Confessors, with a title like that, I deem that you have been given fair warning that this is one of those blessedly rare Plainsman sportsy posts, wherein I demonstrate rather small knowledge about sports. I suppose that's what comes of listening to The Ticket.
But, in honor of the entrepreneurial spirit embodied in Danny Balis (there's your Ticket connection for this post), let me ask you to put aside preconceived notions and use your imagination. You can probably come up with some variations of what follows that may make more sense.
The conventional wisdom – and this view is held not only by me and many of you, but by an acquaintance of mine who might in fact be the No. 1 Cowboys fan in DFW, I kid you not – is that the Cowboys will not return to greatness as long as they are owned by Jerry Jones. That the Cowboys will, in fact, get worse as his ego continues to eat away at judgment with the passing years. Because Jerry Jones will not give up control as he struggles to cast off the shadow Jimmy and win a title for which he can claim principal credit. And because Jerry Jones will not sell the Cowboys, their averageness-or-worse will soil that beastly stadium out there for years to come.
I grant that this is a very likely scenario. But it is not the only possible scenario. Let me toss out a few concepts.
Jerry Is a Very, Very Bad General Manager and Owner. I won't spend much time on this, we all know it. His latest machinations, castrating Jason Garrett, loading up the coaching staff with people he selects, is a recipe for failure. It is widely accepted that 2013 is make-or-break for Garrett – but what earthly sense does it make to (1) reduce his responsibility for the offense and (2) stick him with personnel not of his choosing and then to increase his accountability? I happen to think Garrett bears a large share of the blame for fielding offenses that apparently don't know the plays after two-plus years and that can't get them called before a half-second remains on the play clock. Maybe Jerry has selected players of incorrigible stupidity, but more likely is that they're not prepared, or the plays require calls that are not appropriate for the hurly-burly of the gridiron, or Tony doesn't transmit the playcalls efficiently. But if that's the way you as GM feel about the guy, fire him, don't play games for another season that do nothing more than establish the head coach's lack of authority and your own poor judgment, begging yet the further question: What accomplished, self-respecting coach would play for the meddlesome savant-wannabe caricature that is Jerry Jones?
And he's a bad owner because he refuses to hire experienced professional football management, or listen to the people in his organization who fit that description.
Since we all pretty much believe that Jerry is incompetent, why do I even bother to mention it? Because:
Jerry Jones Is So Incompetent, That in the Process of Manufacturing Year After Year of Mediocrity and Worse, Jerry Jones Is Also Managing to Embarrass Texas in General, and, in Particular, the Wealthy of Texas. Jones is pathologically incapable of keeping his piehole zipped. And in its unzipped state, it emits torrents of disconnected phrases, 180-degree contradictions within a single breath, and downright nonsense. It would be tolerable and possibly even charming if he'd shown a molecule of talent for running a football team, but since he hasn't, he looks like the kind of Texan, especially the kind of rich Texan, that non-Texans like to sneer at – ignorant, arrogant, incoherent. (Although he was born in Los Angeles and raised in Arkansas.) The kind who thinks it's classy to hang the world's biggest video screen in his stadium, so big it renders the live contest irrelevant, and to feature caged go-go dancers. You can't tell me that his pals in whatever the Rich Guy Club is in these parts (um, I don't belong) don't cringe when they see his latest high-wire act before any nearby open mic and hear everyone, even media types who might be expected to curry his favor, shaking their heads in disbelief that this well-meaning but thoroughly deluded soul is helming the destruction of the most valuable sports franchise in the country.
There Are Lots of Really, Really Rich People in Texas. And when you put a few of them together, a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money. And maybe they'd rather people think of them more like J.R. Ewing, and not J.W. Jones.
Everything Has Its Price.
Ah, but you say, Jerry does not have his price. His pride would never let him sell the team while it's down, before it does something really terrific, at least get to a Super Bowl if not win it.
I agree that Jerry will never accept market value for the team, however that may be measured (although every year there are organizations purporting to do it, including one that reported today).
So the first step is for a bunch of these rich guys who have had enough losing and ridicule to get together and offer Jerry crazy money. I don't know how crazy it would have to be to let Jerry claim that as his ultimate victory. Maybe he wouldn't take it. Maybe the crazy money would have to be so crazy that not even a consortium of the extremely wealthy would consider offering it. I would, however, ask you to remember the difference between the price Nolan Ryan's group agreed to pay for the Rangers at the outset, and what they eventually paid after Mark Cuban got the bidding way up there.
