Grantland Bill Barnwell, the site's lead NFL writer, published a piece about..."/> Grantland Bill Barnwell, the site's lead NFL writer, published a piece about..."/>

Bill Barnwell is Wrong: Cowboys Jerry Jones Is Better With Jason Garrett


This Friday on Grantland Bill Barnwell, the site’s lead NFL writer, published a piece about the ineptitude of Jerry Jones’ work as general manager for the Dallas Cowboys. It’s a great read…if you want to read the regurgitated storyline that Jones is a clueless Billionaire, one who “runs his team like the Dutch boy who constantly plugs dikes with hundred-dollar bills”.

Aug 4, 2013; Canton, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reacts during the 2013 Hall of Fame Game against the Miami Dolphins at Fawcett Stadium. The Cowboys defeated the Dolphins 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Barnwell starts the article by stating that the Cowboys are unhappy with running back DeMarco Murray and looking to upgrade at the position. He bases this claim on “one report” by known Dallas Cowboys specialist Ian Rapoport (the same guy that “leaked” Jason Hatcher calling out Romo).

When the Cowboys were asked about the report, Jones himself said:

"“That’s not true…There has been no such discussion. The first time I heard of this is from you … It shows what you get when you listen to the news.”"

A prominent member of the Cowboys’ personnel department was more frank:

"“Complete bull…It doesn’t even make sense.’’"

The report came out on a Sunday morning, when the NFL news presses are doing whatever they can to drum up interest. The Cowboys are the most popular team in the NFL. You figure it out.

Barnwell goes on to say that the Cowboys’ running back situation is an extension of larger financial problems within the organization. He goes back to 2003 to cite the Cowboys’ much maligned running game and the names which have came through, gotten big contracts, and subsequently burned out.

You know the names: Julius, Marion, Felix. He argues that every time one back fails to play well, the Cowboys give in to fan pressure and push another back into starting. It’s how Murray got his job (replacing Felix) and what will soon (according to Barnwell) lead to his replacement.

Oct 6, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at AT

Of course, as I covered earlier, reports of Murray’s replacement are false. He’s actually on schedule to play this week . That report came out Thursday, a day before Barnwell’s article was published.

So what is the narrative to be served by ignoring the facts and using “one source” to push the argument that Dallas wants to replace Murray?

Barnwell is trying to say there is a systemic problem in Dallas. His core argument is thus: “Nobody misjudges and overpays the talent on hand more than Jerry Jones and his organization. From 2006 (Parcells’s final year with the team), the Cowboys have been almost comically shortsighted in signing players who were already on the roster to long-term extensions. You can almost build an entire team out of bad Cowboys extensions.”

Here is his evidence:

HBMarion Barber7 years, $45 million20082011
WRTerry Glenn5 years, $20 million20062008
WRPatrick Crayton4 years, $14 million20082010
WRTerrell Owens4 years, $34 million20082009
WRRoy Williams5 years, $45 million20082011
WRMiles Austin6 years, $57 million2011
TDoug Free4 years, $32 million2011
TMarc Colombo4 years, $22 million20082011
CAndre Gurode6 years, $30 million20072011
DEMarcus Spears5 years, $19 million20112013
DTJay Ratliff5 years, $40 million20112013
CBTerence Newman6 years, $50 million20082012
CBOrlando Scandrick5 years, $27 million2011
SGerald Sensabaugh5 years, $23 million20122013
SRoy Williams5 years, $25 million20062009
SKen Hamlin6 years, $39 million20082010

Now I don’t disagree with Barnwell in this regard. This chart is a minefield of terrible contracts that can only inspire regret. But, just like when he uses the questionable Rapaport’s report on Murray, Barnwell is cherry-picking his data to support a prior belief. He wants to prove that Jerry is a bad GM and goes about selecting his data as such while ignoring what has actually been going on at Valley Ranch.

Since I began writing at the Landry Hat I have argued that Jerry has changed. My first article was meant to point out that, ever since the embarrassment of the 2010 season, Jerry has given up power in making football decisions. That power has gone to head coach Jason Garrett.

Sep 22, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks with son executive vice president Stephen Jones during halftime against the St. Louis Rams at AT

If you eliminate the pre-Garrett years from this chart, things look better for the Cowboys.

