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Should Jerry Jones remain G.M. of the Dallas Cowboys?

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Jonathan Bales

Loyal DC Times readers know I sometimes hold “less than popular” views regarding the Cowboys.  I think T.O. was a huge asset to Dallas, Tony Romo is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and Deon Anderson’s absence is the primary reason for the offense’s inability to run the football this year.

Well, you can add this opinion to the list.  Jerry Jones is a very capable general manager–quietly one of the better G.M.s in the NFL–and will never get the respect he deserves in that role.

Let that soak in for a minute, because I know the majority of you couldn’t disagree more.

It’s becoming increasingly popular among media types to rant about the Cowboys’ lack of talent.  This team didn’t under-perform, they claim, they just were never that good.

These are the same “experts” who labeled Dallas as the league’s most talented team in the preseason.  You show me someone who claims they didn’t think the ‘Boys were at least a top five team in terms of talent during the preseason, and I’ll show you a liar.  It’s always amazing how one’s views transform after the fact.

Jones’ detractors claim he’s never won anything without a strong head coach.  The winning culture of the Dallas Cowboys, some argue, deteriorated after the losses of both Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells.  I’ll concede that Jones did an awful job as G.M. in the time frame after Jimmy’s departure and before Parcells’ arrival.  That time was marred with early-round draft picks like David LaFleur, Ebenezer Ekuban, Dwayne Goodrich, and Quincy Carter.

Since Parcells’ reign in Big D, though, Jones has compiled a group of extremely talented football players.  And since you know I’m all about statistics, let’s play a little game.  I’ll label each pick during the Parcells era (2003-2006) and every pick since as a “hit” or “miss.”  Since early picks are of course more important than later ones, we’ll use an inverse scale of scoring: a first-round hit is worth seven points, a second-round hit is worth six points, and so on.  Similarly, a first-round miss is worth -7 points, a second-round miss is worth -6 points. . .you get the idea.

The second number behind each “hit” is a score from 1-10 of that player’s worth, regardless of the round in which they were drafted.  I will use these numbers later.

Bill Parcells Era

2003
Terence Newman- Hit (7) 9
Al Johnson- Miss (-6)
Jason Witten- Hit (5) 9
Bradie James- Hit (4) 6
B.J. Tucker- Miss (-2)
Zuriel Smith- Miss (-2)
Justin Bates- Miss (-1)

Total Draft: 5 points (B+)
Really good draft that provided Dallas with three major components of their current roster.

2004
Julius Jones- Miss (-6)
Jacob Rogers- Miss (-6)
Stephen Peterman- Miss (-5)
Bruce Thornton- Miss (-4)
Sean Ryan- Miss (-3)
Nathan Jones- Miss (-1)
Patrick Crayton- Hit (1) 5
Jacques Reeves- Hit (1) 2

Total Draft: -23 points (D)
This is the exact sort of draft that is dismissed under Parcells but for which Jerry would be crucified.

2005
DeMarcus Ware- Hit (7) 10
Marcus Spears- Hit/Miss (0)
Kevin Burnett- Miss (-6)
Marion Barber III- Hit (4) 5
Chris Canty- Hit (4) 3
Justin Beriault- Miss (-2)
Rob Petitti- Miss (-2)
Jay Ratliff- Hit (1) 9

Total Draft: 6 points (A)
The best draft under Parcells by far. You could argue Spears is either a hit/miss, so I effectively negated him.

2006
Bobby Carpenter- Miss (-7)
Anthony Fasano- Hit/Miss (0)
Jason Hatcher- Hit/Miss (0)
Skyler Green- Miss (-4)
Patrick Watkins- Miss (-3)
Montavious Stanley- Miss (-2)
Pat McQuistan- Miss (-1)
E.J. Whitley- Miss (-1)

Total Draft: -18 (D-)
Another horrible draft under Parcells which people tend to forget.

Jerry Jones Era

2007

Anthony Spencer- Hit (7) 8
James Marten- Miss (-5)
Isaiah Stanback- Miss (-4)
Doug Free- Hit (4) 8
Nick Folk- Hit/Miss (0)
Deon Anderson- Hit (2) 4
Courtney Brown- Miss (-1)
Alan Ball- Hit (1) 2

Total Draft: 4 points (B-)
Spencer and Free are major cogs for the future, and Deon Anderson and Alan Ball are hits due to draft spot.

