July 30, 2012; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones watches opening day of the Dallas Cowboys training camp. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Cowboys fans love to complain about how lost the team is with Jerry Jones as GM. They claim that, as long as he is in charge, the Cowboys have no hope of competing because Jones lacks the football knowledge to put together a competent team.
History supports that argument. The Cowboys have a grand total of 1 playoff victory since 1996. During that time Jerry Jones has had the final say on all personnel decisions.
It’s not hard to draw the line of causation.
For those that believe Jerry is the root of all losing, the future doesn’t look much better. He has gone on record saying that he will never give up the general manager position for as long as he owns the Dallas Cowboys.
While I’m not as pessimistic about Jones as most fans, I do believe he needs help as a GM. Luckily, it seems he has realized the same thing. Under Jason Garrett the Cowboys’ drafts have improved, a sign that Jerry is listening to someone other than himself.
But Garrett is only one man. Head coaches need scouts that can find the best talent available and, in this case, help convince an overzealous owner to not use all the draft picks on skill positions.
That’s where Will McClay comes in.
Back in June, McClay was named assistant director of player personnel. According to beat writer Todd Archer, this gives McClay “the most powerful personnel job owned by somebody not with the last name Jones”.
An 11 year veteran of the Cowboys organization (he joined the Desperados in 2002), McClay will bring a well-known and respected opinion to draft discussions throughout the year. And, come April, he will be the one putting together the draft board.
This is a big change. Tom Ciskowski (still with Dallas as director of scouting) has been putting together the board since 2008.
Now, I know what you are thinking. The person putting together the draft board is just a puppet. None of this matters because Jerry is still calling the shots.
I would counter: While history has shown Jerry is a terrible GM, it also has made clear that he will take advice (see: Johnson, Jimmy and Parcells, Bill). He will listen to the reasoning of the people he hires. Consider Parcells on the issue:
"I think Jerry is a good businessmen and a good listener. What you have to do is make sense to him. You’ve got to make sense to him. If he thinks you’re making sense, he’ll alter his opinion. I enjoyed him. I like him. I like him a lot."
So the question becomes: Is McClay someone Jerry will listen to?
Only time can answer that question. In the mean time, Cowboys fans can take heart in the fact that McClay has had some sway and success during his short tenure.
He was a main factor in getting the Cowboys to sign George Selvie and Nick Hayden, two of the lone bright spots on an otherwise dismal defensive line. He also had a hand in picking 2013’s draft, a group which performed well over the season.
Over the years McClay also helped bring in veteran players on the fly when needed, including Laurent Robinson, Tony Fiametta, Ernie Simms, Sammy Morris, and Frank Walker.
McClay is also well thought of around the league. During the 2013 off-season Dallas denied both Cleveland and Kansas City permission to speak to him about front-office jobs.
Cowboys fans that want Jones to give up being GM are never going to get their wish. He has made it clear that player decisions will always go through him. The best they can hope for is that he surrounds himself with knowledgeable professionals and that he listens to their recommendations.
Here’s to hoping Will McClay fits that bill.