Daily Archives: October 8th, 2012

MEET THE NEXT GENERATION: Who will succeed Jerry Jones as owner of the Dallas Cowboys?

Jerry Jr., Charlotte, Jerry, Gene and Stephen Jones at Cowboys Stadium - The Boys Are Back blog

Jerry Jones turned 70 on Saturday.

Jones has three Super Bowl rings, a reported net worth of $2.7 billion, and his 3-year-old, $1.2 billion stadium is virtually paid for. Why wouldn’t he cherish becoming the first septuagenarian Cowboys owner?

But at some point, he will move on.

During a wide-ranging interview at the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch complex with The Dallas Morning News’ Brad Townsend, Jerry Jones candidly discussed a future that eventually, inevitably, won’t include him.

Jerry and Gene Jones’ children, Stephen, Jerry Jr. and Charlotte Anderson, are Cowboys executive vice presidents. Though details aren’t being released to the public, Charlotte has planned a party to celebrate a confluence of Jones family milestones.

Jerry’s and Gene’s 70th birthdays. The 90th birthday of Jerry’s mother, Arminta. And Jerry’s and Gene’s 50th wedding anniversary.

“Every day with Jerry has been exciting,” wife Gene says. “Stressful at times, but never boring.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed from the beginning is that the family was the most important thing. Our children have always been our proudest accomplishments, and they are our best friends.

“We’ve had many disagreements in life, but never about our children or [nine] grandchildren.”

Gene says it was a dramatic lifestyle change when, in 1989, Jerry decided the Cowboys would become the family business. Jerry Jr., Charlotte and Stephen were in their early-to-mid 20s.

Gene says it’s been beyond rewarding to work alongside them while they carved integral roles in the franchise and raised families of their own.

And Jerry?

“I don’t see him slowing down in any aspect of his life,” Gene says. “Children, grandchildren, Cowboys, he wants the best for all of them.

“His passion and desire for all of us to share that championship experience never wavers. I see it every morning when he walks out the door.”

“I do want to emphasize that, at this particular time, it would be madness not to think about succession,” he says. “You have to. And you should.

“I’m very confident that if I got hit by a truck tomorrow, we’ve got a great succession plan. Everybody here understands football, loves it, is not really interested in anything else in sports and has tunnel vision relative to football.”
 
Meet the Dallas Cowboys next generation - The Boys Are Back blog

Is Stephen next in line?

Longtime speculation has been that Stephen, the Cowboys’ 48-year-old chief operating officer and director of player personnel, would eventually assume Jerry’s role.

That is partly true, Jerry says, pointing out that Stephen already oversees the scouting and player personnel departments, Cowboys Stadium management operations and attends NFL owners meetings.

But in reality, Jerry sees a continuation of Team Jones management already in place. Charlotte is vice president of brand management and the president of the charity foundation. Jerry Jr. is the chief sales and marketing officer.

In the early 1990s, Jerry transferred minority limited partnership interests to Stephen, Charlotte and Jerry Jr., giving them what he calls “serious skin in the game,” a daily incentive to fully invest their professional lives.

“I was fortunate to have put things like that in place long before the Cowboys were worth what they are now,” he says.

Seldom if ever speculated is the scenario of Gene stepping forward as principal owner, as Georgia Frontiere did when husband and Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom drowned in 1979.

Jerry notes that Gene has missed only one game, a preseason game, in 24 seasons. Jerry and Stephen say Gene probably spent more hours on Cowboys Stadium’s planning than anyone.

“There’s no question that on an ongoing basis she would be involved in everything that has to do with the stadium,” Jerry says. “In the NFL’s view, the stadium and the team are one and the same.”

Jerry also foresees some or all of his grandchildren joining the franchise, if they so choose, adding, “The way we’re structured here, I don’t ever see this team owned by anyone other than my immediate family.”

The oldest three Jones grandchildren are in college, working toward degrees that could point them toward the family business.

Stephen’s daughters, Jessica and Jordan, attend the University of Texas. Jordan, a freshman in UT’s textiles program, interned this summer in the Cowboys’ merchandising department.

Sophomore Jessica is a communications major, as is Charlotte’s daughter Haley, a sophomore at Arkansas.

“There’s enough work around here that there could be five more [Jones family members] and there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day,” Jerry says.

RELATED FEATURE ON THE BOYS ARE BACK BLOG:

Dallas Cowboys Spotlight – Jerry Jones

CENTER OF ATTENTION: Phil Costa back; will compete for starting spot

Dallas Cowboys Phil Costa

IRVING, Texas – Center Phil Costa was back on the practice field at Valley Ranch on Monday with a helmet and shells like the rest of the team. The status of his back, which he re-injured in the first quarter of the season opener, is still unclear, but his presence on the practice field might suggest a return to live game action is soon approaching.