2008
Felix Jones- Hit/Miss (0)
Mike Jenkins- Hit (7) 7
Martellus Bennett- Hit (6) 4
Tashard Choice- Hit (4) 3
Orlando Scandrick- Hit (3) 3
Erik Walden- Miss (-2)

Total Draft: 18 points (A-)
I know it is easy to dismiss some of these players now, but we would have considered everyone except Walden a ‘hit’ in the preseason.

2009

Jason Williams- Miss (-5)
Robert Brewster- Miss (-5)
Stephen McGee- Miss (-4)
Victor Butler- Hit (4) 3
Brandon Williams- Miss (-4)
DeAngelo Smith- Miss (-3)
Michael Hamlin- Miss (-3)
David Buehler- Hit/Miss (0)
Stephen Hodge- Miss (-2)
John Phillips- Hit (2) 3
Mike Mickens- Miss (-1)
Manuel Johnson- Miss (-1)

Total Draft: -22 points (D-)
Absolutely horrid draft, although I could have given Stephen McGee and Brandon Williams “0” grades.

2010
Dez Bryant- Hit (7) 8
Sean Lee- Miss (-6)
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah- ?
Sam Young- Hit (2) 1
Jamar Wall- Miss (-2)
Sean Lissemore- ?

Total Draft: 1 point (C+)
I realize it is too early to truly grade this draft, so these grades are speculative. I think we all know Dez Bryant is a ‘hit’ though.

Bill Parcells Four-Year Total: -30 points (-0.97 points per pick)
9/31 hits

Jerry Jones Four-Year Total: 1 point (0.03 points per pick)
12/32 hits

Now, clearly there are limitations to this little study.  It may be a poor method to grade players as a “hit” or “miss.”  Certainly DeMarcus Ware is more of a “hit” than Marion Barber, so he should be graded as such.

In an effort to account for this, I have provided each hit with a grade of 1-10, regardless of the round in which they were drafted.  I kept the miss grades steady, as a miss in the first-round is surely more costly than a later one.

When we add up these new scores, the Parcells Era receives 24 more points, bringing his total to -6 points.  That is -0.19 points per pick.  The Jerry Jones Era receives five extra points, bringing his total to 6 points (0.19 points per pick).

No matter how you score it, Jerry has been superior in drafting in the four years since Parcells left as compared to the four years during Parcells’ stay in Big D.

Of course, Jerry Jones isn’t immune from criticism.  I think it is valid to argue that, although the Cowboys are talented, the organization had no overarching vision.  The Cowboys may just be a group of talented football players, not a team.  Great teams aren’t simply a collection of the best players, but rather a cohesive group of men who work well together.

So have the 2010 version of the Dallas Cowboys suffered due to a lack of cohesion, or a lack of proper coaching?  Either way, no matter what you might hear, it isn’t due to a lack of talent.  A general manager’s job duties include assembling a core of talented players and finding the right coaches to lead those players.  If Jerry Jones finds a way to accomplish the latter, you can bet this Cowboys team has the talent to quickly return to being a Championship contender.

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26 Responses to Should Jerry Jones remain G.M. of the Dallas Cowboys?

  1. Mark Watkins says:

    Very interesting article Jonathan. I do agree that Jones has been unfairly criticized at times. I also feel that we are lucky to have him in many ways. Not all owners share the desire to win that he has. And his ability to promote the Cowboys is certainly a positive. I saw a poll of players that showed that the most desirable team for which to play is the Cowboys. At any rate, I still think he could use more help in drafting, like a really good talent evaluator that has his ear (Jimmy Johnson?). I’d be interested to see how organizations like the Steelers, Colts and Patriots would be rated under this same system. I imagine that they would be far better. I am also concerned that the 09 draft will handicap them in the coming years and I hope there are some outstanding O-linemen available in next years draft.

  2. Unfortunately the O-Line class is very weak, at least at the top. The Cowboys really needed to address the line in ’09 and failed.

