Thursday, February 27, 2003 and Wednesday March 12, 2014 felt one in the same. A player who built almost all of his Hall of Fame worthy career wearing that alluring Star on his helmet was shown the door because his salary no longer matched his age. I say age because this story is not about production. If you believe that, you’re fooling yourself. This is about scrambling to make up for so many mistakes that you have to do something drastic. Period.
On that Thursday eleven years ago, Emmitt Smith was released by the Dallas Cowboys. The easy reason for the move was that he was a 34-year old running back who was going to make $7 million and count almost $10 million to the cap. The real reason for the move was that the Cowboys had three straight years of winning just five games and Smith had become too vocal about the direction of the franchise. Does anyone remember this classic quote?
“2002 was the worst year I ever went through playing football. Too much damn drama. Too much selfishness by too many guys on the team. Too much media frenzy around the team. People always looking to me for answers and I didn’t have the answers for them about why we were so bad. It felt like being a diamond surrounded by trash.”
With a new coach coming in and Smith due to make that kind of money, it was an easy out to jettison the greatest running back in the history of the league. It could have been prevented though, had the egotistical owner and true architect of the team ever thought for one moment that he was in over his head evaluating talent and building a team. You see, Smith was right, Jerry had surrounded the last links to the championship years with trash.
Eleven years later, the same guy has the same blood on his hands.
Last Wednesday, DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys all-time leader in sacks was released by the Cowboys. Ware, who will be 32 at the start of the season, was set to make over $12 million this year and have over $16 million towards the cap. The cap challenged Cowboys boxed themselves into a corner and had to do something to find relief. Many are lauding Jerry Jones for “finally being a real GM” and making a hard decision for the betterment of the future. Sadly, none of these ideals are true. In fact, it is because of the countless mistakes, be it through the draft, trades, free agent pick ups or contract extensions that this happened.
Before we get into the real truths of the matter, please allow me a quick aside.
All week, whether it was in the mainstream media or social media, I heard and read comments that Ware should have taken a pay cut if he “really wanted to be with the Cowboys.” The fact is he offered to do so, even with Jerry constantly trashing him all off-season, openly pondering if he’s no longer the player we grew accustomed to seeing each week. Whether the cut Ware had in mind matched what Jones was hoping is irrelevant, DeMarcus was realistic to know that taking a cut would be fair. He also continued to show his class and appreciation to this organization by not taking any offers from divisional opponents. For all of this, the disrespectful comments and lack of support that I saw this week sickened me. Taking sides is one thing and being loyal to the Cowboys is never an issue but taking shots at Ware and not appreciating his contributions to the organization is wrong.
So… Jerry’s a real GM now, huh. That thought could not be more laughable. Let’s examine why this day really happened… again.