Head coach Jason Garrett said Monday morning he wants to see Costa back at practice before making any decision about his playing time.

“We’re going to see him a little today and hopefully as the week goes on,” Garrett said. “We’ll see how he responds.”

Garrett stressed the importance of taking caution rather than rushing a player back onto the game field. Back injuries can easily be re-aggravated, as evidenced by the short-lived return to action in the final preseason game only to be immediately re-injured in the opener against the Giants.

“Really, what we have to do is just watch him and see what his health is like,” Garrett said. “See what he’s able to do. He did a good job trying to comeback from that injury in training camp going into that Giants game. We got to make sure he’s healthy, if he is we’ll make our next best evaluation.”

While Costa has been on the mend, Ryan Cook has stepped in to fill the role of starting center, which could cause a difficult decision about playing time for Garrett.

“(Costa’s) been a good football player for us,” Garrett said. “He was our starter. Ryan (Cook) has done a good job coming in on short notice in that position. The offensive line, just like every position on our team, we’re going to create competition.”

Garrett did point out that no starting spots are guaranteed on this team and that if Costa wants his job back, he will have to earn it.

“We don’t have a rule that says ‘this guy was a starter and then he got hurt. You can’t lose your starting spot due to injury.’ We don’t have any of those rules,” Garrett said. “We want to make the best decision. We want to see him in practice, see where he is, then see what the best decision is going forward.”

Cook was on the sideline at practice on Monday, dealing with what has been reported as a minor hamstring issue.

PAST SUNDAY REVIEW: Upcoming games offer new outlook for Cowboys next five

Without a doubt, when you first looked at the schedule back in April, this five-game stretch that now awaits the Dallas Cowboys had to stick out first and foremost.

The Next Five - Dallas Cowboys 2012-2013 Schedule - The Boys Are Back blog

And here we are, with the Cowboys having a 2-2 mark and about to take on this five-game journey that includes four road games, sandwiched around a home game with the defending-champion Giants, who haven’t lost at Cowboys Stadium.

Brutal? Yeah maybe, if this team comes out and plays flat like it did against Seattle and at times the last two weeks.

But winnable? Of course. You can be scared of the Ravens defense all day long – and should be. They’ve been good for so long and the same guys are still making big plays for them.

But a whopping nine points against the Chiefs on the road? I know what you’re thinking, they scored what they needed to. They did just enough to win.

The Cowboys will certainly have their hands full with the Ravens when they go to Baltimore next Sunday. It’ll be tough on the road at Atlanta, Philly and Carolina. The Giants at home will also be a battle, considering Eli Manning and his group is 3-0 at Cowboys Stadium.

But in this stretch of the next five games, those five opponents went 3-2 on Sunday. The Falcons gutted out a tough win over an RG3-less Redskins team while the Panthers lost at home to Seattle and the Eagles dropped a close one to the Steelers.

Looking at the flip side, every fan of those five teams will be looking at the Cowboys and how they’ve played the last three weeks and probably figure to get a W for their team, too.

It’s how it goes.

But judging from the games Sunday. The Cowboys shouldn’t be scared of any of those five teams. And none of them will be scared of this one either.

ROSTER UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys promote Lance Dunbar, sign Raymond Radway to practice squad

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar vs Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

Lance Dunbar finally will get his chance to play. The Cowboys promoted him from the practice squad Monday to fill their 53-player roster. Dallas released cornerback LeQuan Lewis, a special teams standout who they brought in to help against returners Leon Washington and Devin Hester, last week.

"We’re going to bring Dunbar up and give him a chance just to contribute as a teams guy and also on offense when necessary," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday.

The Cowboys nearly called up Dunbar before the season opener against the Giants. Dunbar, North Texas’ all-time leading rusher, ran for 106 yards on 18 carries in the preseason and caught three passes for 11 yards.

Dunbar could be a possibility on kickoff returns. He had three punt returns in the preseason but did not handle any kickoff returns. Felix Jones has averaged 21.5 yards on kick returns this season, and the Cowboys rank next to last in average start after a kickoff (19.2 yard line).

"He’s a quick guy," Garrett said. "He’s shown that he can be a good gunner and make some plays. He’s very aggressive and active. So want to give him a chance to do that. He’s also done some returning for us as well. So just wherever he’s needed. We’ll give him some work in practice at the different spots and see how he responds."