  3. Chris stallcup says:

    Last year was. Great yet for linemen this year I’m afraid there is a very weak class of linemen. I’m not even sure what Dallas should draft, considering that they wil probably be in the top 4 or 5

  4. JJ says:

    Jonathan – really great change of pace article.
    I do not reside in Dallas but visited for the Titans game. I spent time speaking with several locals regarding Jerry. I have always been a fan of his because I felt he badly wanted to win, loves the Cowboys and has a strong affinity for taking risks. Of course, the locals could not stand him.

    That being stated, I waffle on your premise. On one hand, I like Jerry as a GM because he does not have to approach this as just as a job. He really is glued into the Cowboys. I also believe he’s learned quite a bit over the years. Funny thing is that people want to criticize Jerry and even call him cheap for letting go of Watkins and Crayton but do not commend him for locking up key players. He just can’t win.

    On the other hand, the fact that he has responsibility like owner’s meetings, promoting events at Cowboys Stadium, etc. concern me because I often wonder: Who is eating and drinking personnel and talent evaluation? Yes, scouts can make recommendations but that’s all they make. They don’t make decisions. I would just like a head coach to work WITH Jerry to evaluate talent and be a supreme judge not just of talent but of being a complete football player.

    Your analysis is solid but it’s odd that Parcells’ drafts were so inconsistent. Al Johnson, for example, if not for knee issues could still be a solid center. I love that Jerry is wiling to gamble for players like Dez, D. Sanders, C. Haley but then you have to live with reaches like Quincy Carter, TO and the bizarro “back up” draft when they picked up Kevin Williams (that’s when Jerry felt he had studs and only needed backups and special teams players…the 2009 draft has the same feel).

    Jerry’s energy and passion are truly admirable and I think Stephen Jones has added a balance to Jerry that is needed. I can only hope that he remains objective in evaluation and can find a head coach (even if it’s Garrett) that is astute in “football” player evaluation.

  5. Omar says:

    They should target Patrick Peterson or Prince.

  6. Chris–Agreed. Looks like CB is the spot right now, but you know how OTs tend to rise. As Omar said, PP or Amukamara should be around the Cowboys’ pick.

    JJ-Thanks. Fair points. You’re right about Jerry’s commitments. . .he’s got a lot on his plate. But as you said, he lives Dallas Cowboys, and other GMs around the league don’t work 24/7. As long as he’s willing to listen to his scouts and continue to surround himself with the right people, I think he’ll be okay. No GM can do it alone, but no team can sustain success without a top-notch GM.

    I like that you bring up that Jerry is a risk-taker. Interestingly, the coaches he hires seem to be risk-averse. I think he could do himself and the entire organization a favor by finding a coach whose personality matches his own–daring, aggressive, confident, and bold.

  7. JJ says:

    Jonathan – What did you make of Jerry’s comments on Monday when he suggested that Garrett was always part of the long term plan? And, if you were GM for a week as of season’s end, who would you select as head coach?

    I enjoy the discussion on Jerry because he has done so much for the franchise. I know he seeks opinions but I sometimes wonder if he misjudges talent at times or listens to people who either don’t know what they are saying or just tell him what they they he wants to hear. For example, someone convinced him that Sensabaugh and Ball were the answers at S….Jerry even defended the OLine even when questions came into the season. That makes me wonder if he is just working to be positive or listening to Houck and Campo (don’t forget Campo though Pete Fisher was going to be the next great DB….I just think that Jerry and a real solid football head coach who really can find talented players is a great combination. I also think evaluating all of the assistants could not hurt either. I’m not sold on Houck, Campo, Wade Wilson in the modern era…fun topic to evaluate.

