Our days on this planet are numbered, and at the age of seventy, Jerry Jones doesn’t have a tremendous amount of them left. I’m not wishing for anything bad to happen to Jerry, I am just being realistic. Stephen Jones will be the next Owner/General Manager of the Dallas Cowboys. He might not be 100% owner, due to other family members in line to receive a share, but he will have controlling interest.
If Jerry were to pass away without making any changes in ownership, his heirs would be put in a difficult position, now that inheritance taxes are back up to 50%. That would be a tax bill of about $1 Billion. So, unless he is paying Stephen about $500 Million a year, something will have to be structured so that Stephen, and other family members, can buy the team before Jerry’s demise.
I believe the transition to Stephen running the team is already well underway. Why else would former Cowboys Director of Scouting, Larry Lacewell, say, as he did last week, that Stephen Jones was qualified to be the General Manager of any of the thirty two NFL teams? It means that Stephen is already involved in the types of decisions that an NFL GM makes.
In a spoof column I wrote a while back, Cowboys mascot Rowdy demanded a meeting with Jerry and Stephen Jones to request that Jason Garrett be fired and replaced by him. I included Stephen for a reason. It was my belief, even back then, that Stephen was involved in making the types of decisions generally made by the GM only.
With Jerry still very visible as the face of the franchise, it is hard to know exactly what kind of influence Stephen has in the decisions being made, but I suspect there aren’t many being made without some input from him. What kind of impact is he having? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Cowboys have been more successful in the draft as Stephen has become a more experienced Director of Player Personnel.
Going forward, as Stephen’s influence increases and he eventually becomes GM, we will not see the decision process being clouded, as Jerry’s sometime is, because of experience in playing on a national championship college team, because Stephen does not have that experience. What that means is that he would be more inclined to let the football people make football decisions.
Let us now delve into what that means to the Cowboys’ decision making process. When it comes to decisions made by this, or any other, NFL team it is difficult to know what goes on behind closed doors. As a result, there are endless columns written questioning decisions that are made and who made them. When one asks who decided to fire Rob Ryan, for example, one must also question who decided to hire him.
It appears that Ryan was not Garrett’s first choice a couple of years ago, so who made the decision to go with him? We don’t know for sure, but I think that Stephen would likely let his head coach hire the assistants he prefers, which fits what I said earlier about letting football people make football decisions.
Who decided to fire Ryan? Jerry’s handprints are all over this one, because the day after their season ended, Garrett seemed to endorse Ryan and the next day Ryan was fired, after Jerry promised things would get uncomfortable at Valley Ranch. But who’s to say that means Garrett didn’t have input in this decision?
It would sure seem there was a real possibility of personality conflicts between Garrett and Ryan, due to their opposing styles. It also appears there was input from Garrett on Monte Kiffin, due to Garrett playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while Kiffin was the Defensive Coordinator there. Are we to believe that, as reported, the Cowboys were scouting Kiffin at USC without Garrett even knowing about it? That hardly seems likely to me.
So maybe Garrett was simply trying not to telegraph something that was already in the works with his comments that seemed to endorse Ryan. Because it appears to me that Kiffin is Garrett’s guy. But even if this was not Garrett’s decision, it wouldn’t be the first time a GM forced the head coach to fire a coordinator if he wants to keep his job.
And for those concerned with Kiffin’s age that think the game might have passed him by, there is hope for them with new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. Rod was most recently Defensive Coordinator for the Chicago Bears and coached their defense to a ranking of fifth in the NFL, using concepts from Kiffin’s Tampa-2 defense. That tells me this defense is in good hands.
It has been reported that Jerry (likely Jerry and Stephen) is pressuring Garrett to let Tight Ends Coach John Garrett go. That might well be true, since there is an emotional component to firing your own brother that makes it difficult to do, even when he is not getting the job done, as is evident in this case. Jason Witten had a great year, but how much coaching does he really need at this point?
It is the failure to properly develop Martellus Bennett, John Phillips and now James Hanna that has John Garrett’s job on the line. For too long it has been Witten and others at the tight end position. The talents of these others must be fully developed in order to maximize their contributions to the team and to have a replacement in place for Witten when the time comes.
Will Garrett be forced by Jerry and Stephen to give up calling plays? We don’t know yet, but on the surface it appears to be another area where the GM is stepping on the head coach’s area of responsibility. My contention is that this is as personally difficult for Garrett to see what’s best for the team as firing his brother. That makes it necessary for the GM to step in and help with the decision.
Offensive Coordinator (in title only) and Offensive Line Coach Bill Callahan was promised the eventual responsibility of play caller when he was hired. He has a good track record as the play caller from when he coached the Oakland Raiders and should be elevated to play caller for the Cowboys immediately.