Jerry says Cowboys ‘need to have a Charles Haley up here’ to win a Super Bowl

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It’s a strange thing: at the very beginning, all anybody wants to talk about is the very end. The Dallas Cowboys opened their 2021 training camp in Oxnard with their annual press conference, and before a single player had stepped onto the practice field for even the first set of calisthenics, the assembled media members were grilling the team’s front office on the championship game that won’t be played for nearly seven months.

Specifically, the questions revolved around how the current squad plans to get there. And about what’s been missing from so many Cowboys teams over the past quarter-century, since the 1995 club brought the most recent Lombardi Trophy back to Dallas.

Owner Jerry Jones, always quick to relive Cowboys history even when speaking on the present day, resurrected the memories of several ghosts of Super Bowls past when he was asked what it would take to put the team back in the title game.

“We need to have a Charles Haley up here,” Jones said. “You follow me? Because we got him, and we started going to Super Bowls. But you say, ‘Well, Charles didn’t do it himself.’ Of course not. But he was a big, impactful player.”

Jones did not elaborate on if the Charles Haley type he was referring to is currently on the roster. Is it DeMarcus Lawrence? His pay grade suggests the team puts considerable stock in his skills. Is it Micah Parsons? The team clearly has high hopes for the rookie after selecting him in the first round of the draft. Was Jones subtly alluding to a defender on another team that the Cowboys might be eyeing in a trade? Was he talking about a defensive player at all?

Or was the 78-year-old Jones simply holding court with a collection of rapt reporters, throwing out more feel-good references to great names from the Cowboys’ past and tantalizing fans with the notion that the next Dallas dynasty is right around the corner? Because that’s certainly possible, too.

Here’s how he went on.

“I think we’ve got a combination right now. Seriously- and I’m not making comparisons; you can get in so much trouble doing that- but I think we’ve got a combination… of youth, players, talent, as well as we’ve got some solid, solid talented veteran players. When you look at our top 10, 11 paid guys, they’re guys that can make major contributions to this team. We had a core base like that in those championship years that made that core base, yet boy, we had some talented young guys come through. We’re starting to look like that when you look at team makeup. Now, I’m not comparing Troy [Aikman] and Dak [Prescott]. I’m not comparing Emmitt [Smith] and Zeke [Elliott]. I’m not doing that at all. And certainly I’m not comparing Michael [Irvin] with anybody we’ve got at all.”

He’s not saying. He’s just saying.

And he’s verbalizing what Cowboys fans have been hoping for since the original Triplets rode roughshod over the league. There have been glimpses of a Triplets 2.0 since those days. Romo, Murray, and Bryant briefly came close in 2014. Prescott, Elliott, and Bryant looked promising in 2017.

Jones maintains optimism about somebody in his locker room right now providing that boost for the rest of the squad.

“Do we dare think we could have one of those on this team? That would have that kind of leadership role? We may have it. It might be your quarterback.”

Chief operating officer Stephen Jones agrees.

“Well, that’s it,” he said, dovetailing off his father’s words. “I think you just hit on it. I think Dak’s rare. I think, obviously, when we stepped up and made him the highest-paid player in the league, [it was] for a reason. I think he’s got rare, rare traits. Leadership traits. Winning traits… He’s unique and I think you couple that with, as Jerry said, some optimism we have with some of our pass rushers, our offensive line, Zeke..”

But the younger Jones knows it’s also about coaching. His father spent a chunk of the press conference admitting that he had failed in not showing the proper “deference” to the meteoric success that Jimmy Johnson had had in his five years coaching the team. Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl, but with a roster that had been mostly Johnson’s. Every coach after has chased the franchise’s sixth title without success.

Stephen thinks current staff- head coach Mike McCarthy, in his second season with the organization, newly-hired defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and offensive wunderkind Kellen Moore- could be the perfect complement to the roster’s obvious on-the-field talent.

“You pair that with the guy sitting next to me. He’s obviously been to four championship games, won a Super Bowl. The leadership [Coach McCarthy] brings to the table, I think, can make a huge difference. And then, of course, we brought in Dan Quinn, who was real close to winning one- got his team to the Super Bowl- so we’ve got people with pedigree here that I think can help us take the next step.”

So is it “a Charles Haley” that the team needs most? Is it a new set of Triplets? Is it Prescott? Is it coaching?

The easiest- and yet simultaneously hardest- answer is that it’s almost surely all of the above. It’s not just one thing, because it’s a million little things that all have to gel and come together in just the right way, in just the right sequence, and in just the right proportions. That magic alchemy is necessary for any NFL team to hoist the Super Bowl trophy.

But it’s not a formula or a documented recipe that can just be replicated. The Cowboys may know what they want the end result to be, but there are countless lists of ingredients that can be used and a wide variety of methods that can get them there.

Yes, it’s the very end that matters most. But it has to start at the very beginning.

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