By David Mullen
Residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth area are fortunate to root for teams in all major professional sports. The NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA, NHL, WNBA and MSL all have franchises here. The PGA has relocated their headquarters to Frisco. The area even has professional cricket on the way.
But no sport captures the interest of American sports fans like the NFL. And no team is more popular in America and in Texas than the Dallas Cowboys.
The loyalty of Cowboys fans is undeniable. They buy 86,000 tickets each home game, the most in American professional sports. The Cowboys bring in more than $1 billion in revenue per year.
The Cowboys’ faithful preferred pronoun is “we.” Rabid fans like to think that the Cowboys are “their team” or “Dallas’ team” or “Texas’ team.” After all, they are “America’s Team.”
No, they aren’t. No group possesses the team. The Dallas Cowboys are owner Jerry Jones’ team.
A study by sports website sidelines.io revealed that, out of the 152 teams in the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL and MSL analyzed, the Cowboys were the richest sports team in America in 2022, worth more than an estimated $8 billion. Jones knows how to make money. He just doesn’t know how to win.
The Dallas Cowboys will win or lose based on the decisions and whims of their 80-year-old owner. Jones paid for the rights to make the decisions, not “Joe from Farmers Branch” spouting off about what “we” should have done better.
It has become fashionable to blame quarterback Dak Prescott for the Cowboys excruciating 19-12 Divisional Playoff game loss to the San Francisco 49ers on January 21 at Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium. Even the team, via the Dallas Cowboys own twitter account, seems to hint at the primary cause of the loss that kept Dallas from reaching the NFC Championship game for the 26th consecutive year.
“Dak Prescott gave away the ball twice in the narrow loss to the 49ers, in a matchup the Cowboys had a chance to win if they didn’t generate self-inflicted wounds,” the tweet read. The comment read like it was written by Open AI’s ChatGPT model.
The tweet hit social media less than two hours after the game and the Cowboys season concluded. But it didn’t represent the feelings of the rabid Cowboys fan base.
The tweet came from the Cowboys, which means it came — directly or indirectly — from Jones.
The loss was only Prescott’s fault because Jones decided he would be the quarterback to lead the team to the Super Bowl. Fans ask why the Cowboys can’t have a QB like Kansas City’s mobile Patrick Mahomes, a field general like Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow or a multi-talented weapon like Philadelphia Eagles Jalen Hurts. Because Jones says so.
Jones believes that Prescott is the best quarterback in the league and pays him $40 million per season to quarterback the Cowboys. No other team, except for maybe a desperate Cleveland Browns or Denver Broncos team, would pay him that ridiculous amount of money based on his penchant for losing big games.
Unlike nearly any other profession, NFL players get paid based on future accomplishment, not past performance. Despite seven Super Bowl victories, quarterback Tom Brady made $15 million in 2022 because his career is ending soon. Prescott hasn’t earned his money. Jones believes that Prescott will earn his money.
“Joe from Farmers Branch” didn’t pay $140 million for the Dallas Cowboys in 1989. Jones did.
Cowboy fans may be emotionally invested in the team, but Jones is financially invested.
“America’s Team” didn’t fire legendary head coach Tom Landry and Hall of Fame GM Tex Schramm. Jones did. Dallas fans didn’t fire head coach Jimmy Johnson after two Super Bowl victories because he was getting too much credit for the Cowboys’ success. Jones did. Season ticket holders didn’t hire seven coaches since Johnson left. Jones did.
After Prescott, the person getting the most blame for the loss to San Francisco is Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. Fans ask why the Cowboys can’t have a young head coach like San Francisco’s engaged tactician Kyle Shanahan, a quiet leader like Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor or a gritty motivator like Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni. Because Jones says so.
Jones wants a coach that will do what he wants him to do and play who he wants him to play. McCarthy is the perfect foil. McCarthy knows that this is his last chance saloon, and he is going to belly up to the bar for last call. Jones pours the Kool-Aid and McCarthy drinks it.
The Cowboys look undisciplined under McCarthy. While he needs to reign in Prescott to play a controlled offense and utilize skilled players, McCarthy lets Prescott make decisions that often lead to devastating interceptions. Prescott became the first quarterback in NFL history to lead the league in interceptions even though he missed five games.
Despite playing in just 14 games (counting playoffs) in 2022, Prescott led the NFL with 17 interceptions. In 18 games (including one playoff game), Brady threw 10.
McCarthy has well-documented clock management issues. Normally dependable tight end Dalton Schultz made two mental errors in the fourth quarter against San Francisco. He reversed his progress before getting out of bounds, which caused the play clock to continue and then got just one foot down on a simple pass play with :07 left that was ruled incomplete.
And that doesn’t even mention the game’s final play that looked like it was designed in a sandlot with the quarterback as a bottle cap and the wide receivers being pieces of glass.
The last time Dallas played in the NFC Championship game was January 14, 1996. It looks like that streak of non-title games will continue for years to come. The Cowboys enter the 2023 season with glaring weaknesses.
It is too early to anticipate the 2023 NFL Draft, off-season player moves and to speculate on salary cap posturing. But it is obvious that the Cowboys have needs at wide receiver and on both offensive and defensive lines. There can always be improvement in the offensive and defensive backfield. But regarding team leadership, Prescott will be the quarterback and McCarthy will be the head coach as long as Jones is in charge.
Jones told the media after the loss to San Francisco that the game was “sickening,” and that players and fans were “sick” about the results. Maybe players and fans are sick of an owner that has let the game pass him by, but there is nothing that “Joe from Farmers Branch” or any other jersey-wearing, flag waving fan can do about it.
Remember, the Cowboys are not “your team” or even “America’s Team.” They are Jerry Jones’ team and, like the Cowboys future, don’t expect anything to change.