  8. john coleman says:

    It will be an interesting draft for sure in 2011. I’m thinking we are a lock for somewhere between 3-8. SO, it all depends on how our CBs play the rest of the season as to what we do. In my early looks at the talent pool, I see 20 to 24 1st rd talents. Further about half of that number are underclassmen. I see no olinemen that are 3-8. Also keep in mind that we are not looking for a LT. Also keep in mind that teams don’t usually go for RT prospects high in the draft. At least not top ten. There are two really good CBs in Peterson and Amukamara. They are 3-8 guys. There are 2 to 3 more guys who will fall from the 1st rd late to the mid 2nd. The catch is that the #3 pick on the draft value chart is worth 2,200 points. Theoretically that could be traded for the 8th, 40th, and 72nd pick. You would already own the 35th and 67th. The net ends up being a good top ten 1st rd(8th), two good 2nds and two good thirds. Three solid players for one who is “RATED” as above average. There should be some solid oline prospects in the 2nd, as well as CBs. Our other glaring needs of ILB and FS are going to be hard to find. As of now there are none that are rated higher than mid 2nd rd. Window shopping Peterson looks good, but in the scenario above, not so good. If a CB was all we needed then so be it. When you start looking at needing a CB, FS, two linemen, a DE/NT, and an ILB, things are much different. BTW, I’m not saying we need immediate starters at all of these positions. I do think we need high quality backups who can play some and be starters in a year or two. Just some thoughts and the above scenario can be worked with picks anywhere in the top 10. IMO we need to hold the fort and see how our current players respond. Jenkins is a perfect example, probowler last year, can he get it back. Spencer is another. We all were looking for a breakout year based on last year’s second half. Let’s see what the new regime can do. Based on JB’s stats, JJ should be able to pull it off either way. I also want to give a shout to management for keeping Wes Phillips on his own merit. Keep it coming JB.

  9. Mark Watkins says:

    Does anyone know if there are any quality safeties or O-linemen that are due to be free agents? I have no idea where the Cowboys will be cap-wise or how the possible lockout will effect free agency, but I hope that Jerry can possibly fill a couple of holes that way and maybe fill a couple in the draft.

  10. Mark Watkins says:

    Great information btw J. Coleman. If they pick as high as 3rd, which I still think is a definite possibility, trading down a few spots might certainly be wise.

  11. Avid Fan says:

    Im sorry guys I have to disagree with this post. I think jerry jones is one of the major problems that is wrong with this team.His ego through the years has gotten worse he fired tom landry like he was garbage at his own summer home, then in the midst of what could have been the greatest football dynasty he decides to get rid of jimmy johnson because he didnt feel he was getting enough credit even though he is the owner of the team and marketing guru. How could you let your ego get in the way. He should have just set in the box, shut up,and had a drink and kept winning titles. Our beloved cowboys will never win a ring until he lets the footbal gurus run the personell. We can blame wade for not benching or lack of control but you can only do what jerry will allow you. He couldnt override j garrett because thats jerrys golden boy. Jerry jones is a great owner and business man but he should be just that nothing else. You dont see kraft in new england and rooney in pittsburgh trying to be gm. They control their egos and let football minds win titles. Those two teams have most of the titles the past decade. We need someone like newsome in baltimore to be a gm. Jerry riuned this year by putting on circus show in training camp instead of balls to the wall football. He addressed nothing in the offseason. He knew our secondary was crap just like the last ten years and did nothing but covert a dime corner to starting fs. The o line he did nothing to get top level free agents when he had the chance. Jonathan I love the states but you cant honestly believe jerry had no say so on tunas draft picks? So now that he faltered as gm we are gonna have to suffer and watch two of iur most hated rivalries play the super bowl in our house the nyg v pittsburgh. I hope they enjoy our locker room.

  12. moses says:

    One thing that would be good to consider is the the trading of picks. How are these commodities used? If you trade a 4th round choice for a Randy Moss and it gets you to the super bowl like Pioli and the Patriots vs. a #1 and #3 for a Roy Williams with an injured foot that doesn’t. Good GM move or bad?

    Trading 2 #1s for Joey Galloway? Good move or bad?

    Parcells wasn’t great at the draft. As you have shown, he was worse than Jerry. And yet, he seems to put together a competitive team from scraps. He seeks out players that he knows and that he thinks can help him. Good or bad, he brings in Carpenter and McQuistan who were dumped by the Cowboys. I didn’t think that they were any good, but Parcells does.

    I guess the corollary that needs to be considered is how a GM can take such a talented team like the Cowboys and produce such a poor product?