Find some way to let Jerry save face. Make him Chairman Emeritus. Name the stadium after him and pay him for the right to use his name. A permanent suite at the stadium. (With parking!) Perhaps work something where he keeps the stadium or some piece of it. There are all kinds of ways to compensate selling business owners. Insist that they pay him personally millions not to take his incomparable football management skills to any other NFL team. Give him a consulting deal and actually have meetings and let him have his say.
OK, let's say that none of this moves the old razorback.
How do you get leverage over an ego?
Include Stephen and Jerry Jr. in the Consortium. Is Stephen Jones the Prince Charles of DFW or what? Waiting for His Majesty to abdicate or die. Perhaps it would be meaningful to Jerry (in addition to the crazy money, let's not forget) to know that his beloved offspring would have some kind of management and ownership role, and that he'd still have his son's ear on matters Cowboys, even if he would have no authority. I can imagine that the boys (!) would have some reluctance to show up with a group offering to buy the team – I'm sure they love and feel loyalty toward their Pop and might fear a family falling-out if appearing to want to oust him. Still, there may be creative ways to involve them in a subtle and diplomatic approach that would not offend Jerry.
The Brontosaurus Theory. But here's my gee-whiz solution, and I'm sure that there are NFL-savvy readers out there who will tell me that this could never, ever happen in a squillion years.
But, like Anne Elk (John Cleese) who offers her theory on the brontosaurus on Episode 31 of Monty Python's Flying Circus, this is my theory, and it is mine, and belongs to me, and what it is, too. The next thing you will read is my theory:
This rich-guy consortium goes to Jerry – again, with their crazy money, maybe really crazy in light of this (my) theory and the thinking they want to inspire in Jerry, and they say this:
Jerry, we have crazy money for you. You know as sure as you're sitting there that this is easily a 30% premium over the highest valuation that any so-called expert places on this team. You take that and walk away and you can hold your head high, laughing at your critics, knowing that win or lose, you, by the sheer force of your personality and will and balls in getting that stadium built, and, yes, winning three Super Bowls, created immense, incredible value, made this the second most valuable franchise in the world, second only to Manchester United. Incredible accomplishment, Jerry.
You take this crazy money, Jerry. You take it. We'll put your name on that stadium. Take a look at this term sheet, there's a bunch of other goodies in there, and looky here, Jerry, we're going to give Stephen and Jerry Jr. the opportunity to invest at a very high level and give them significant management responsibility. You can be Chairman Emeritus.
Take this crazy money, Jerry, and all the rest, because if you don't take this crazy money, we're going to keep an appointment that we made some months ago with Roger Goodell to discuss with him our strong commitment to putting an NFL team in Fort Worth, Texas. As you can see, it will be hugely well-financed, with a stadium – oh, Jerry, it will not be a stadium like yours – it will be a big stadium, for sure, but it will be one that people will love, a real Texas stadium, like Fort Worth is a real Texas city, like people love the Ballpark at Arlington. It'll be right near downtown -- those city fathers know how to work with businessmen. Maybe we'll swipe Jacksonville or some other lame franchise – maybe we'll argue for expansion. And Roger Goodell will listen, because Texas is a football state, and DFW is a gigantic market with lots and lots of people who have given up their Cowboy season tickets and lost all faith in you, and because major and lesser markets have fielded two NFL teams at once: New York, Bay Area. Crazy money, Jer. You think your fellow owners would never allow it? Think again. Crazy. And when we get that franchise -- don't you doubt us, Jerry, you know who we are -- we are going to treat our fans like royalty and we're going to get the best football people in the country and we're going to have a fracking party every week over in crazy Fort Worth over this team we're going to put together, Jerry. Ground floor fans who don't give a bag of dirt about what your franchise did 20 years ago. And we'll grab your fans, we'll grab your concession dollars, we'll grab your capital appreciation, we'll grab all of it and we will keep grabbing because that is how we got this crazy money in the first place. It won't be hard . Crazy money, Jerry. We got it. We can get more.
Because we're winners.
* * *
A bit melodramatic, perhaps. And with a number of strategic difficulties. But God, that was fun.
Here's my point – we shouldn't assume that no circumstances exist under which Jerry would consider selling the team. You won't know until you try. Until you try, and let it leak that you're trying. And I'm serious about a Fort Worth team.
So here's the plan, Confessors. Send the link to this post to all of your billionaire friends. Let's see, do I know any billionaires, let me think . . .