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Raymond Radway (86) during Dallas Cowboys training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys also brought back receiver Raymond Radway, signing him to the practice squad. Radway spent last season on injured reserve and was among the team’s final cuts this year. Danny Coale has a hamstring injury, necessitating the move for practice purposes.

RELATED: Radway will help Cowboys get through practice while others not at full speed

Wide receiver Raymond Radway is “more healthy now,” one reason the Cowboys have brought him back.

The team announced today the signing of Radway to the practice squad and the promotion of running back Lance Dunbar from the practice squad to the active roster.

“He had a really good preseason two preseasons ago and got hurt and missed all of last year and came back this past training camp and really wasn’t himself, and was trying to fight through some things,” Garrett said. “But we feel like he’s more healthy now and we needed a receiver on the practice roster, just really to help us function in practice, and we thought he was a good one to give another chance to.”

Miles Austin, Kevin Ogletree and practice squad receiver Danny Coale worked with trainers in practice Monday.

In preseason two years ago, as an undrafted rookie, Radway caught six passes for 91 yards and averaged 25.4 yards on four kickoff returns. He was set to make the 53-man roster. But he suffered a broken leg with three seconds left in the final preseason game and spent the rest of the year on injured reserve.

He had one kickoff return for 26 yards.

88 ON 88: Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant’s route running is limited

Drew Pearson (left) and Dez Bryant - The Boys Are Back blog

Despite how he comes across to some, former Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson told The Dallas Morning News’ David Moore he still has faith Dez Bryant will grow into that elite player.

“I feel confident that it will happen for him,” Pearson said. “I hope it happens here.

“Dez understands the situation he’s in and really wants it. Maybe it will all come to him at one time.

“Maybe he’s just a late bloomer.”

But Pearson still has plenty to nitpick about the Cowboys’ third-year receiver.

What stood out recently was the Monday Night Football blunder when Bryant was fooled into thinking the Bears were in press coverage. He adjusted his route and went deep rather than run the hitch that was designed. Cornerback Charles Tillman picked off the pass from Tony Romo and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.

“It was a bad read,” Pearson said. “Those are the kind of things that defenses, defensive backs especially, will give you a false look initially. If you’re not cerebral, if you’re not experienced enough to make adjustments, cornerbacks will play those games with you.

“You can’t get fooled by that in your third year in the league. If you made that mistake with coach [Tom] Landry in your third year, that would have been a cardinal sin.”

“When the game is on the line, that is the time No. 88 needs to step up, not take a back seat, not take a step back. That is when No. 88 is expected to shine.”

Part of being consistent is having a few signature routes the quarterback knows he can complete to you in virtually any situation. Pearson had three: the 12-yard sideline route, the 15- to 20-yard turn-in and the 15- to 20-yard end route. Those were his bread and butter.

What does Bryant have? Is he consistent enough with any of them?

“His route tree is limited to the slant, the fade, the go route and the end route,” Pearson said. “That is it. I’ve never seen him run a counter, a post corner, a slant-and-go, a sideline takeoff where he stutters and takes off the way Kevin Ogletree did so successfully in the opener.”

Pearson had been critical of Bryant throughout his first two years with the Cowboys, and Year Three looks to be more of the same. This obviously stems from Bryant wearing the same jersey number that Pearson did during his 11 seasons with the franchise.

“He’s not living up to the expectations that were placed on him by wearing that number,” Pearson recently told the Midland Reporter-Telegram. “Drew Pearson took it to the Ring of Honor level and Michael Irvin took it way beyond that to the Hall of Fame level.

“When Michael and I had a chance to talk to Dez when he came in his rookie year we told him, ‘Don’t do what Drew Pearson did in it. Don’t do what Michael did in it. Do more than that.’ I know that’s a lot to live up to, but what else is there? You live up to those expectations and people will cherish you for the rest of your life.”

Bryant dropped three passes in the Cowboys’ 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears Monday night. Two of those incompletions cost the Cowboys first downs and the third might have gone for a touchdown.

Even though Bryant finished with a career-high 105 receiving yards, the mistakes overshadowed his eight catches.

Pearson focused on Bryant’s mistakes during a Tuesday interview that aired on ESPN.

“You should know your plays. You should know where to be. You should know your adjustments that you need to make,” Pearson said. “You know what your value is to this Cowboys offense. You should be making the big plays to help the offense when they need it. To me, that’s what the 88s are all about. That’s what I did in the 88s, that’s what Michael (Irvin) did in the 88s. I’m not saying Dez needs to be us. But we’d just like to see him carry that tradition on with the 88s a little better.”

HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Loud rival fans could be sign of things to come

IRVING, Texas — Wherever the Cowboys travel their following is always there, even in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

In the 2005 season opener at San Diego, Cowboys’ fans were so loud the Chargers had to use a silent count late in the game.

On Monday, Cowboys Stadium was hardly a home-field advantage. Of the 90,080 on hand, a number of them were Chicago fans and let their presence be known. As one “Let’s go Bears” chant broke out late, linebacker Brian Urlacher was seen mouthing, “Wow.”

“Last time we came down here, there’s nothing like hearing the “Let’s go Bears,” chant early and throughout the game,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said after the game. “I thought our fans were outstanding. The Chicago Bear colors were all around, they really were. I’m glad we are able to give our loyal fans that type of effort.”

Jason Garrett was asked about how loud the Bears fans were on Tuesday.

“Oh, the Bears have a great national following,” Garrett said. “They’ve had it for a long, long time, so that doesn’t surprise us. And certainly the way the game went, we gave them some reasons to get fired up. That’s just the nature of it. The Chicago people love their Bears. They have for a long, long time.”

Another visitor to Cowboys Stadium has a great national following, too. Pittsburgh visits Dec. 13. The last time the Steelers came to the area in 2004, Terrible Towels overran Texas Stadium. Cowboys Stadium could be more of the same.

After a 6-2 record to open the $1.2 billion stadium in 2009, the Cowboys have a 7-10 home record.

OFFENSIVE SNAPS: QB Kyle Orton, Beasley, Holmes, and Tanner impress late in the game

Dallas Cowboys offensive line vs Chicago Bears - Line of scrimmage - The Boys Are Back blog

A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ offense in the team’s 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears, while analyzing what it means:

RT Doug Free: 70 of 70

RG Mackenzy Bernadeau: 70 of 70

LT Tyron Smith: 70 of 70

C Ryan Cook: 70 of 70

TE Jason Witten: 70 of 70

LG Nate Livings: 70 of 70

WR Dez Bryant: 68 of 70

QB Tony Romo: 59 of 70

WR Miles Austin: 49 of 70

WR Kevin Ogletree: 49 of 70

RB DeMarco Murray: 47 of 70

WR Cole Beasley: 13 of 70

FB Lawrence Vickers: 11 of 70

QB Kyle Orton: 11 of 70

RB Phillip Tanner: 11 of 70

TE John Phillips: 10 of 70

RB Felix Jones: 9 of 70

WR Andre Holmes: 8 of 70

WR Dwayne Harris: 6 of 70

You can tell the Chicago Bears blew out the Cowboys because Tony Romo missed 11 snaps and he wasn’t hurt. Down by three touchdowns and three two-point conversations in the fourth quarter, Jason Garrett gave backup Kyle Orton his first playing time. Orton, with Cole Beasley and and Andre Holmes receiving extensive playing time by their standards, led Dallas on a scoring drive. … Late in the fourth quarter, Phillip Tanner replaced DeMarco Murray. … Felix Jones played only nine snaps but showed some burst and quickness on his only carry, which could increase his playing time down the road.

SHORTER IN THE TOOTH: Dallas Cowboys Have Experienced Major Youth Overhaul

Jason Garrett's Dallas Cowboys Have Experienced Major Overhaul With Youth - The Boys Are Back blogA week or so after becoming head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, Jimmy Johnson sat down to watch some film with his defensive coaches, Dave Wannstedt and Dave Campo among them. What they saw was stunning, with Campo later recalling, “We were pretty sure we had more speed the season before at (the University of Miami.”

The objective became quite simple. The roster needed to be overhauled; younger, quicker players would be targeted. For Johnson, stripping football down to its most simplistic level, speed and quickness equal success. Of course, this philosophy led Dallas to a trio of Super Bowl wins, the first with the youngest team in the league, and Team of the Decade status in the 1990s.

Fast-forward 20 years from the aforementioned film session, almost to the month, and Troy Aikman and Jason Garrett are in the Florida Keys, visiting with their former head coach on what was supposed to be a relaxing fishing trip. Instead, Garrett arrived with a notebook overflowing with questions on what it takes to be a successful head coach in the NFL. At the time, Garrett was the Dallas offensive coordinator, but he knew – heck, everyone knew – his time was coming, especially after having turned down head coaching offers from the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens.

Johnson later said of Garrett and the trip, “He wore me out.”

Now into his second full season as head coach, it’s obvious some of the sage advice Johnson offered involved adding more speed and quickness to the roster. A byproduct of those personnel changes has been a youth movement of sorts, one which has transformed this current Cowboys squad.

