Reporting Mike Fisher
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IRVING (105.3 THE FAN) – More than 20 years after undertaking the challenge of building the Dallas Cowboys into a multiple-time Super Bowl champion, Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson are continuing their endless campaign for credit. The weird timing of the latest Jimmy-Jerry Joust? It is delivered to the public alongside the following list, assembled by me with the help of sources close to Jones:
The Top 10 List Of Jerry’s Confidential Cowboys Consultants.
The irony of the latest Jimmy-Jerry Joust? When you peruse the list of the men who populate Jones’ football Rolodex as he seeks guidance in his unchanging role as the owner, president and general manager of a once-proud team floundering in mediocrity, you see the name of ….
None other than Jimmy Johnson.
I’ll get input from all over the country from people who I have a lot of confidence in and evaluate the Dallas Cowboys,’’ Jones said in a Tuesday interview with Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “I get a lot of input from people … to give me that information. I feel like I’ve got a good feel for where the talent level is.’’
We are spinning our wheels arguing about early-90’s Cowboys credit — as sexy a football soap opera as it admittedly is. I covered that era’s Cowboys as a beat writer on a literally 365-day-a-year basis. I have my facts straight about what happened, about who has power, about who had titles. The answers are more complex than some make them out to be, like any other relationship. But in short:
Jimmy’s qualifications caused his owner to provide him GM-like authority. But when Johnson claims (as he did Wednesday on “The Dan Patrick Show’’) that Jones only awarded himself the “president and GM’’ title following Johnson’s 1994 departure? Well, to borrow from Jimmy’s fibbing explanation:
There is an NFL rule that mandates each franchise have one “voice,’’ one “signature,’’ who is solely in charge of submitting transactions to the league office. (Imagine the potential confusion if any franchise didn’t have such a flow chart up to the league.) That person for The Dallas Cowboys Football Club is, and has always been, Jerral Wayne Jones.
Did Jimmy Johnson “call the personnel shots’’? Absolutely. Did he “have final say’’? Absolutely not.
“Final say’’ is the stamp-of-approval submission to the NFL offices. “Final say’’ was and is Jerry’s.
Worth noting: Jerry rarely bucked Jimmy. Jerry respected Jimmy. Jerry listened to Jimmy.
But again, the bigger story once we march beyond the soap opera:
Jerry still listens to Jimmy.
I have learned that there is a Jones Rolodex filled with the names of high-profile football FOJs (Friends of Jerry) who advise him, counsel him and serve as a sounding board for him. With a great deal of insider guidances, I’ve composed The Top 10 List Of Jerry’s Confidential Cowboys Consultants.
Let me preface the release of the list with a few qualifiers and a few defenses:
*Yes, this list includes football wise men of a certain age. It’s probably of value to note that a) Jerry is himself 70; some of his friends naturally are of that same generation and that b) this list extends well beyond just these 10 men … and some of those guys are likely of other, younger generations. (Jones’ friendship with New Orleans’ Sean Payton, for instance, might not lead to Payton becoming Dallas’ head coach. But it does allow Jerry to pick the brain of Payton, and many of his peers, as a friend.)
*This Top 10 list is not meant to indicate that these men are on the Cowboys payroll, have offices at Valley Ranch, or have the power to usurp decisions being made by VP Stephen Jones, coach Jason Garrett or the scouting department. Rather, they serve Jerry as your friends capable of mentoring might serve you – and as a system of checks, cross-checks, balances and validation of decisions being made.
*While some of these people have different public personas (playing “goofy’’ TV characters, for instance) their value to Jones comes as friends and football men. As I noted to the New School morning show guys on 105.3 The Fan, if they have the opportunity to be consulted on the subject of broadcasting by Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern and Ryan Seacrest, would they worry about the legends’ ages and their public personas? Or would they be wise enough to milk the wise men for information and guidance?
*And one more preemptive strike against the natural criticism of this list: Yes, it’s been 15 years since the Cowboys won a Super Bowl. Yes, Dallas is just 3-5 this year. So yes, it’s natural to wonder if the people on this list are giving advice that is as unsound as the Cowboys themselves.
Read the list — The Top 10 List Of Jerry’s Confidential Cowboys Consultants – and tell me if you think Jones, and you, and I should pause to listen to them:
10. Joe Gibbs – When Jerry is considering a coaching hire, he listens to the advice of the legendary Redskins coach. Gibbs has frequently served as an unofficial and very private Jones consultant on such matters. It’s not a coincidence that Gibbs happened to pop into a Cowboys chapel meeting before this year’s game in Carolina. And if you think this is some violation of “Cowboys vs. Redskins,’’ you fail to understand the business of football; teams don’t hate each other the way fans of the teams hate each other. You also fail to comprehend the persuasive reach of Jones.
