OXNARD, Calif. — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones can’t envision his legacy without at least one more Super Bowl title. And surely part of that desire involves the thought that most Cowboys fans believe Jimmy Johnson played a more significant role than Jones in those three titles in the ’90s.
Johnson didn’t hang around for that third title, but he certainly played an enormous role in putting that team together. Jones recently was asked to reflect on what his legacy would be with the team he’s owned for 23 seasons.
“I don’t even contemplate what a legacy means,” Jones said following Friday’s afternoon practice. “A legacy has a certain finality to it. I don’t even contemplate that without having some more Super Bowls for the Cowboys while I’m making the decisions because I just know that the job is not finished until we get Super Bowl or Super Bowls. There is a lot of me with the system we’re in; if we weren’t in the [salary cap] system we’re in, I’d probably wreck this thing trying to spend money to get players to win a Super Bowl. That’s not the system we’re in. We’ve got to do it other ways. So it’s a big part of me getting up every day and what I do every day to win a Super Bowl. I’m on a big-time incentive plan and I do take it personally.”
It’s been a great sign in this camp that head coach Jason Garrett seems to have more control than ever, but for anyone to suggest that Jones doesn’t have his hands on everything is ridiculously naïve. He hinted at the start of the offseason that he could sense the window closing on his career (as well as Tony Romo’s and Jason Witten’s), but it’s easy to imagine Jones remaining the face of this franchise for at least another decade. The heir apparent to Jones, his son Stephen, likely will end up like Prince Charles. He’ll be an old man by the time his father leaves this earth, and he knows that better than anyone.
So once again, all this Super Bowl talk is Jerry’s vanity shining through. He bought this organization when he was 46, and he wisely turned over the reins to Johnson as both head coach and personnel czar. But after two titles, Jones realized that Johnson was receiving all the credit and made the infamous statement that he could come up with 500 coaches who could lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl title. He needed a puppet to allow him to seem more in charge, and Barry Switzer was happy to serve in the role of honorary head coach. Unfortunately for Jones, winning another title with Switzer didn’t bring the football respect he felt he so richly deserved.
It now appears that Garrett is more comfortable than ever letting Jerry be Jerry while he delivers his own message to players. He even took the time recently to scoff at Jones’ “window closing” theme. In response to a question about whether he’s more comfortable as Cowboys head coach this season, Garrett brought up that “window” theme in a derisive manner and talked about how he gets up every morning with a sense of urgency. His message is that he doesn’t need to know players are starting to age to give him added motivation.
In his position, Jones has the ability to look at things from a big-picture perspective. Garrett doesn’t have that luxury. He’s another 8-8 season from being firmly on the hot seat. But in time, Jones got around to sharing his biggest source of frustration from winning only one playoff game in 15 seasons. And it involves the starting the starting quarterback.
“What it does do and it should do — I’ve got to say this — is it makes me self-evaluate, re-evaluate, re-evaluate what we’re doing, change things we do,” Jones said of the drought. “That’s been a continual process as we moved away from it. I’m particularly frustrated these last couple of years because of having the kind of quarterbacking we’ve got — y’all have heard me say that ad nauseam — having the kind of quarterbacking we’ve got and not just seriously been sitting there knocking on the door. I thought we were closer two or three years ago, having home-field all the way through with Tony. I knew when we lost him two years ago, it was going to be tough. So anyway, I must say that somehow I have the ability not to dwell on those 15 years since the Super Bowls and concentrate on right now.”
The best news is that everyone outside of Jones is tired of talking about Super Bowls. It’s time to stop talking about legacies and think actually making the postseason.