Hope is a wonderful thing. It excites. It sparks imagination. It opens up infinite possibilities. For the Dallas Cowboys, hope sells. Jerry Jones is a master of marketing “hope” to his fanbase. He has a knack for repackaging and selling the same bad product year after year to his loyal customers.
It helps that Dallas Cowboys fans want to be sold. Pessimism isn’t fun. Fans want an excuse to be optimistic and Jerry is all-too-happy to be the man to sell that optimism. After his annual show of anger and intolerance towards failure, Jerry works to calm Cowboys Nation by out-outraging the outraged fans (did you follow that).
Then he slides into the background and hands the helm back to son Stephen, so Stephen, thrift-shopper extraordinaire, can do what he does best – tread water.
Stephen Jones knows the value of hope as much as anyone. By keeping hope alive for the future, he can ensure he keeps Cowboys Nation “on the hook.” He gives fans young talent to be excited about. He points to the bevy of upcoming Dallas draft picks. He sells the potential of tomorrow and the fans who desperately want to be sold by it – hook, line, and sinker.
This song and dance is an annual event for the Dallas Cowboys. By not fully committing to any single season, they keep hope alive for future seasons. It’s a smart thing to do if your bottom line is the top objective.
If winning was the Dallas Cowboys top objective, they’d go all-in right now and attack when the NFC is at its weakest.
With Tom Brady retired and Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson potentially on the move this offseason (one would think they’d move to the AFC), the NFC is wide open. Sure, the Super Bowl champs are an NFC team, but the LA Rams are far from a juggernaut. For as much as we applaud LA’s commitment to winning right now, their success is not sustainable and a decline is expected over the next season or two. Without draft picks or salary cap space at their disposal, their roster grows more top-heavy and more thin by the day. Make no mistake – the NFC is wide open.
The Dallas Cowboys, Football Outsiders No. 1 ranked team in DVOA, isn’t just a legit challenger for the NFC crown, they’re a favorite. The window has never been more open for them if only they’d just seize the opportunity and make a whole-hearted attempt to go through it.
But whole-hearted attempts bring risk. What if it doesn’t work? Then the Dallas Cowboys would have spent some of that hope the Joneses love selling us every year. So there’s risk, financial risk, and that may be too much to take if you’re Stephen Jones.
Last year the Rams went all-in on their team. They re-signed key players, brought in big free agents, and traded for key star players. They used future money and draft picks to go all-in and it paid off enormously.
The year before it was Tampa Bay who went all-in. To a lesser degree they displayed the same commitment to winning the Rams just did. And similarly it paid off for them.
And here are the Dallas Cowboys. Situated in an abnormally vulnerable conference with an abnormally loaded roster, the Dallas Cowboys are perfectly situated to make a legitimate run at the Super Bowl. But what do we hear coming from Stephen Jones? The limitations of the salary cap, the handcuffs his QB has put on him, and the tough decisions that must be made.
At a time when Stephen should be planning to go all-in and load up his roster, he is talking about cutting players, good players, for the sake of saving money and maintaining future “hope”?
To Stephen, compensatory picks (awarded to teams who suffer a net loss in good free agents in a given year) are better than actual players. They are cheap and come with that ever-marketable “hope” we’re all so excited about.
He tells us that cruddy 4th round pick could be the next All Pro. Completely ignoring the fact a fourth round pick has only a 20% chance of being a multi-year starter, he sells fans on the possibilities. Can’t sell hope for instant riches if you don’t have lottery tickets, after all.
It’s not all on Stephen Jones either. Billionaires are going to billionaire. Fans have been all too happy to buy into the annual dog and pony show. They’re happy to believe in the myth of the salary cap and how it’s restrictiveness ties the hands of ownership. They (we/me) are responsible for happily supporting the franchise that has a clear commitment to profit above all else. What other options are there for loyal fans such as ourselves?
While we can’t directly impact the decisions of the Dallas Cowboys we can show a bit self-awareness towards our franchise. The Dallas Cowboys are faced with a prime opportunity this year, how they respond to this opportunity will say a lot of their priorities and their commitment to winning.
Will the Dallas Cowboys cut key (albeit overpaid) players right when the window opens the widest? Or will they seize the opportunity that’s right in front of them and go all-in? We’re about to find out, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
The thing is, Dallas doesn’t even have to mortgage their future to seize this opportunity. Keeping players like DeMarcus Lawrence, Amari Cooper, and Jayron Kearse will not have catastrophic consequences. Signing a key free agent or two at the cost of a potential comp pick will not destroy hope for the future. We’re asking to just take a step forward at a time when the Cowboys brass is contemplating taking a step back.