For years, Stephen Jones has been held up as the lone voice of reason in the circus that has surrounded the Dallas Cowboys and P.T. Barnum owner Jerry Jones.
The practical and seemingly even-keeled son represented hope for the future that one day the Cowboys would be more about the business of football and less about the sideshow.
Remember, it was son Stephen who convinced Jerry to unceremoniously fire Terrell Owens.
And the story goes from insiders that if you want something done, you had to get to Stephen and get him on your side so he could plant the seed with Jerry.
It appears now that we were only fooling ourselves.
The old saying about the apple never falling far from the tree remains true.
Outside of smiling for the cameras and having a few brief remarks during the announcement of a new corporate sponsor, Jerry Jones did not give any media interviews during the minicamp this week.
Thus, he did nothing to publicly undermine Coach Process, aka, Jason Garrett and his one-practice-at-a-time, one-game-at-a-time approach to the coming season.
No, it wasn’t Jerry. It was Stephen who turned into Jerry Jr. — and we are not talking about the youngest of the Jones boys — by invoking championship talk on the final day of minicamp.
Stephen Jones started by saying, “We put a team together we think can compete for a championship.”
Well, that’s one thing.
He ended by saying, “I feel like we have the players that can win a championship. We have confidence that this team will win a championship.”
That’s downright Jerry Jones-like hyperbole.
Remember, this is a Cowboys team that has not won a championship since 1995. Remember, this is a Cowboys team that has only won one playoff game since 1996 and has a middling 104-104 regular-season record from 2000-2012.
This is a Cowboys team that has missed the playoffs the past three years with a combined record of 22-26.
Also keep in mind that not only would the Cowboys have to overcome their own mediocre history of late to make a run for a title, they would have to do something that has never been done before.
No quarterback has ever missed the entire off-season program and minicamp and led his team to the Super Bowl, which would be the case if the Cowboys and Tony Romo went that far in 2013.
Brett Favre came the closest, not only missing OTAs, but minicamp, all of training camp and the first preseason game before signing with the Minnesota Vikings in 2009, the season that ended with the NFC title loss at New Orleans.
But of course, Favre had a few MVPs and a Super Bowl title already on his résumé at the time. Romo has one playoff win.
But let’s not digress.
Certainly, the devil is in the details to a certain extent with Stephen Jones. His criteria of competing for a championship seems to be quite different from the organization that won three Super Bowl titles in 1990s and was named the team of the decade.
He believes competing for a title is defined as getting into the playoffs, considering the way the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens each went from the wild-card round to Super Bowl champs in the past three years.
“The last three teams that won championships barely got into the playoffs and did something about it,” Jones said. “You’re probably not being realistic if you don’t think things have changed in the last 10 years. There are probably a lot of people who feel they have a chance to win a championship based on the level playing field and how the cap has affected the game. We feel like we have an opportunity to compete for a championship.”
It’s also not lost on Jones that the Cowboys were one game away from making the playoffs in each of the past two years.
He says the Cowboys made changes in the off-season to get over in the hump in 2013, including the overhauling of the coaching staff and changing systems on offense and defense, as well as hiring a new special teams coach.
Combine all that with the return to health of several key starters from a year ago and Jones believes the Cowboys have what it takes to finally compete for a title this year.
“We need to stay healthy,” Jones said. “We think we’ve got good football players. We think we have improved our team this year. We feel like we have systems in place that better fit our personnel on both sides of the ball. We’ve got a new special teams coach, and we expect to get better there. I feel like the teams that won championships, we can compete with them and were right there competing with them, maybe without a full deck.”
Still, these are all things Cowboys fans have heard before. They were told championships would return when the team hired Bill Parcells. Then the change to Wade Phillips was supposed to make the difference, which morphed into Garrett being the key.
So I asked Stephen what he bases his belief on that this team can do it after the recent failures. And I was floored by his answer.
“The same reason when we didn’t get it done in 1994, I believed we could get it done in 1995,” Jones said matter-of-factly.
Let me get this straight.
We are comparing belief in the 2013 Cowboys, who have never accomplished anything of note and couldn’t make a major free-agent addition because of salary cap problems, to the 1995 team, which featured five Hall of Famers, had already won two Super Bowl titles, acquired the biggest free-agent acquisition in the history of the league in Deion Sanders and had the reigning league MVP in Emmitt Smith.
Yep, the son and the father are one and the same.