    Another consideration is the state that the team was left in prior to the next era. Parcells was brought in when the team was in pretty bad shape and he managed to turn it around making the Cowboys a competitive team. In fact, we are still living off of essentially the same OL as when he left. Can it be that the OL was so good that it didn’t need upgrades in 4 years? In fact, a lot of the starters remained the same.

    If Parcells was only average, wouldn’t there have been a more wholesale change in the roster?

    Is that something that a GM should be considering?

    There is more to a GM than the draft. Obviously. Otherwise there is no way that Parcells could ever be successful. It is the coaches that are hired. The authority given to the coaches in terms of hiring, firing, player status, etc.

    Now let’s compare ol Jerry to someone like Scott Pioli or Ozzy Newsome.

    One of the considerations that isn’t considered is that Jerry the owner isn’t stuck with Jerry the GM. He has a choice and he has made it. If I were the owner, I would put my capabilities against those in the league. How do I match up?
    Am I in the Bob Polan, Ozzie Newsome, Scott Pioli tier or am I in the Al Davis tier or somewhere in between.

    Given the situation that we have right now. Do you think the team is better off with someone like Jerry running the show or someone like Parcells?

    That is the biggest question.

    My vote: Parcells!!

  13. john coleman says:

    Something just came to mind while reading the commments here. Keep in mind that each team has picks that must be used or traded. In the case of the study by JB, neither JJ or Bill may have wanted the guy they chose. The player may have been the best option. What I’m saying is every year there are prospects who are rated not only on their ability, but also against the rest of the talent pool. So a weak draft class is more likely to yield misses. Jonathon, your statistical analysis of strenght of class will probably bear this out. Furthermore, a draft class may be loaded with prospects which are not a position of need for a team. This year seems to be weak overall, with a few top notch prospects mingled in. So far based on my limited study, the 3rd round seems to be loaded with the best risk/reward prospects. Help us Mr. Bales! I’m sure you have some resources to give a better informed opinion. BTW, I’m not an advocate of building a team via free agency. IMO free agency is for acquiring the final piece. FA can also wreck a salary cap. The more angles you look at in putting a team together, the more complex it becomes. It would clearly be gut wrenching if you were spending your own money.

  14. So many points here…

    JJ–I think Jerry would say Garrett is part of the long-term plan whether he was or not, but I don’t think he was lying. When you bring pretty much any coach in (other than an interim), you think and hope it is on a long-term basis. And as of now, my selection for head coach would be a young, innovative guy. I am still doing my coaches articles and assigning grades and so you’ll know my coach choice by next week, but I would prefer a Perry Fewell, Leslie Frazier, or even Urban Meyer (crazy) over Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden.

    JC–Great draft analysis. It’s always difficult to project trades of course, but this might be the year to move down. I know Dallas could use a CB and there will be one there, but the CB class isn’t just top-heavy. I like a lot of prospects later in the round (Janoris Jenkins, perhaps) and in the 2nd/3rd. If they can trade down out of the top 10 (into the early teens) and still get the guy they want, I think them most improvements could be made.

    Mark–Off the top of my head, I think Antoine Bethea, Bernard Pollard, Eric Weddle, and Atari Bigby will be FAs. At OT and OG you have Gaither, Matt Light, Donald Penn, Carl Nicks, Logan Mankins, and Daryn Colledge. Sorry if I missed on someone who signed long-term.

  15. Avid Fan–I disagree that Jerry knew the secondary was crap. He didn’t know that, or he would have made a change. Going into the season, many people (including myself) ranked the Cowboys’ group of CBs as some of the league’s best.

    Vince–If Jenkins refuses to tackle in the future, I suppose you could look at it, but I don’t think he’s totally given up. He does stick his nose in there sometimes, but it’s the horrible plays we analyze. There’s NO excuse for what he did, but I really don’t think you’ll see anything like that for the rest of the season. If we see it, let’s open this discussion again then. . .

    Moses–Awesome point. I knew a simple draft analysis wasn’t all-inclusive going in, but it is a huge part (and most available to analyze) of being a GM. You’re certainly right that Jerry has made some bad trades. He’s a gambler, but I think he needs to approach free agents like he does the draft: with value in mind. A player isn’t an inherently good draft pick. . .just good for his spot. Was Aaron Hernandez a great draft pick for the Pats? Where they go him? Yes. At No. 1 overall? Of course not.

