Of all the delusional missteps that Owner Jones has taken in the Dallas Cowboys’ post-Jimmy Johnson years, few can rival the leap of faith that Jerry made following the 2009 season.
The 11-5 Cowboys had won the NFC East and swamped Philadelphia 34-14 in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
But in an ear-ringing setting the next week at Minnesota, Jones’ team was routed 34-3. The Cowboys went home; the Vikings went on to the NFC Championship Game in New Orleans.
Months and minicamps passed, and soon there was Owner Jones at the microphone in San Antonio, giving his traditional State of the Cowboys training camp speech.
The Super Bowl was going to be played in Jones’ new stadium at the end of the 2010 season, and Jerry felt it was his and the Cowboys’ destinies to be there.
As Jones saw it, “We have some players on this team who knocked on the door of the Super Bowl, and they’re going to play major roles for this team.
“I know they don’t need to be reminded that close doesn’t count.”
Close? Knocked on the door?
The Vikings had overwhelmed the Cowboys in January 2010 by 31 points, and as I recall, the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
Yet, Owner Jones somehow chose to view the 2009 season champagne glass as nearly full, rather than half-empty.
The Cowboys actually had a productive draft that spring, selecting Dez Bryant and Sean Lee. But in the fourth round, they took defensive back Akwasi Owusu-Ansah — seven spots before the Seattle Seahawks drafted strong safety Kam Chancellor.
They stood pat — Jones said they were “close,” remember? — and left the running game in the hands of Felix Jones and Marion Barber. The defensive starters in that 2010 season included Igor Olshansky, Keith Brooking and Alan Ball.
We all know how that turned out. The Cowboys began the season 1-7, quarterback Tony Romo got hurt and head coach Wade Phillips went from “knocking on the door” to vacating his Valley Ranch office.
The Cowboys have been frozen in 8-8 mediocrity ever since.
It was somewhat frivolously pointed out during Super Bowl week that the Cowboys were the last team to beat the Seahawks soundly — a 23-13 victory in the eighth game of the 2011 season.
Hopefully, Jones missed that little trivia nugget. Cowboys fans wouldn’t want Jerry thinking he heard another knock at the Super Bowl door.
More accurately, as we sat in slack-jawed amazement at the Seahawks’ total domination of the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, we couldn’t help but wonder. Just how close are the Cowboys now, four years after Owner Jones had pronounced them Super Bowl contenders?
Just how many current Cowboys could start for the NFL champions, if Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had the pick of Jones’ litter?
Three, maybe four? And that’s even trying to be generous.
The Seahawks certainly could use receiver Bryant to enhance their passing game. But as nice a season as running back DeMarco Murray had, Carroll and Seattle undoubtedly would prefer Marshawn Lynch.
The Cowboys’ Jason Witten remains one of the NFC’s top tight ends, but Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin is six years younger.
Romo, 33 and coming off back surgery, over Russell Wilson? Not a chance.
Offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick had solid seasons for the Cowboys, but the Seahawks probably aren’t going to swap them for Russell Okung and Max Unger.
Defense? Jason Hatcher definitely could fit into Carroll’s line rotation. But with Jones’ salary cap squeeze, who’s to say that free agent Hatcher won’t, in fact, be playing in Seattle next season?
Linebacker Sean Lee, when healthy, is the Cowboys’ best defensive starter. He likely would be an upgrade over Bobby Wagner for Seattle.
But sadly, that’s about it. The chasm between the Cowboys and the reigning Super Bowl champions is at least 17-18 starters wide.
Remember that nugget in July when Owner Jones gives his next State of the Cowboys address.
Jerry hears knocks on the door. Too bad he can’t hear the franchise’s clock ticking.