Mac Engel

The Waiting is ruining the Cowboys’ season

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks to Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott before a game against the San Francisco 49ers. Both men are battling image problems this season.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks to Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott before a game against the San Francisco 49ers. Both men are battling image problems this season. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

We are not quite at the halfway point of the 2017 season yet all the textures, colors, strokes and hues are there for another 8-8 Jason Garrett masterpiece.

The owner, even though he doggedly tries to avoid any political controversy, is up to his chiny-chin-chin in red, white and blue paint, and actually not running this show. Every time Jerry Jones tries to duck Trump talk, a sentence or two trickles out to bring him back to the place where he doesn’t want to be.

Dr. Seuss calls it “The Waiting Place.”

The Cowboys, and Ezekiel Elliott, are waiting (again) for a judge to judge and for their best wide receiver to receive, all while Jerry waits for a league and a society to finally agree on what to do about the kneelers who kneel.

This, the year Jerry Jones went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was not supposed to be this way. But instead of returning to the playoffs, he is stuck in the muck, partly of his own creation, with a team burdened by noise.

The latest bad news for Jerry came from a detailed ESPN report during the Oct. 18 NFL owner’s meeting with a handful of players about this “protest crisis.”

According to the report, Jerry tried to control the room and force the league, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, to adopt his preference to mandate that players take their protest somewhere other than the sidelines.

Per the report, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder said, “See, Jones gets it — 96 percent of Americans are for guys standing.”

When Dan Snyder agrees with you, maybe it’s time to re-think your position.

Little Danny Snyder’s figure is exaggerated but the point is the point; Jones wants to do nothing with a position that will slow cash flow.

Then Houston Texans owner Bob McNair completed a belly flop into the deep end of the Pool of Politically Incorrect when he told the room, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.”

Oh, Bob, no, no, no.

First of all, the cliché is ‘inmates running the asylum.’ And, secondly, you are an old white guy who pays a largely African American roster that is on edge these days about racial inequality.

This is the crowd Jerry linked himself with, arm in arm, not his players.

There exists a genuine disagreement about how to appease and accommodate both sides, because on this there is no gray; it’s not black and white, it’s black or white.

Jerry’s position might be financially prudent, but it has a price. This stance has sullied the reputation of a man who has been beloved by his players because he always stands up for them, regardless of circumstance.

There are players, both current and past, who now view him differently, even though his language suggests that standing for the flag is just an act.

When he said, “Create the perception” of honoring the flag, that does not imply the act of standing at attention is sincere. He’s telling his employees, white or black, to honor the wishes of the paying customers.

These latest developments don’t lead directly to a Cowboys’ loss, but they don’t help a locker room that doesn’t need the distraction.

Then there is the matter of Zeke, who might know his fate on Monday evening when a New York judge rules if the NFL can proceed with its desired six-game suspension of him.

In talking to a pair of lawyers this week, one local and the other national, the consensus is that Zeke will be eligible for the remainder of the season. That doesn’t mean he’s done waiting.

“Following Monday’s hearing, I expect the judge will grant Elliott a permanent injunction, which is a hold on the NFL suspension until the court has a chance to hear and decide the case,” said Amy Dash, who serves as a legal analyst for CBS Sports, WFAN and has tracked this case from Day 1. “I think Elliott has a high chance [to see the suspension lifted completely] by a court on grounds that the arbitration process was unfair.”

Her reasoning is that Elliott’s defense team was never allowed to cross-examine his accuser, or question Goodell. And, finally, that Zeke didn’t have access to the notes and conclusions of one of the NFL’s lead investigators.

“There was evidence suggesting the NFL executives may have tried to hide that evidence, which could also help make the process unfair,” Dash said.

Fort Worth-based criminal lawyer Justin Sparks has followed the Zeke case and estimates that the NFL is going to stick to its demand of a six-game suspension, and despite the flaws in the case and the logic of the ruling, that the suspension will eventually be served in 2018.

“It’s a matter of time. This is the Tom Brady deal,” Sparks said referencing the New England Patriots quarterback who fought the Deflate-gate ruling of a four-game suspension in 2015 that was eventually served it in 2016. “The way the language is in the collective bargaining agreement, [Zeke] is almost powerless.”

Neither of these situations is good for the Dallas Cowboys, because neither set of circumstances is healthy for a team that expected to be in the playoffs.

Neither situation is over, which means more time spent in The Waiting Place.

And, as we all know, per the brilliance of the late great Tom Petty, “The Waiting is the hardest part.”

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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