For years I’ve marveled at Jerry Jones’ ability to bask in other people’s success. He will take great comfort in the Baltimore Ravens winning the Super Bowl based in part on the Cowboys’ narrow loss to that team this past October.
Jones has watched teams such as the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants sneak in the back door of the playoffs before rolling to Super Bowl titles. It’s just one of the reasons why Jones refuses to actually build the proper foundation for success. He fervently believes that he’ll stumble into it at some point.
That belief takes root in his oil-wildcatting past. The man doesn’t get knocked down by defeat; it actually emboldens him and gives him even more optimism. He’s always one draft or free-agency period away from returning the Cowboys to the glory days, in his mind. But as we all know, Jimmy Johnson’s not walking through that door.
It’s ridiculous to say the Cowboys are close to winning a title based on the fact they played the Super Bowl champs tough three months ago in Baltimore. The Ravens found a way to peak at the right time, something the Cowboys have rarely done over the past 17 years. They have a 28-year-old quarterback who already owns nine playoff wins.
Tony Romo will be 33 when the 2013 season begins, and he owns one playoff win. His apologists, a group I’ve belonged to over the years, will point to Flacco being surrounded by superior talent. Folks like to act like Romo’s never had any help since replacing Drew Bledsoe as the starter six games into the ’06 season. But the truth is that starting offensive linemen Flozell Adams, Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis all went to Pro Bowls while playing with Romo. And while Terrell Owens was a divisive presence in the locker room, he certainly put up big numbers. Romo’s tight end and best pal, Jason Witten, could end up in the Hall of Fame someday, and the same could be said for outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Perhaps we overvalue the Cowboys’ overall talent, but to say Romo hasn’t had any help is just flat wrong.
But even though Flacco has lapped Romo several times in playoff wins, that’s actually a position where the Cowboys aren’t that far behind the Ravens in terms of talent.
Where Baltimore separates itself in a big way is at the owner, GM and head-coach levels. Ravens owner Steve Biscioti said in an interview last week that he has complete trust in GM Ozzie Newsome to handle the football operation. And Newsome has rewarded that trust by constantly hitting on draft picks in a variety of rounds.
A member of the Ravens told me a few years ago that Newsome became frustrated when the team went through a dry spell on fourth-round picks. The organization didn’t dismiss it as an aberration. They instead re-evaluated the entire process and identified some of the issues. Does this sound like something Jerry might do at Valley Ranch?
The Ravens also took a unique approach to hiring a head coach following the ’07 season. After Jason Garrett decided to stay with the Cowboys, the Ravens turned their attention to Eagles special teams coach John Harbaugh. Apparently Bill Belichick called the Ravens and lobbied for Harbaugh. And you have to wonder if he regrets that support at this point.
It was Harbaugh who made the bold decision to fire offensive coordinator Cam Cameron during this past season because he didn’t like what he was seeing. Former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell took over and immediately seemed to have a better chemistry with Flacco.
The Cowboys have responded to another .500 season by firing their defensive coordinator and turning to the venerable Monte Kiffin. They believe a change from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defensive scheme after eight years is the way to go. But it’s hard to believe that a scheme change will suddenly spark an organization that specializes in mediocrity.
The Ravens trust their system because it seems to land them in the playoffs every January. The Cowboys don’t really have a system.
But they do have an owner willing to take comfort in the tiniest of accomplishments. And unfortunately, Jerry probably sees a narrow loss to the Ravens last October as a launching pad.
That sort of blind optimism is an admirable trait in some professions. But in the NFL, it might get you one playoff win over 17 years.