If Jones—the enduring face of the franchise—can't embrace the Super Bowl, he'll settle for embracing the spotlight.
In the locker room following his team's abhorrent 44-6 season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles back on December 28, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones promised abrupt philosophical and tangible changes. Though stubbornly retaining head coach Wade Phillips, in the immediate wake of Super Bowl aspirations kerplunking into 9-7 humiliation, Jones vowed to drastically alter the way his franchise conducts its business.
More accountability. Stricter discipline. Harder practices. Less bullshit.
All crafted from the friendly confines of a, um, woodshed?
"Where do we go from here?" Jones said, repeating the question. "Everyone, starting here, with me, goes to the woodshed. Everybody goes to the woodshed. Everyone."
The firing of special teams coach Bruce Read and the release of Pacman Jones instantly breathed life into a possible new-and-improved Cowboys. But now—five weeks, two reality shows, one rap video, an arrest and a very curious birthday party guest list into the offseason—the extreme makeover is well on its way to being a colossal flop.
Despite their proposed commitment to change along a unified front, the Cowboys merely have varying interpretations of Jones' notion of a woodshed:
Ken Hamlin emerged from the woodshed thinking it was a good idea to throw himself a birthday party including ice sculptures, criminal rappers and Pacman Jones. The same week that teammate Martellus Bennett was fined by the Cowboys for an offensive rap video, Hamlin held his birthday party at the American Airlines Center's Platinum Club. Tons of Grey Goose vodka. Four—FOUR—ice sculptures in the shape of "K.H." And on the guest list: Rapper Lil Wayne, arrested three times since 2007, and Pacman, cut by the Cowboys last month and fresh off a stint in alcohol rehab and the re-opening of a criminal investigation examining his possible role in an Atlanta nightclub shooting. You can't fine a player for not being picky with his posse, but Hamlin was the unblocked safety who missed two open-field tackles on Ravens runners in the December loss to Baltimore that kept his team out of the playoffs. Wouldn't you like to see him spending more time this offseason around tackling dummies and less around dummies?
Martellus Bennett emerged from the woodshed thinking it was a good idea to record and release a video of his alter ego—Marty B—wearing a Cowboys' helmet and rapping offensive lyrics about blacks and gays. (Cool, who knew "Romo" rhymed with "homo"?) Within 24 hours, Bennett was fined one game check ($22,000), and the video was removed from YouTube and replaced by Bennett's rapping apology. (Cool, who knew "wrong" rhymed with "song"?)
Anthony Spencer emerged from the woodshed thinking it was a good idea to get arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct in Indianapolis. If Bennett was fined for rapping, wonder what the punishment will be for a player who actually broke the law?
Tony Romo emerged from the woodshed thinking it was a good idea to shrug off his failure while shacking up with a BBW. A couple weeks after downplaying the loss to the Eagles and a couple weeks before Jessica Simpson debuted her fuh-fuh-fuller figure, Romo told a Wisconsin newspaper, "If I'm never going to win the Super Bowl, I'll be content in life." He's since reiterated his desire to win, but Annie Romo's "sun'll come up tomorrow" act only perpetuates his status as the NFL's Matthew McConaughey: famously talented, laughably unaccomplished.
Greg Ellis emerged from the woodshed thinking it was a good idea to commence his annual bitchfest. The linebacker, who in recent years has complained about his position, his role and his contract, is back to the bit about his role. "This team looks to me for leadership," Ellis said last week. "But it's hard for me to be a leader when I spend most of my time on the sideline." The Cowboys will remain fatally flawed as long as Ellis and Terrell Owens are team captains.
Terrell Owens emerged from the woodshed thinking it was a good idea to deflect attention from his declining skills with a reality show on VH1. The Terrell Owens Project will show the two sides of Owens. Let me guess, the lousy, lazy route-runner? The horrible hands? The claim he was double-teamed when, in fact, he wasn't double-teamed? The ego that thinks because he can do 100 crunches he hasn't lost a step? Wait, that's more than two sides.
Roy Williams emerged from the woodshed thinking it was a good idea to eschew working on his abysmal route-running to complain about the routes he's asked to run. Last week at the Super Bowl in Tampa, Williams told everyone that the 0-16 Detroit Lions practice harder than the Cowboys and that he was—surprise!—under-utilized. "I'm a coachable wide receiver," Williams said. "I'll run what I'm supposed to run. And I'll continue to have the cornerbacks ask me, 'Why do they got you running this same thing over and over again?'" Anyone who remembers the Eagles game knows Williams should perfect 2 + 2 before he attempts to graduate to algebra.
Jerry Jones emerged from the woodshed thinking it was a good idea to remain wholly unchanged.
He fired defensive coordinator Brian Stewart and is flirting with the idea of hiring Dan Reeves as a consultant. But we both know those transactions would be so much window dressing. The defense will still belong to Phillips and the final voice will always remain with Jones.
The troubling aspect of Jones' offseason isn't his words, but his actions. His silence is refreshing, lending credence to the notion that he's holed up at Valley Ranch swapping out glitz for guts. But, alas, Jerry Jones will always be Jerry Jones.
Last month a photo of Jones at singer John Legend's after-party appeared on D magazine's Web site. It showed the owner wearing a smile and a shirt with a few too many buttons undone, looking more like a man in a Vegas lounge act than one in deep introspection.
And there's former Cowboy Michael Irvin's new reality TV show, set for this spring on Spike TV. The show, which received Jerry's blessing, will culminate in a no-name player being given a roster spot during the Cowboys' training camp in San Antonio. The first open tryout/casting call is Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Velocity Sports Performance on Central Expressway.
Last summer: Hard Knocks. This summer: Desperate for Attention.
If Jones—the enduring face of the franchise—can't embrace the Super Bowl, he'll settle for embracing the spotlight. Unfortunately, for 12 seasons the two have proven mutually exclusive.
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Cowboys fans would like to hear about remorse, resolve, repentance and re-dedication. You'd like to think the rap videos, the lavish parties and the reality shows would wait until after the Cowboys accomplish something.
Instead, it's the recurring theme of the Cowboys obsessed with promoting their product more than improving it.
If this offseason's perverted sham of a woodshed proves anything, it's that the Cowboys will roll out the red carpet for ESPN's E:60 or Playboy's Girls Next Door or even Geraldo Rivera's request to open Tom Landry's tomb. Nothing about the last five weeks suggests a switch to substance over style.
Instead of working toward a sixth ring in their trophy case, the Cowboys have merely erected a fourth ring for their circus.