Sunday, November 14, 2010

America's Thankless Job


There is an adage which says that you never know how good you have it until it's gone.

I'll bet Dallas Cowboys Owner/General Manager Jerry Jones could use his former Super Bowl winning coach Jimmy Johnson.

Johnson is the reason that Jones owns three Super Bowl Rings. The FOX Analyst is the mastermind who engineered the big Herschel Walker trade that landed Hall of Fame Running Back Emmitt Smith and several players.

The former Miami Hurricanes National Championship winning pilot also turned wide receiver Michael Irvin and quarterback Troy Aikman into Hall of Famers. Johnson's Dallas record of 44-36 mark may lack in winning percentage but not in accomplishments. He endured a 1989 season which saw Dallas finish 1-15, 1990 where he had a 7-9 mark and then the Cowboys fortunes began to turn.

In 1991 he was 11-5 and lost to the Detroit Lions in the playoffs. The 1992 and 1993 seasons were his final years in Dallas as 13-3 and 12-4 marks were good enough to lead the Cowboys to back-to-back Super Bowl titles against the Buffalo Bills.

Jones proceeded to run Johnson out of town and hired former Oklahoma Sooners Coach Barry Switzer. Inheriting Johnson's players, Switzer would lead the Cowboys to their fifth Super Bowl title over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1995.

Otherwise, Johnson would have three rings.

I have a hard time understanding why a coach would be ousted after winning a pair of Super Bowl titles, only to gift wrap the last one to his successor. Johnson should have three Super Bowl rings to go along with his college national championship that he earned with the Miami Hurricanes in 1987.

But now I wonder if Johnson's phone number is on Jones speed dial list as the beleaguered owner seeks advice on how to climb out of his 1-7 mess.

As good as legendary coach Bill Parcells was, the Cowboys never made it to a Super Bowl during his regime. From 2003-2006, Parcells was 34-30 and 0-2 in the playoffs.

Then again, quarterback Tony Romo doesn't belong in the same sentence as Aikman as his personal life with Jessica Simpson overshadowed his accomplishments on the field.

His botched snaps on special teams and other untimely mistakes could never lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl. On October 25, his broken clavicle has virtually ended his season.

I believe that Romo is the most overrated signal caller in the league and until he proves he can win in the playoffs consistently, that opinion won't change. It figures to be awhile before he gets back to the playoffs. Romo can't blame former wide receiver Terrell Owens for the Cowboys recent struggles this season.

Jones was in a giving mood when he traded multiple draft picks to the Detroit Lions for former Texas Longhorns wide receiver Roy Williams on October 14, 2008. Detroit landed tight-end Brandon Pettigrew, wide receiver Derrick Williams and running back Aaron Brown, all of whom are still with the team. Roy Williams signed a six-year contract for $54 million and $26 million guaranteed.

Now Williams is catching passes from his former Lions teammate Jon Kitna, who was on Detroit's 0-16 season team in 2008.

But the Cowboys problems go deeper than there current record. They began in the pre-season when the team finished 3-2. One of their losses was down in Houston where the Texans blasted Dallas 23-7 as the team continued to make all kinds of mistakes, the offensive line struggled and they sustained injuries and were not a shadow of the squad which made last years playoffs.

All the talk about last years playoff run, winning a playoff game, the first for Romo and now deposed Coach Wade Phillips was premature. The dreams of playing in the Super Bowl in their own stadium really ended in August.

It's hard to imagine the head coach doubling as the defensive coordinator. But Jones allowed it to happen as the Cowboys would continue to commit foolish penalties and lost five games by seven points and under then were blown out the past two weeks leading to the hiring of Jason Garrett.

Now Garrett has the most thankless audition of an interim head coaching job in America. The coach in waiting has the challenge of a lifetime. Good Luck Jason. You're the man in charge of making sure Jones $1.3 billion stadium which has a capacity of 80,000 but is expandable to seat up to 100,000, doesn't become half empty.

I've never felt sorry for an NFL head coach as much as I do for Phillips. The man has an overall record of 82-59 and 34-20 with the Cowboys. His overall playoff mark was 1-5. He handled Owens as well as anyone could by addressing him by his first name. Unlike Parcell's, who addressed Owens by referring to him as "The Player" which is a sign of disrespect.

The demise of the Dallas Cowboys squarely falls on Jerry Jones!

He runs strong football minds out of town and now he'll have the ultimate challenge of fixing this Texas size earthquake which is 10 on the Richter Scale. There is no doubt that 60-70% of the players wearing the star on the helmet will be gone after 2010.