9. John Madden - Relationships make relationships, and nobody in the NFL doesn’t love and respect Madden. Madden and Jones became close as a result of the Cowboys being on all those network-telecast games, with Madden as the iconic color analyst. If you have Madden’s ear and he has yours, it means you have the ear of virtually everyone in the NFL.
8. Lou Holtz - His silly TV persona hides some facts: His college career record is 249-132-7. He’s the only college football coach in history to lead six different programs to bowl games. Holtz once coached Arkansas – the origin of his connect with Jones, the former Razorbacks player and long-time booster – and now watches as much college football and understands college football as well as anybody on the planet.
7. Barry Switzer – Some consider Barry to be “that crazy uncle’’ who seemed awfully scatterbrained when he served as the Cowboys head coach in the mid-90’s. But sit down before a chalkboard with him and watch him X-and-O and you will be dazzled by his sharp insights. You would have to be an inside football guy to know the following: Switzer has long been considered the best judge of running back talent alive. It was Switzer, the legendary Oklahoma coach, who validated the Dallas scouts’ assessment of DeMarco Murray.
6. Mike Holmgren – They developed a relationship when the two men served on the powerful NFL Competition Committee. This one is less about college scouting and more about how to general manage, how to run the business of a football team. That’s something Jones used to discuss with San Francisco’s Eddie DeBartolo (yes, even as they were archrivals) and with the late Al Davis of the Raiders. Now, that go-to friend is former Packers coach Holmgren.
5. Charles Haley – Here is a notable and quirky one and I think it speaks to width and breadth of Jones’ willingness to listen. When the Cowboys personnel department wants one more set of eyeballs specifically regarding pass rushers, Haley – a key to Dallas’ Super Bowl teams in the 90’s — gives the guy a look.
4. Bill Parcells – This is where, to the outsider, the surprises begin. They parted in a friendly way when Parcells ceased coaching the Cowboys. They remain friends they talk socially, and they remain friends and they talk football. The Bill Parcells coaching tree is extensive, which expands Jones’ Rolodex. This relationship is mutually beneficial, Parcells certainly understanding the benefits of having a friendship with someone like Jones, who can be charming and persuasive and is worth $2 billion. It can be beneficial to be friends with a billionaire.
3. Ron Wolf – Wolf was a frequent training camp guest while Parcells coached here. A friendship developed between Jones and Wolf. Many modern football people will tell you that Ron Wolf — the architect of great Packers teams — is the top scout of our time
2. Les Miles – The former Cowboys assistant coach is now a source of quality information on SEC players around draft time. Now, maybe you don’t like LSU or maybe you don’t like the job Les Miles does at LSU. But do you like the idea that when it comes time to discuss the personalities, talents and habits of the players in the rich vein that is the SEC, you have the LSU head coach on your side? ( I might add as an extension to this entire concept that when Jason Garrett has SEC questions, he calls a friend in Alabama named Nick Saban. There are more than 10 of these people … there is more than one Valley Ranch Rolodex.)
1. Jimmy Johnson – I wrote the following paragraph on Tuesday, before the latest Jimmy-Jerry Joust began:
I bet Jimmy doesn’t love me telling you that he is on this list, or that those in the know guide me to putting him No. 1 on the list. Jerry probably doesn’t especially love it, either, as the two men – who have known each other for more than 50 years – enjoy the public “Jimmy vs. Jerry’’ jousting. That is a game, a dance, and while the battle for credit never quite goes away, neither does the friendship. Jimmy Johnson is, to the likely surprise of many, a strong Jerry Jones ally.
That was true on Tuesday. As both men make headlines 20 years and three Super Bowls after they began bickering, it is even more true today.
One more time: The existence of this list, “secret’’ in a sense until now, still leads to a bottom line of the Cowboys as “not good enough.’’ That might lead to cries from Cowboys fans like, “Jerry should get himself some new friends.’’
Said Jones to 105.3 The Fan of his consultants: “Does that relate to winning ballgames automatically? Of course not.’’
But it should relate to this: Jerry Jones – as individually powerful as he is – is neither high and alone in an ivory tower or down and low falling off the melon wagon. He is not a Wizard of Oz, independently and unilaterally making decisions in a vacuum. He is the boss, but he is a boss with ears.
The GM of the Cowboys isn’t going to be changed out.
“We are not structured that way,” Jones says. “We didn’t structure it that way with my ownership. There’s no way that I would be involved here and not be the final decision-maker …. That’s never been anybody’s misunderstanding. It’s been a debated thing, but it’s just not going to happen. We’ve had success doing it this way and we’re going to have success in the future doing it this way.’’
But maybe the ears need to listen better, and/or the coaches and players need to perform better, and/or The Top 10 List Of Jerry’s Confidential Cowboys Consultants need to consult better.
And yes, any sound advice Jimmy has for Jerry will be welcome. As soon as they take a break from jousting.
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