Consider: In Week 14 of 2010, the Cowboys’ 22 starters averaged 29.2 years of age, which was tied for the oldest in the NFL with the Ravens and Brett Favre’s Vikings.

Entering the 2012 campaign, not even two years removed, the average age of the Dallas starters was 26.9, coincidentally on both offense and defense, while the roster overall checked in at exactly 26.0, which was the 14th youngest in the NFL and second to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. Even last year, Dallas finished as the 10th-oldest team in the league.

That is staggering. In 21 weeks of regular-season games, Dallas went from the oldest team to one of the younger squads in the league, while also going from a 6-10 finish to a promising 2012 campaign kicked off with a road defeat of the defending Super Bowl champions.

Garrett addressed this very subject at the conclusion of last season’s 8-8 finish.

“We had a lot of players, veteran players, who were really good players for us, Pro Bowl-type players for us, and we made some hard decisions to get away from those guys and move on,” Garrett said. “Those aren’t easy decisions to make. We went with some younger guys and we felt like that was the right decision for our football team now and going forward.

“We knew there were going to be some growing pains, but we felt like we had to get on that course and not only do that with a particular position, but also get the structure of our team right from a financial standpoint as well. So we started down that course and we feel like that was the right move for our team in 2011 and moving forward.”

Even in the ever-changing culture of the NFL, the transformation of the roster has been stunning in such a short time frame. Currently, 23 players on the Cowboys’ active roster are 24 years of age or younger, while just five are older than 30. Tony Romo, who turned 32 in April, is the second-oldest player on the team after defensive end Kenyon Coleman, 33.

Let’s look at the changes at each position from the Week 14 home loss against Philly in 2010 to this season:

Quarterbacks: The only real change here is behind Romo, where the team is almost a decade younger in having landed arguably the league’s premier backup in 29-year-old Kyle Orton this summer in favor of the retired Jon Kitna.

Running Backs: Marion Barber out, DeMarco Murray in. Am guessing no one has a problem with that exchange. And while Barber isn’t as old as most of the departed players, his physical running style certainly accelerated his football shelf life.

Wide Receivers/Tight ends: Not much has changed here with Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, although Roy Williams and Sam Hurd have been replaced by some younger, unproven options, including Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes and Cole Beasley.

Jason Witten and John Phillips remain, with rookie James Hanna now the third tight end after Martellus Bennett signed with the Giants.

Offensive Line: Perhaps at no time in franchise history has the front seen such a dramatic overhaul inside of two years. The starters in Week 14 of 2010 were Doug Free, Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo. Combined age: 153, with four of the five at least 31. The starters for Week 1 of 2012 were Free, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Phil Costa, Nate Livings and Tyron Smith, who doesn’t turn 22 until November. Combined age: 130, with none of the five older than 30. That’s a ginormous difference. Take away Free, and that’s 25 years younger among four positions, six-plus years per man.

Defensive Line: Little fluctuation here, although Sean Lissemore and Josh Brent are seeing extensive playing time and were just rookies in 2010. Igor Olshansky has also moved on, while rookie Tyrone Crawford, a third-round selection, has shown promise.

Linebackers: DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer are still on the outside, but there’s been a complete upheaval inside with Sean Lee and Bruce Carter replacing Keith Brooking and Bradie James. In terms of speed and quickness, perhaps no position has been improved more, with the possible exception of cornerback. Brooking and James were both respected veterans, stronger against the run than in pass coverage, while Lee and Carter are two of the team’s better athletes. There hasn’t been a more Jimmy Johnson-like pick over the last two years than Carter, the classic example of “give me the athletic talent, we’ll shape him into a football player.”

Of the eight linebackers on the roster, Ware is the oldest at 30, and six are 26 or younger.

Secondary: Never mind 2010, just look at last year’s team. Terence Newman was 33, Abram Elam and Frank Walker 30. Replace that trio with Brandon Carr, 26, Morris Claiborne, 22, and Barry Church, 24. And yes, Church was on the team, but has now replaced Elam in the starting lineup. Of the six corners currently on the roster, Mike Jenkins is the oldest at 27, while 29-year-old Gerald Sensabaugh is the oldest safety. Not a single 30-year-old among the secondary.

Special Teams: Even at punter, the Cowboys didn’t re-sign longtime veteran Mat McBriar in favor of 23-year-old Chris Jones.

So it really has been across the board, a youth movement much like the one orchestrated by Johnson during his first two seasons at the helm. Only time will tell if the same results follow for Garrett.

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