Blame for Cowboys' lost season falls on Jerry Jones

Steady as she goes, Dallas Cowboys. Right into that iceberg.

When I hear team owner Jerry Jones speak nowadays, that’s the message I’m interpreting. Same as it was nearly one month ago, when coming out of a troubling loss to the Houston Texans, Jones called head coach Jason Garrett “absolutely the real deal” and “an asset that I think will get us to where we want to go.”

If that destination was sailing deep into mediocrity without a compass, congratulations. They’ve arrived. If it wasn’t, maybe it’s finally time for Jones to permanently surrender the map to someone else. It’s been 22 years of sideswiping icebergs. Perhaps it’s time to begin that transition to the Stephen Jones era, starting with his first firing. Surely Stephen knows where to find Garrett’s office.

The only “absolute real deal” now in Dallas is the specter of another lost season. Just like every other one since 1996. Make no mistake, that’s what is coming. Not only is Dallas sitting at 3-5, but it is heading into a suddenly gnarly five-game stretch in the schedule: facing the rejuvenated Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons on the road, then hosting the tougher-than-expected Washington Redskins, the NFC-leading New Orleans Saintsand the Eagles again. Currently, all four of those teams are fighting tooth and nail for a playoff berth while simultaneously looking down at the Cowboys in the NFC playoff picture.

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Sports photos of the week: 10/27 - 11/3
REGINA, SK - OCTOBER 27: Rob Bagg #6 of the Saskatchewan Roughriders just misses making a diving catch in the end zone behind the coverage of Tevaughn Campbell in the first half of the game between the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on October 27, 2017 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 27: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors and Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards gets tangled up in a fight during the second quarter of their NBA basketball game at ORACLE Arena on October 27, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 29: Ted Ginn #19 of the New Orleans Saints catches a pass as he is defended by Eddie Jackson #39 of the Chicago Bears during the fourth quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 29, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
HEERENVEEN, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 29: (L-R) *Morten Thorsby* of SC Heerenveen, *Thomas Ouwejan* of AZ Alkmaar during the Dutch Eredivisie match between SC Heerenveen v AZ Alkmaar at the Abe Lenstra Stadium on October 29, 2017 in heerenveen Netherlands (Photo by Mustafa Gumussu/Soccrates/Getty Images)
SOELDEN, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 28: Patrizia Dorsch of Germany competes in the first run of the AUDI FIS Ski World Cup Ladies Giant Slalom on October 28, 2017 in Soelden, Austria. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers gestures after hitting a three-run home run during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros in game five of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
FUKUROI, JAPAN - OCTOBER 29: Milos Degenek of Yokohama F.Marinos and Kengo Kawamata of Jubilo Iwata compete for the ball during the J.League J1 match between Jubilo Iwata and Yokohama F.Marinos at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on October 29, 2017 in Fukuroi, Shizuoka, Japan. (Photo by Kaz Photography - JL/Getty Images for DAZN)
MANUKAU CITY, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 29: Grace Brooker of Canterbury pulls Serai Murray-Wihongi of Counties Manukau over the sideline during the Farah Palmer Cup Premiership Final match between Counties Manukau and Canterbury on October 29, 2017 in Pukekohe, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 29: Thomas Davis #58 of the Carolina Panthers tackles Adam Humphries #10 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second quarter of a game at Raymond James Stadium on October 29, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 29: Shadows are cast by cyclists during the Cycling Road Race Test Event along Currumbin Bay on October 29, 2017 in the Gold Coast, Australia. The Road Race is a test event for The 2018 Commonwealth Games, officially known as the XXI Commonwealth Games and commonly known as Gold Coast 2018, that will be held on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia between 4 and 15 April 2018. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Oct 28, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) celebrates with teammates after a goal during the second period against the New York Islanders at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Figure Skating - ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Audi Cup of China - Pairs short program - Beijing, China - November 3, 2017 - Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro of Canada in action. REUTERS/Thomas Peter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 29: Running back Jonathan Stewart #28 of the Carolina Panthers jumps over the pile on a 1-yard rush for a touchdown during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 29, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 30: Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros celebrates with teammates after hitting a game-winning single during the tenth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2017 in Houston, Texas. The Astros defeated the Dodgers 13-12. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 29: Cornerback Josh Norman #24 of the Washington Redskins celebrates with free safety D.J. Swearinger #36 of the Washington Redskins after recovering a fumble against the Dallas Cowboys during the first quarterat FedEx Field on October 29, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 30: Peter Gojowczyk of Germany competes gainst Ryan Harrison of the USA during Day 1 of the Rolex Paris Masters held at the AccorHotels Arena on October 30, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 30: Derek Fisher #21 of the Houston Astros slides in to home plate scoring the game winning run during the tenth inning against Austin Barnes #15 of the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2017 in Houston, Texas. The Astros defeated the Dodgers 13-12. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Oct 28, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) dunks over New Orleans Pelicans forward DeMarcus Cousins (0) during the first half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 29: Quarterback Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys is hit by inside linebacker Zach Brown #53 of the Washington Redskins during the fourth quarter at FedEx Field on October 29, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 30: Alex Galchenyuk #27 of the Montreal Canadiens shoots the puck past Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators in the second period at Canadian Tire Centre on October 30, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
Soccer Football - Europa League - SK Slavia Prague vs Villarreal - Eden Arena, Prague, Czech Republic - November 2, 2017 Villarreal's Carlos Bacca after missing a chance to score REUTERS/David W Cerny TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Soccer Football - Europa League - Arsenal vs Red Star Belgrade - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - November 2, 2017 Arsenal's Jack Wilshere reacts REUTERS/David Klein TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Oct 29, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs (28) makes a tackle against Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) during the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Oct 29, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger (35) climbs into the stands to catch a foul ball hit by Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (not pictured) in the 9th inning in game five of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Nov 1, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Astros center fielder George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates Jose Altuve (27) , Alex Bregman (2) and Marwin Gonzalez (9) after hitting a two-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second inning in game seven of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Soccer Football - Champions League - S.S.C. Napoli vs Manchester City - Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy - November 1, 2017 Manchester City's John Stones celebrates scoring their second goal with team mates Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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If you believe this unexceptional Cowboys offense has a chance to claw back into the postseason forecast after those five games, then you’re either the current owner of the franchise (Hi, Jerry!) or you’re blind to the content of Garrett’s previous 131 games — a span that has produced exactly one more playoff win than the Cleveland Browns since they returned to the NFL. How’s that for perspective? The Browns barely showed up for the last decade and rarely did anything right as an organization, yet in the grand view of history Cleveland is only one playoff win short of the Cowboys during Garrett’s tenure.

