|Jones' winning gambles big reasons for Cowboys' success|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 02 January 2008 01:15|
Funny thing is, that might be the only one that didn't work out.
Jones lived up to his gambling-man reputation last offseason with curious coaching hires, questionable free-agent signings and other debatable decisions. Yet, it turns out that the guy who built a fortune by drilling for oil where others saw nothing but dirt knew what he was doing - or just got really lucky.
Decide for yourself.
With the Cowboys having tied a franchise record with 13 wins, and getting ready to enter the playoffs as a No. 1 seed for the first time since their last Super Bowl victory, here's a look back at the risks Jones took, the rewards he's reaped ... and the one that got away.
-On Feb. 8, Jones introduced Wade Phillips as the replacement to Bill Parcells.
A bit of a surprise pick over Norv Turner, Jones went into salesman mode at the introductory news conference. There was some bluster about Phillips being a native Texan like Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson, and the nugget of him having coached at the high school, college and pro levels in the Lone Star State. Jones also pushed Phillips' winning career record, while glossing over the big playoff-0-fer on his resume.
Jones even dropped a few tears.
``We needed to get it right,'' he said. ``In my mind we got it right.''
-When Phillips took over, his offensive coordinator already had been hired for him.
Jones signed Jason Garrett on Jan. 25 because of a now-or-never agreement with the Miami Dolphins that was part of the deal to even interview the former Cowboys backup quarterback.
Garrett was hired to be either the head coach or the offensive coordinator. Once Phillips got the big job - and, because of his background, ownership of the defense - the offense was turned over to a guy who'd been a position coach for only two seasons and had never called plays or built a game plan.
Jones was convinced the Princeton grad had a bright future. Now, the rest of the league agrees. Garrett is going to be highly sought this offseason after his unit set or challenged every significant offensive record in team history, with quarterback Tony Romo, receiver Terrell Owens and tight end Jason Witten shattering several, too.
-Since being the second overall pick coming out of college, Leonard Davis was known for two things in Arizona: Being big and being a bust.
Yet, Jones was convinced that Davis would thrive in Dallas. So convinced he gave him a jumbo contract, nearly $50 million overall, almost $19 million guaranteed.
The Cowboys didn't even know whether Davis would play guard or tackle. He wound up at right guard - and will wind up this season in Hawaii, having made the Pro Bowl.
He'll be joined there by safety Ken Hamlin, another free-agent signee by Jones who made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.
-Terrell Owens was such a big part of the offense, it's hard to imagine this season without him.
Jones couldn't. That's why he never flinched at bringing T.O. back for a second season, despite all the drama, trauma and everything else that surrounded his first season on the club.
Jones insisted he was keeping Owens even before Parcells decided whether to return. Then, when searching for new coaches, he asked candidates how they'd use him. Everyone told Jones what a huge asset he was.
Phillips, Garrett and Romo made it happen, with Owens scoring 15 touchdowns, the most in club history and tops in the NFC. He challenged his career bests in every category, setting the mark in yards per catch at 16.7.
-Romo's status provided a case study in Jones-onomics.
Having gone from backup to darling during in 2006, Romo came into '07 as the unquestioned starter, especially after Brady Quinn fell into the Cowboys' lap at the draft and Jones opted to trade the pick instead. (More on that later.)
Still, there were questions about whether Romo was a one-year wonder. Some wondered if his season-ending blunder in the playoffs would mess with his head. And if that didn't, maybe the fact he was going into the final year of his contract would.
Jones was willing to give Romo a new deal, but it wasn't going to be for top dollar. He'd have to earn that.
Distraction? How about motivation. Romo never griped about negotiations, he just upped the ante week after week, until getting a $67.5 million deal in late October.
-Greg Ellis was hurt, in many ways.
Worried about the recovery from a torn Achilles' tendon and concerned about his job status after Dallas drafted a rookie to replace him, Ellis' saga turned into an Owen-like soap opera. Except it had a happy ending.
Jones summoned Ellis into his office one day and settled all his fears, in part by picking up the tab on an insurance policy. He returned for the next game and was soon back in the starting lineup. He ended up with a career-high 12 1/2 sacks despite missing three games and starting only 10.
-Always looking for a bargain, Jones checked out suspended defensive tackle Tank Johnson when other teams wanted nothing to do with him.
Then nose tackle Jason Ferguson went down in the opener and the Cowboys signed Johnson a few weeks later.
Johnson got a sack in his first game after his suspension ended, but has been somewhat unnoticed since. Still, the Cowboys are glad to have him - especially for the league minimum - as a backup newly minted starter Jay Ratliff.
-Speaking of Ratliff, his play earned him a hefty new deal this season. Ditto for receiver Patrick Crayton, who had a breakout season as the No. 2 receiver in place of the injured Terry Glenn.
-Ah, yes, Terry Glenn.
Glenn had knee surgery during training camp, then was hurt again in his first practice back and headed to another surgery.
As much as Parcells coveted every spot on his 53-man roster, it's doubtful he would've held one open for a 33-year-old guy known for his speed who was headed back under the knife. But Jones did and it paid off when Glenn suited up for the season finale. He didn't catch a pass, but he'll be active in the playoffs. And with T.O. getting over an injury, T.G. could become a vital weapon in the playoffs. If both turn out to be healthy, defenses better beware.
THE ONLY 'OOPS'
-Jones was most in his element on draft day, when Quinn slid to Dallas at No. 22.
Jones loves high-profile players, especially at quarterback, and a Notre Dame stud would've been great marketing. But the Cowboys were sold on Romo, so Jones began wheelin' and dealin'.
He knew Cleveland was interested in Quinn at the top of the draft, so he figured the Browns were still interested. He got them to surrender their top pick in '08, which he was counting on being in the top 10, if not closer to the head of the class.
It sure seemed that way when Cleveland lost its opener, traded its starting quarterback and went with an unheralded replacement instead of Quinn. Well, Derek Anderson turned out to be darn good, and so did the Browns.
Cleveland didn't make the playoffs, but won more games than two teams that did. Unless one of those teams, Tampa Bay or Washington, makes the Super Bowl, the Cowboys will wind up with the 22nd pick. Again.
``How do you start off with a rookie quarterback and end up with maybe the (22nd) pick in the draft?'' Jones said last week, laughing at his own misfortune. ``I had plans for that pick. ... But we've got two picks, and one of the neat things is that that gives you a lot of ammunition. You can do a lot of things with two picks.''
Gonna bet against him?