How the Jones’ Impulse Shorts the Cowboys Future

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One impulsive fellow

We often talk here on Cowboys Nation about prioritizing picks and how the Cowboys rebuilding project always seems to be two years or more in duration.

This week, I did a joint story with Fox Sports Southwest’s Bob Sturm and Newsradio 1310 The Ticket’s David Newbury on the Cowboys’ off-season plans.  My piece, which I’m re-printing here, gets at the reasons why the Cowboys never seem to make up ground.

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In one of his cockier moments during the Super Bowl ’90s, Jerry Jones bragged that his wealth was obvious.  If everybody in the world could start with the same amount of money, he explained, the same people who currently had the biggest portfolios would do so again in short time.  Winners were winners.
Let’s take Jerry’s metaphor and apply it to the world of NFL drafting, where Jones has seen something less than success in his nineteen years as the sole totem atop the Cowboys pole.  (This April draft will be the 20th post Jimmy Johnson!)  In the cap-era NFL, draft picks are the major currency and the league plays a version of Jerry’s wealth distribution game, giving each team seven draft picks each spring.  It’s then up to the general managers to invest them wisely.  Following up on David Newbury’s point that Dallas has burned an excessive amount of high picks in recent years, I decided to chart how all the NFL teams have used their priority picks in rounds 1-3.  These are the building block picks, which produce the most impact players an early starters.  
I created a frame starting in 2007, the first year after Bill Parcells abdicated the Cowboys throne.  In the six subsequent seasons, each NFL team has started with 18 picks, three in each round.  Those teams which lost priority free agents and did not replace them may have realized an extra 3rd round pick or even two in that span.  Here’s the list of picks the teams have amassed during Jerry 2.0.  (I’ve chopped the list a bit for space):
1.   New England  25 picks
2T.  Detroit  23 picks
2T.  Kansas City  23 picks
4T.  Cincinnati  22 picks
4T.  Denver   22 picks
6.   Miami  21 picks
7T. Baltimore 20 picks
7T. Atlanta  20 picks
7.  St. Louis 20 picks
10T.  Green Bay  19 picks
10 T.  NY GIants 19 picks
10 T.  Philadelphia  19 picks
10.T.  Pittsburgh  19 picks…
28T.  Dallas 14 picks
28T  New Orleans 14 picks
28T. Minnesota 14 pick
31T.  NY Jets 13 picks
31T.  Washington 13 picks
Any surprise that Dallas ranks in the bottom quarter of early dratt pick attempts since Jerry reclaimed the helm?  He groused earlier this year that it’s unacceptable for the Cowboys to continually finish one win short of the playoffs, as the  team again did in 2012, but look at the pressure he’s putting on his scouts and himself by dealing away 1st and 2nd rounders.  He’s had eleven fewer early round picks than Bill Belichick.  He’s had six fewer than Ozzie Newsome.  In the conference, he’s had six fewer picks than the Flacons’ Thomas Dimitroff, and five less than the Giants Jerry Reece and the Packers’ Ted Thompson.
And every one of those guys knows how to find good football players.
If Jerry had given the organization four or five extra picks up top, might he have a couple more key starters and the depth necessary to find that extra win?   That’s why keeping Anthony Spencer is the team’s top early off-season priority.  I think he can excel in the 4-3 and his team has made free agency an inordinately large part of its developmental program.

You can’t keep pace with guys like Newsome, Reece and Belichick when they get one to two more early round picks than your team every year unless you hit it big in free agency.

It’s a vicious cycle towards mediocrity.   The Jones give themselves fewer spins at the draft wheel, chasing bling players like Dez Bryant and Morris Claiborne.  They then find themselves short on depth and overall talent, which sends them to free agency.  They then give out desperation deals to guys like an over-the-hill Terrell Owens or a suspect starter like Mackenzy Bernadeau.  Until the Cowboys stop burning high picks, they give themselves no choice.

Jerry may manage his personal wealth like Warren Buffet, but he’s managed his draft pick portfolio like Dez Bryant manages his money.  That’s left Dallas fans all the poorer.  

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Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ TheBoys.com in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for SportsTalkLine.com