But here we have Jerry Jones, once again saying that now is not the time to change course. That things can still get better – if only everyone would just do their jobs a little better … starting with him. Well, here’s a novel thought: What if Jones is already doing the best job he can as a final decision-maker? And what if Garrett is already doing the best job he can as a one-playoff-win-in-131-games head coach? What if the Cowboys are just a mediocre team built by a mediocre shot-caller and guided by a mediocre head coach?

That’s what the totality of the ledger since 2010 suggests. And that’s also precisely what should spur the significant change in thinking that Troy Aikman seemed to suggest this week, when he took an unambiguous shot at Jones.

“Go through the list [of coaches] and this team – over a long period of time – has been what it’s been,” Aikman told 1310 The Ticket. “It hasn’t always mattered who the head coach has been. So to me, I’d say there has to be a complete overhaul of the entire organization. You just can’t simply replace head coaches and say, ‘Now it’s going to be better.’ No, it’s been shown that it’s not better. And you have to address how everything is being done. … [T]here’s been times where I’ve heard Jerry say, ‘OK, look, we’re going to do it differently. I’m going to do it differently.’ But it’s the same.”

The subtext of what Aikman said is that Jones is at the top and he’s a significant part of the dysfunction and cycle of missteps. Yes, there have been a litany of stories of how the Cowboys have become a more collaborative operation – including some of them written by me – between Jerry, Garrett, Stephen Jones and personnel director Will McClay. But even in that more collaborative world, there has truly been only one guy who keeps repeatedly subsidizing the failure. And that man is Jerry Jones, who keeps feeding opportunities into Garrett and is still no closer to his coveted Super Bowl payoff.

If you think that’s not true, well, Jones said as much Monday, when he reiterated to 105.3 The Fan that nobody should mistake who is making the final call on this parade of catastrophe.

“This business of how we operate, what we do, how the decisions are made with the Dallas Cowboys – anybody that thinks that it’s any different, that ultimately I’m not making the decision has to think twice,” Jones said. “I do make the ultimate decisions there.”

Since we have that settled, let’s start there. We hold Jimmy Haslam responsible for the duplicative chaos inside the Browns. We’ve raked the Ford family for the generational failures of the Detroit Lions. We’ve scorched the York family for some embarrassing trials and tribulations inside the San Francisco 49ers.

Why on earth should Jerry Jones get a pass for his role with the Cowboys? Maybe we should just be honest about his successes and failures. When he’s running the financial affairs of the Cowboys and NFL at large, he has been the Amazon.com of owners. But when he’s making head-coaching decisions, he has the track record of Blockbuster Video. Backing Garrett now – maintaining the status-quo – only ensures another season ending in bankruptcy.

In truth, it doesn’t really matter why Jones is staying the course. Maybe he’s grasping for any last chance that Garrett can redeem himself this season, while knowing a firing only corners him into some kind of years-long reboot. Maybe he’s afraid a shakeup could damage quarterback Dak Prescott, who Jerry seems hellbent on believing is his last best answer at the position. Or maybe Jerry Jones simply doesn’t know what to do next anymore. Maybe he’s finally succumbing to the reality that he can’t seem to get this right no matter how hard he tries.

Whatever the reason, Jones is stubbornly sailing ahead without his compass. Deeper into mediocre waters and with a map that doesn’t seem to provide any clue how to get back out. Whether this is where Jones wanted to go when he stuck with Garrett, this is the real deal. And the sooner he realizes his fundamental part in that, the better it will be for the franchise.

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