Half of those guys are still valuable contributors (Miles, Doug, Orlando). We all know that Miles’ contract situation which is regrettable…but let’s not forget what this guy can do when healthy. Orlando has been a solid contributor this year, probably not worth that contract, but nowhere near a bust. Finally, Doug Free restructured his contract in the off season so the number on the chart isn’t entirely accurate. But who needs to talk about that when you have a story to sell.

The final three (Spears, Ratliff, Sensabaugh) are, admittedly, bad contracts. It’s painful to think about the money that Ratliff will be counting against the cap next year, especially considering he is now fit to play football. But when a guy quits on your team there’s not much else you can do. Spears was a casualty of the move to a 4-3 and Sensabaugh decided to abruptly retire.

But the NFL is a business. Bad financial decisions happen in every realm of business. You can’t be successful without taking risks on assets (in this case, players). Some will bust, but others will work out. No GM has a perfect track record. The best you can do is try to minimize your mistakes.

In the NFL, the best way to do that is building through the draft. Playing young players you drafted is the best option for teams because they command far less money than veterans. In a league where the amount of money that can be spent on your players is capped, the opportunity to have production from low-priced young players should be enticing.

Unfortunately Jerry didn’t realize that for a long time. As you can see from Barnwell’s graph, he continually got burned by assuming that giving someone who performed well a large contract will make them magically continue to play at that level. More often than not, the opposite happened.

Since Garrett has been here, that has changed. Garrett is smart. He understands that football is a business and that, if you can get equal production from a low-payed rookie and a high-priced veteran, you should choose the former.

This is why Barnwell is blatantly wrong when he says:

"Apr 27, 2012; Valley Ranch, TX, USA; From left Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and first round draft pick Morris Claiborne and owner Jerry Jones pose with a jersey at a press conference at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports“Now, since Parcells has left, Jones’s drafts have mostly been bad (2010 aside) and he has traded away valuable draft assets for hunches on players who weren’t worth it.”"

While Jerry has a history of trading draft assets, that has only happened twice under Garrett. The first was in 2012 when the Cowboys traded a second rounder to move up and grab Morris Claiborne. He’s had his rough patches, but he is still a starter and far from what Barnwell calls an “unmitigated disaster”.

The other trade happened this year, when the Cowboys turned a single first round pick into Travis Frederick and Terrence Williams, only two of the most productive rookies Dallas has had in years.

As for their other picks, the Cowboys have simply not been drafting “bad” the past few years.

2011 produced Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter, Murray, Dwayne Harris, Phillip Tanner, Dan Bailey, and Chris Jones. Six players that will start Sunday and one that scored a touchdown last week.

2012 produced Claiborne, Kyle Wilber, Tyrone Crawford, Matt Johnson, James Hanna, Lance Dunbar, Cole Beasley, Ronald Leary, and Ben Bass. Three players that will start Sunday, three that will contribute, and three players who are on injured reserve but will most likely contribute to future seasons.

Finally, 2013 has given the Cowboys their starting center Frederick, back-up tight end Gavin Escobar, current #2 receiver Terrance Williams, starting (but out for the week) safety J.J. Wilcox, three solid contributors  in B.W. Webb, Joseph Randle, and DeVonte Holloman, and back-up safety (getting the start this week) Jeff Heath. All have helped the Cowboys in some way to a 4-3 record and 1st place in the NFC East.

How Barnwell equates these drafts to being worse than a 2010 draft that only has Dez, Sean Lee, and Barry Church starting is beyond me.

Actually it isn’t. Why not ignore the Cowboys’ recent past in favor of pushing the same, tired story that Jerry Jones is an inadequate GM? As we saw with his attention to detail over the Cowboys’ happiness with Murray, Barnwell only cares about generating page views by writing an article that casts the Cowboys (America’s most hated team) in a bad light.

Jul 21, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In between the sections ignoring many facts about today’s Dallas Cowboys is actually a very well written piece about the salary cap “Armageddon” the Cowboys fill soon be facing. Even though there’s no reason to call it an “Armageddon” because Barnwell himself shows how the Cowboys can avoid trouble by cutting high-priced veterans. It’ll mean relying on the draft, but as we have seen, under Garrett that isn’t such a bad option.

I will never defend the way Jerry Jones went about his job before Garrett became head coach. His failures are the reason the Cowboys will have to go through some salary cap pain in the near future. But, as this one source points out, things are different now. We have hope for the future thanks to Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones’ willingness to learn from his mistakes.