The Dallas Cowboys as the Oakland Raiders
The only thing more repetitive than another year without the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl? Another off-season of columns pointing out that nothing’s going to change with Jerry Jones as both team owner and general manager. But, so long as Jones keeps failing in the role and tinkering with the Cowboys’ coaching staff, all of us must keep on typing.
This week, Jones essentially stripped head coach Jason Garrett of offensive play-calling responsibilities, calling it a “step forward,” then saw yet another Cowboys player, nose tackle Jay Ratliff, get arrested for driving while intoxicated (fortunately with less tragic consequences than December’s incident involving Josh Brent and the late Jerry Brown Jr.).
These latest contributions to the Cowboys’ annual rationing of drama, instability, and absence from the playoffs have Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman suggesting that America’s Team closely resembles another once-great, fabulously-branded franchise: the Oakland Raiders.
“In the not so distant future, Jerry Jones will trade in his designer suits for a set of silver-and-blue warm-ups,” Golden wrote. “Slowly but oh so surely, he’s morphing into Al Davis.”
The Cowboys are about to be in full Raiders mode, complete with sub .500 seasons and the annual unrealistic expectations from a meddlesome owner who refuses to cede real personnel power to a general manager.
Davis (RIP) won three Super Bowls in eight seasons with the Raiders, but Oakland has made it to just one other title game in the last 30 years. Of late, Jones has gone 18 seasons since Dallas won three titles in four years during the 1990s.
The one difference? Davis was actually a football coach at one point.
This is certainly not a new comparison, especially as Jones has always been a great Davis admirer. A Dallas Morning News reader made the same observation to columnist Tim Cowlishaw during an online Q&A this past November, as did the Bleacher Report’s J.P. Scott.
“With apologies for the morbidity of the statement that follows, I truly believe the Dallas Cowboys will not return to prominence in the NFL until Jones is no longer able to run the day-to-day operations or, like Davis, he passes away,” Scott wrote.
Cowboys offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, who is apparently taking over the play-calling responsibilty from Garrett, is a former Raiders head coach. As Golden noted, in a typically soap opera-ish bit of timing, the news about Callahan’s non-promotion (if it’s not a demotion for Garrett, it can’t be a promotion for Callahan, right?) broke right after longtime Raiders wide receiver and Dallas native Tim Brown accused Callahan of “sabotage” in the Raiders’ 2003 Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay, whose head coach Jon Gruden had been Oakland’s coach (and Callahan’s boss) between 1998-2001.
Coincidentally, Brown rejected the notion that Jones is like Al Davis in a Dallas radio appearance earlier this week. As Jon Machota of the Morning News wrote:
Brown, who spent 16 seasons in the Raiders organization, explained how team owner Al Davis was not only involved in picking the players on the roster but also calling some of the offensive plays, something Brown says the Cowboys’ owner and general manager isn’t doing.
“When we got certain plays during the week we would put ‘AD’ on them,” Brown recalled. “‘AD plays’ because we knew where these plays came from. So, I don’t think Jerry’s doing that.
“They can’t use Jerry as an excuse because Jerry’s making hires from coaches and all that kind of stuff. It’s not on the field where you say, ‘We got to run Al Davis plays today.’ I don’t think Jerry is telling somebody on the team, ‘Don’t throw the ball to these receivers when we get to the playoffs.’”
That may be besides the point, however. It really doesn’t matter if Jones is actually calling plays, or even hiring and firing coaches (which he is). It doesn’t even matter whether he has the title “general manager.” Even if Jones hired one, there’s no way that GM would have complete autonomy. Even Bill Parcells’s tenure didn’t bring the “glory hole.”
Struggling football teams are usually the product of a troubled institutional culture, and that always starts with ownership. Jerry Jones is the Dallas Cowboys, and the Dallas Cowboys are Jerry Jones. Which means we’ll read a lot more columns on this subject over the next six months … and probably again next year.