    And if I could pick ANYONE to run the show, it would be Bill Polian, Ozzie Newsome, or Scott Pioli. All stat-oriented guys with new-school approaches who aren’t afraid to take risks–but calculated ones.

    JC–The problem is it may be difficult to differentiate between a draft class NOW and the consensus of it THEN. What looks like a class stocked with CBs may have been the opposite then. Of course, you can use the range of picks in which particular positions were selected to be a guide, but we all know certain positions (QB, OT, CB) nearly always go higher than others (OG, C, RB).

  16. Mark Watkins says:

    Thanks for the FA list Jonathan. In reply to JC’s comment on not building a team through FA, I completely agree. I was thinking more in terms of adding a couple of key pieces. I may be naive, but I still think that they’re not that far away from being competitive again. With the right coach, a decent draft with a high pick, and a few other pieces, I think they could be back in the upper echelon of teams. And I know that a team that drafts well doesn’t usually need to pick up FA’s, but that has clearly not happened recently.

  17. Maybe I’m naive as well, because I believe the same. It’s hard to say a 1-7 team isn’t that far away, but I think things looks wayyyy worse than they are right now.

  18. Kevin Keithley says:

    the rule of thumb seems to be that all that is good is because of someone else, while everything that goes bad is Jerrys fault. I honestly doubt that any of these drafts were done in a vacuum with Jerry making all (or none, if they were positive) decisions. Jerry may be alot of things but he is is smart enough to get input and feedback from others within the organization.

    ps: we all know the draft is a crapshoot. I would bet most GM’s have pretty much the same draft success/failure ratio as Jerry

  19. OmarJ says:

    you’re right i couldn’t disagree more, and sean lee already a miss?

  20. Vince Grey says:

    The thing I do admire about Jones is that he seems to learn from his mistakes. Sometimes he takes longer than he should to learn those lessons, but they eventually seem to get through. I think JJ’s in the top third of G.M.’s for the most part. One of my main issues with the man is his “closeness” to the players. I often think he wants to be liked so much by the team that he allows himself to be played at times, especially at contract time.

    Sometimes, it’s ok to be a hard-ass in contract negotiations and let a guy have to fight his tail off to get a big contract.

  21. Kevin–I think the draft is a lot of luck, but certainly some GMs are better than others. If one GM’s chances of hitting on any given pick are 40 percent and another’s are 50 percent, that small difference will turn into a big one after a few drafts.

    OmarJ–I had to label him something, and he seems about as good a bet to be a bust to me as Dez Bryant appears to be a hit.

    Vince–I think you’re right about the contracts. Obviously there’s more to being a GM than the draft, and contracts/FAs seem to be JJ’s largest weakness right now.

  22. starred4life says:

    I agree with this 100%, and have compared their drafts before. Jerry also has a few Super Bowl rings that have to factor in (and a national championship ring as a player).

    on a related note, do you think we should have tried Jason Williams out for the Full Back position? Being 6’1″ 241lbs and 4.49 speed, he seemed ideal, but after him not catching on fast enough at LB, we just released him. I think we should have at least given him a gander before just releasing him.

    And my top three picks for future head coach (Schottenheimer, Rob Ryan, and Perry Fewell). But good luck Garrett.

  23. Starred–Thanks. I think Williams’ problems were with instincts and attitude, although being misplaced in a 3-4 didn’t help. I didn’t see the toughness to think he could be a FB, although none of us really saw much of anything from him since he rarely played.

    And I like both Ryan and Fewell…Schottenheimer is a completely different style..what made you throw him in? Experience?

  24. Vince Grey says:

    With rare exception, guys who have one “career year” and then sign a huge contract, tend to backslide. Some a little, more than a few, a lot, but most have that occur.

    Jerry needs to recognize the difference and stop rewarding one-year-wonders so much.

  25. It’s tough..you used to be able to find “deals” on those players because they hadn’t shown consistency yet, but nowadays one big year gets you big-time money.

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