Lord, help him

In Chan Gailey, Jerry Jones has God, the shotgun, and, maybe, a little Tom Landry

"I remember the penalty-lap days and why they existed," says Newhouse, the Cowboys' second-round pick in 1972. "I was even listening to some of the play calls--the signals, the movement, the counts--and I can see a lot of what we did back when I was playing."

To Newhouse--who, along with Calvin Hill, was brought in by Jones to help keep the players in line during the days when a few Cowboys were snorting up the 20-yard-line--training camp is less about conditioning than it is about how to play as a cohesive unit. It's where players find out whom they can trust between the hash marks; it's where rookies become men, where veterans become boys, and where last year's losers beat themselves into believing they're this year's champions. Newhouse says there's no comparing Switzer's and Gailey's camps: The difference, he says, is "night and day."

"People have their own opinions of last year," Newhouse says. "I think it was just the attitude of the players. Now, there's a lot of reasons players have attitudes, let's face it. I mean, it could be the system or whatever. But there was a lot of disarray at the top. Barry delegated authority to his assistants, and they couldn't get the best out of the players. Why not? Well, we could talk all day about why not. But now, I see a lot of respect and a lot of discipline and a lot of concentration. Everybody's thinking about football and getting the job done."

So why in God's name did it take so long?
Jones rode out the 1997 season with Barry because Jerry believed in him, right up to the final seconds of the 20-7 home loss against the New York Giants on December 21. Jones was deranged enough to believe that Barry and the Boys were somehow going to turn the Titanic right-side-up and sail it into Port Qualcomm in San Diego. He says so even now.

"The reason I didn't make a change before the end of last season was, we were winnin' Super Bowls," he says, grinning like he always does before he gets going. "Seriously. Let's just take the four years with Switzer. We were in the championship, quarters away from going to the Super Bowl. The next year, we win the Super Bowl. The next year, we're in the playoff game with the next stop being the championship game. I didn't see anything that said we needed to make a change.

"We were changing--we changed different personnel and different things, and obviously circumstances changed with people retiring [Charles Haley and Jay Novacek] and getting injured. After we got beat by Carolina [in the divisional playoff game on January 5, 1997], I thought, 'Well, I wonder if the score would have been different if Michael Irvin, Leon Lett, a healthier Emmitt Smith, and Deion Sanders had been on the field.'

"Now, had I known the kind of year we were gonna have last year, if I roll the clock back, in hindsight you might wanna make a change. But going into last year, I didn't think we needed to make a change."

Jones talks about being "very disappointed" with the 1997 season, but insists he did not see the world collapsing around him with the same clarity bestowed upon everyone else in the rational world. As far as he was concerned, the Cowboys were in the playoff hunt even after the humiliating 28-point loss to Green Bay on November 23 and the 27-14 debacle against the Tennessee Oilers on Thanksgiving Day--two of the final five defeats that would close the book on the Bootlegger's Boy in Dallas. Bless him--Jones is blinded by either giddy optimism or utter madness. Or both. With him, it's a fine line.

"If we win the last two or three games, we're in the hunt, we go to the playoffs, we got Aikman and a team that's three games away from a Super Bowl, and we know how to get there, because we've done it," he says. "I didn't see being locked out of the dance till we were locked out, and I didn't accept it. I didn't feel it goin' on during the year, but after it was over with, I looked back, and I said, 'How in the world?'"

His search for Switzer's replacement took months, and it was all a tease. He paraded Terry Donahue, George Seifert, and Sherman Lewis before the media like a man running a shell game--pick a card, any card, and it will be the wrong one. In the end, he hired Gailey--former offensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos, and a man who was exiled from the National Football League during the early '90s, coaching in the World League and at something called Samford University.

Jones says the process of finding and hiring a head coach was more difficult than his decision to buy the team; one more buddy hire, and Jones would forever be a laughingstock. "I worked harder on it than buying the football team, because I wanted to do a good job," he says. "My experience in hiring the head football coach, up until last year, was easy. If they were a teammate of mine, they got the job."

He laughs, then gets in his golf cart and drives off into the sunset. For now, Jerry has God on his side.

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