During Saturday’s win against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, another tradition made its unwelcome presence felt in a blinding way. In the second quarter, Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup failed to catch a ball while being assaulted by the sun’s glare beaming through the stadium’s massive windows. He later acknowledged he couldn't see the ball.
You read that correctly. In a stadium with a retractable roof that reportedly cost $1.3 billion to build just over a decade ago, players fail to make plays because they simply cannot see the ball, and this happens with alarming regularity. So, when Gallup failed to make a catch that would’ve resulted in a touchdown on Saturday afternoon, it was met not with shock from fans and media, but with exasperation.
The biggest problem here isn’t the way in which the gargantuan stadium sits with its windows on each end facing east and west, or the fact that there are large curtains available to block the sun’s troublesome glare going unused. The problem is that team owner Jerry Jones refuses to acknowledge there’s a problem to begin with.
Jones has always been a lust-filled advocate for the stadium's many modern amenities and the fancy artwork his wife, Gene Jones, has installed in the interior of what is often called “Jerry World.” He’s not in a hurry to allow that there might be room for even the simplest improvement.
Because he might be the most media-available owner in pro sports, Jones has been asked about this rather glaring problem before. For some reason, the issue barely seems to register on his radar in any discernible way. When asked about this sun-fueled controversy by 105.3 The Fan in January 2022, the owner said the topic was “about 10,000th on my list of things to worry about.”
That was following one of the more disappointing defeats in recent team memory when the Cowboys lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the playoffs. A vital drive just before halftime was thwarted by sunshine in the face of receiver Cedrick Wilson, who said after the game, ““It’s one of those things you can’t do anything about. I turned around and couldn’t see [quarterback] Dak [Prescott] or the ball.”
Following the most recent sunny intrusion on Christmas Eve, Jones was again dismissive of the problem on his regular radio appearance, saying, “The sun was there for both teams. So, both teams have to look for it. But we’ve got about 30 coaches, we’ve got a lot of people, and they’ve got assistants. You don’t have any lack of people out there that can tell you where that sun is. So, everybody knows where the sun is on both sides of the ball.”
Naturally, some of the biggest voices in North Texas talk radio have more to say about the sun-drenched field than the owner does. George Dunham, co-host of the Dunham and Miller morning show on 1310 The Ticket, wishes someone other than the media got in the owner’s ear about it.
"It’s as if there’s a part of the field where a giant alligator lives, and every once in a while it’ll randomly jump out and attack a player." – Ben Rogers, 97.1 The Freak
“I know that coaches worry about everything,” he says. “And I guarantee you [head coach] Mike McCarthy is bothered by this. I wish he would say something. How can you say everything you do is all about winning the game and have this thing that hurts the game? We know that Jerry [Jones] is stubborn, and him digging in like this is like how he won’t name [vice president of player personnel] Will McClay as the G.M. even though we all know he should be.”
In a September 2016 game against the New York Giants, disruptive sunlight was cited as the reason Cowboys receivers dropped at least three passes in the crucial final few minutes of the game the home team lost by a score of 20–19. Legendary Cowboys tight end Jason Witten dropped two passes in the sun in the final moments of the loss and admitted afterwards the unwelcome light played a factor.
But not Jones. The owner didn't see much of an issue back then, telling reporters after the game, "I thought the sun was pretty good out there today, really, relative to coming in from the east.''
Ben Rogers of the Ben & Skin show on 97.1 The Freak is also incredulous when it comes to Jones' unwillingness to admit there’s a glare problem.
“It’s as if there’s a part of the field where a giant alligator lives,” he says. “And every once in a while it’ll randomly jump out and attack a player. But Jerry, stuck on pretending his stadium is perfect, is too damn stubborn to admit that alligators exist.”
During a November 2017 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs, former star receiver Dez Bryant lost a couple of passes in the sun. After the game, he didn’t waste time identifying the problem, saying, "The sun really is that big a deal. I was going across as I was going up. The ball caught the light and I lost it a little bit. I told coach, 'Hey, man, there's nothing I can do about that one.'"
Sun shining bright at Cowboys stadium today. pic.twitter.com/rhZleGZQ0Q— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 24, 2016
Bryant reportedly added that he had brought his concerns to Jones personally. How seriously Jones took the player's complaint is evident in how little has been done about it in the years since. It’s worth repeating here that simply placing curtains on the windows is an option.
In 2018, curtains were placed over the stadium windows when the NFL draft took place on the field. According to Dave Lane of 1310’s The Hardline program, those curtains are probably just getting in the way of what the owner treasures the most — the stadium’s general beauty.
“Gene doesn't want curtains to obscure her artwork,” Lane says. “So Jerry has to cling to the flimsy excuse that he planned for future development to block the sun. As if a skyscraper is going to go up across from the Walmart on Collins Street. I guess we need Dak to be permanently blinded during the NFC championship game for anything to change.”