If there is no football in 2011 because of a lockout, Cowboys fans will agonize over the 2010 season much longer!

Instead of looking at the post-season, they may end up drafting a quarterback with next years No.1 pick in the 2011 Draft, hoping to find another Aikman. That would be a good start with either Garrett or the next coach.

Johnson and Aikman worked well through the growing pains and the results speak for themselves.

There won't be another Walker trade because there isn't a team dumb enough to trade lots of draft choices and players for a marquee player. The Cowboys don't have a player a team wants to get swindled.

It's hard to believe that if the Detroit Lions don't end their record 24-game road losing streak against the Buffalo Bills today, they'll have an opportunity to do it against a 1-8 Cowboys team which is destined to lose in New York against the Giants.

But to think the Detroit Lions could end that losing streak in Dallas on November 21, is something that nobody saw coming. By then, a 25-game losing streak against a team that was predicted to reach the Super Bowl is mind boggling. Yet, it's quite possible.

On Thanksgiving, Detroit and Dallas will have such poor records that the announcers on both FOX and CBS will have to do lots of homework to explain the rise and fall of both franchises.

If Garrett doesn't get hired, who would be the best fit for "America's Thankless Job?"

Former Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Bill Cowher won't want the job because he'll want the freedom to make his moves. Should John Fox get fired from the Carolina Panthers, he could be the next Jones "Yes Man."

Fox's Brian Billick has won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and Jones does like to go after these former championship winning coaches either at the college or pro levels with the hiring of Johnson, Switzer and Parcells.

Watching Billick the past couple years at FOX, this guy is knowledgeable and has worked with all kinds of personalities over the years. He'd handle this Texas size challenge well.

Jones could go to the UFL and snap up Las Vegas Locomotive's Coach Jim Fassel, who lost to Billick in the Super Bowl while he was the New York Giants Coach. Being a former coach in the division, Fassel should be able to have an understanding of how to prepare for those teams.

As General Manager and Head Coach, Fassel led the Locomotives to the 2009 UFL championship and has a good track record of working with quarterbacks. He'd have a lot of work to do in Dallas either with Romo or a prospect. Building any franchise from scratch looks good on a person's resume and Fassel is doing a fine job in Nevada.

Finally, Jon Gruden has worked for Al Davis and built the nucleus of a an Oakland Raiders team that he defeated with Tony Dungy's Tampa Bay Buc's players.

But Gruden has a Super Bowl ring more recently than Jones and his fiery personality would be a good fit in Dallas. He survived under Davis and now Jones is in a desperate situation.

I believe Jerry would give him space to do his job. Gruden could be the closest thing to bringing Jimmy Johnson back. If Gruden is a great salesman, he might be able to entice Irvin and Smith to join his coaching staff.

Regardless, for those who underestimate Johnson's impact and blueprint on the franchise, it's been 15 years since the Cowboys won the Super Bowl. It figures to be much longer with the team in bad shape.

Dallas mediocre pre-season is a good lesson that those games mean more than we think since a team has to work on developing chemistry together and get the mistakes out of the way early. That's why the mini camps and off-season programs are in place so these disasters get averted.

Jones should take a page from the New York Yankees and that's when the late George Steinbrenner hired General Manager Brian Cashman to run the team, the Yankees won five championships.

The right move for Jones is to hire Johnson back as General Manager, stay in his suite and let Johnson run the franchise and bring in the players. Jones can handle the business side.

At the college level, Johnson had an 81-34-3 record and won the national championship with Miami. Including his time with the Miami Dolphins, Johnson compiled an 80-64 mark and was 9-4 in the playoffs including his two titles. Time will tell if his record ever gets him elected into Pro Football's Hall of Fame, but he should be there if for no other reason, "It's Quality, Not Quantity." Johnson knows college talent and the Cowboys need him to call the shots having won at both levels.

The only thing Johnson didn't accomplish was watching Dan Marino win a title. But he's not a miracle worker trying to coach a player who is the most one-dimensional player on the planet. That's for another day.

Johnson's phrase, "How About Those Cowboys" is now the punch line of all the comedy shows and it's not funny anymore.

You never know how good you have it until it's gone and I'm sure that Johnson is classy enough to help Jones out of this jackpot. But Johnson will have to be smart enough to make sure that Jones stays out of way and make sure his meddling is in the next contract.

Otherwise, saying no to "America's Thankless Job" will be an easy decision.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at and his blog can be seen at

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