrived without every considering such folly.

(I might personally point to Bill Walsh, who would be mortified at the notion that he'd hired a staffer so doltish as to be outfoxed by a reporter. I might also personally point to Jimmy Johnson, who psyched his staff into being loyal to him. To this day, Norv and Wannstedt and all of them would probably argue that Jimmy never done 'em wrong.)

"One Voice,'' as others have called it (including former Mavs coach Avery Johnson, who actually lost his power base the more he squeezed his hands tightly around it) does not work. Ask anybody.

Now. … if the "anybody'' you ask is somebody who is presently working for Parcells or Belichick, or if you were to go back in time to a year ago and ask an "anybody'' from at Mavs HQ, you'd have to ask them in secret, down at the Quizno's. But they'd tell you. … as long as the Bill types and the Lil' Johnson types weren't around.

2. It's folly, as I say, because it won't stick. It cannot stick.

(Again, putting aside for the moment that Jones will eventually scale this back. …)

Oh, Jerry (or Parcells or Belichick) can THINK a gag order is in effect. But these employees are grown-ass adults we're talking about. Coaches and staffers will have friendly relationships with media members. … media members who, hopefully, are worthy of their trust. I've personally been involved in such setups literally dozens and dozens of times; a Parcells cannot keep me from calling a staffer at home, and if the staffer trusts me, Parcells cannot keep him from picking up the phone.

This policy sells short not only the maturity of the Valley Ranch staffer (who is not going to forever let his boss socially enslave him) but also the work ethic of the reporter (who if he's intrepid enough is going to find his story, somehow).

Jerry would be much better off hiring staffers who are trustworthy (as I believe he generally has).

And he would be much better off putting specific sanctions on media people he can prove are untrustworthy.

3. And here's the killer:

Jones was motivated to do this, he says, because of two chunks of information that have floated into the NFL ether, both of them having to do with the Terrelephant In The Room.

He swears he's not had players over to his Highland Park manse to discuss T.O.'s future with the club. He also swears he's not at odds with son Stephen over the Owens issue.

"That example that I had players over the house talking about personnel, that just is misinformation," Jones said. "That Stephen and I were debating about Terrell, that's just misinformation. That's just not accurate. I don't know where that comes from. That's just total misinformation.''

Very fine. I believe Jones on the first issue; that "information'' was, the way I understand it, actually a gossipy item that came from the hotel pool in Hawaii during the Pro Bowl. On the second issue? We're probably talking semantics. Jerry and Stephen obviously have "spoken'' about it but maybe not "debated'' it.

But stick with me – and with Jerry -- on this. He goes on to say:

"And the thing is that nobody would know that except for me or Stephen, and I know Stephen didn't tell you. So whoever else said that happened is just wrong. …''

And that establishes the most powerful reason Jerry Jones needn't muzzle his minions. The "leaks'' that motivated him to do it … are not leaks at all. If neither of the offending stories are true, that means, obviously, they didn't come from anybody in the Cowboys organization.

So let me get this straight: The leaks are made up, and they are not coming from staffers. So Jerry is going to stop the leaks by gagging the staffers who aren't leaking them?

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