Time for Jerry Jones to get radical: Go outside the Cowboys family

Dan WetzelColumnist
Yahoo Sports

The one thing no one can ever question about Jerry Jones is his love of the Dallas Cowboys

Jones doesn’t just own the ’Boys, he loves the ’Boys. 

Maybe a bit too much, it turns out. Or maybe, as he almost assuredly enters the franchise’s first coaching search in a decade, he needs to love it a little less and actually consider not just a new head coach with no previous ties to the Cowboys, but an assistant coaching and even front office staff with a diversity of background that can challenge the stale status quo.

Dallas has a talented roster yet is sitting at 7-8, in need of a win Sunday against Washington and a Philadelphia loss at the New York Giants just to win the NFC East, the worst division in football. This comes after a sorry performance in Philly on Sunday that allowed the Cowboys to give up their inside track on the playoffs. 

Barring a miracle, coach Jason Garrett, first hired as an interim coach in 2010, is done. At last.

But what does Jerry do? He has shown a propensity to turn inward in nearly all decisions. The Cowboys may be worth an estimated $5.5 billion, but Jones runs them mostly like a family (and friends) business. 

He’s not just the owner, but he’s also the general manager, which eliminates one more voice out of the decision-making process. His top three front-office members are his children, sons Stephen and Jerry Jr. and daughter Charlotte Jones Anderson.

His coach is Garrett, who played seven seasons for the Cowboys and, other than a brief stint as Miami’s quarterbacks coach, never worked anywhere other than Dallas. He was promoted off the staff of Wade Phillips after Jones fired Phillips at the start of this decade. 

Garrett’s ties to Dallas don’t end there. His father, Jim, was a longtime scout for the Cowboys. His brother Judd Garrett is director of advance scouting and special projects. They are a Cowboys family too.

Jason Garrett's ties with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones run deep and stretch through decades. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Jason Garrett's ties with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones run deep and stretch through decades. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

And that’s just the start of it.

Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore? A former Cowboys player with no NFL coaching experience other than for Dallas. 

Quarterbacks coach Jon Kitna? A former Cowboys player with no NFL coaching experience other than for Dallas. 

Offensive line coach Marc Colombo? A former Cowboys player with no NFL coaching experience other than for Dallas. 

It goes on and on. Leon Lett, Andre Gurode, Carlos Polk, Phillip Tanner and so on, all former Cowboys with limited or no NFL coaching experience outside of Dallas. 

All in all, the Dallas coaching staff featured 10 people who either wore the star or have only coached in the NFL for it. 

That doesn’t prohibit success. Neither does surrounding yourself with your grown children. Each of these men may be good coaches who may go on to great success. No one is questioning their work ethic or even acumen. 

New England, for instance, is famous for keeping a tight circle, promoting from within and bringing former players to work under Bill Belichick. The Patriots’ current defense, which is the NFL’s best this season, is ostensibly led by former linebacker Jerod Mayo and Bill’s son, Stephen. Team owner Robert Kraft’s top lieutenant is his son, Jonathan.

Yet this isn’t working in Dallas the way it is in New England, mainly because Garrett and Jones don’t come close to equaling Belichick. 

The most obvious solution is to find some fresh ideas. If nearly everyone is from the Cowboys and has always known the Cowboys’ way and has little to no experience with a team owner not named Jerry Jones, then perhaps the ideas, the internal debates, and the thought process get stagnant. 

If nothing else, this feels like a flaw in Jones’ thinking – that being a Cowboy can somehow help someone succeed as a Cowboy.

This is a fatal mistake colleges often make, somehow believing that a coach is a better fit if he is an alum and former player. This, of course, dramatically cuts the candidate pool, ruling out not just people who weren’t good enough athletes to play at a specific school, but even those who were but just happened to go elsewhere.

Would you disregard Belichick because he is 5-foot-11 and played at Wesleyan University in Connecticut? Or Nick Saban because he went to Kent State, not Alabama? Does anyone care that John Harbaugh never made it to the NFL?

Jerry Jones is about the Cowboys. He obsesses about them, he focuses on them and appreciates everyone who sacrifices for them. Other than watching the University of Arkansas and his grandsons’ high school teams, there is no proof he pays attention to much more than the Cowboys.

Well, his team should have whipped up on a bad division and walked into the playoffs. It didn’t happen. His loyalty to Garrett and all those former Cowboys is something to behold, but has held this team back.

Now it’s time for a change. 

Maybe the perfect coach is another former player. Chances are he isn’t, and Jerry would be smart to sweep in a whole new thought process and a whole new staff willing to challenge the way everything has been done in Dallas. 

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