For the longest time, Cowboys fans have dreamed of Jerry Jones’ eldest son Stephen taking an even larger role in the football operation. Not that anyone’s wishing ill upon the 70-year-old, but Stephen is a far less polarizing personality who seems to have a more level-headed approach.
But if you’ve paid any attention to the quotes coming from the Jones family party bus in Indianapolis this week, you realize Stephen’s sounding a lot like his old man. He’s providing confusing answering answers to the most basic questions, including the topic of Tony Romo’s contract situation.
Most folks assume that it’s little more than a formality that Romo will be signed to a contract extension this offseason, in part to give the Cowboys some much-needed salary cap relief. No quarterback in the history of the league with only one playoff win has ever held this much leverage with an organization. The Cowboys have never made a serious attempt to draft Romo’s successor (sorry Stephen McGee), so they basically have to negotiate with him as if he’s a 28-year-old instead of his actual age next season, 33. And make no mistake that he’s an excellent quarterback. He just happens to save his worst moments for the biggest possible stages.
With that said, you expected Stephen to be pretty optimistic regarding a new contract for Romo. He instead talked out both sides of his mouth, just like his Daddy does.
“These things happen fast when they happen,” Jones told the Dallas Morning News earlier this week. “We’re in good shape.”
But only moments later, he added, “I don’t feel necessarily confident. We’ve got to have both sides wanting to do something.”
Jones was attempting to make it clear the Cowboys needed Romo’s cooperation in order to keep some of the club’s key players, such as defensive end Anthony Spencer. He wants to create a sense of urgency in the negotiating process by pointing out the club is at the mercy of its quarterback. Jones maintains the Cowboys don’t need to extend Romo before the free agency period begins March 12, but I don’t understand his rationale.
The club will have to make a call on Spencer before he hits the open market if it truly wants to keep him. And that’s why these “informal” talks with Romo need to be ramped up immediately. I think Stephen realized his comments on Romo earlier this week made it sound like signing him was more of a financial decision than a football decision. And that’s why he tried to clean it up with some of his comments Wednesday. He wanted to make it clear the Cowboys believe Romo gives them the best hope of winning a Super Bowl.
“We just believe it’s going to happen,” Jones told reporters in Indianapolis. “Some guys it happens later in their careers; look at [Brett] Favre and [John] Elway. Some guys it’s happened earlier. We just believe that we can win a championship with him. I think his numbers speak for themselves. Obviously there’s things we have to continue to improve upon as far as putting the right pieces around him, then there’s things obviously in his game he can continue to improve on. He’s a young 33 because he didn’t play his first three, four years.”
Something tells me Romo’s agent will clip and save that “young 33” comment. But based on the shots he’s taken playing behind the Cowboys’ leaky offensive line, I’m pretty sure Romo’s made up for those first three years (2003-05) he didn’t see the field. Romo will be paid like a quarterback who has accomplished great things in the NFL because the Cowboys don’t have a viable alternative. A head coach like Jim Harbaugh doesn’t worry about hurting his starting quarterback’s feelings, as Alex Smith will attest. But the Cowboys don’t operate like that. They dole out enormous contracts based on potential rather than actualy production.
The old Bill Parcells “you are what you are” theory was quickly brushed to the side when he walked away from the Cowboys following the ’06 season. Jerry Jones is not a man who embraces reality. He sees back-to-back .500 seasons and envisions the Cowboys being on the cusp of a Super Bowl.
There’s still hope for Stephen. But he’s showing some troubling tendencies.
Let’s hope the Cowboys’ problems aren’t hereditary.