Sports Outside the Beltway

Jerry Jones Wants to Win Now

Clarence Hill of the FWST has an interesting interview with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Sitting on the Cowboys’ bus outside the RCA Dome on Sunday, Jerry Jones paused to reflect on his 17 years as owner of the Cowboys. He has gone from a maverick outsider to one of the most powerful owners in the NFL.

That Jones has changed the league more than the league has changed him is the ironic part of the current stalemate between the NFL and the NFL Players Association over a new labor agreement. The infighting over revenue sharing and the NFLPA’s quest to gain a share of the locally generated money have Jones’ name all over it. “The dynamics of what we’re dealing with in the NFL, we’ve gotten to be a part of a lot of changes in 17 years,” Jones said. “People talk about high revenues, new stadiums, unshared dollars, just from that standpoint, there wasn’t anybody really working that problem in those areas. Now it’s become an issue in a labor agreement. This was not an issue 17 years ago.”

Jones said the league has changed for the better. It is more profitable than it ever was, and he is proud of the role he has played in its growth — even though the recent losing on the field has brought him down a notch from early championship years. The Cowboys have missed the playoffs in five of the past six years and have not won a playoff game since their last Super Bowl title after the 1995 season. “I thought I had my hands around it,” Jones said. “I thought this is pretty simple. And we started off the way we thought we could do it and had success, but it’s been a little harder getting my arms around the last few years.”

But what Jones is most passionate about and what hasn’t changed is his quest to make the Cowboys winners again … and as soon as possible. That was at the root of his decision to give coach Bill Parcells a new contract and a raise in January. Parcells, who led the team to a 25-23 record the past three years, was slated to make $4 million in 2006, the final year of the four-year deal he signed in 2003. He now has a new two-year deal worth $11 million.

While Parcells said he never really considered walking away after last season’s disappointing 9-7 campaign, Jones said it was imperative that he do whatever it took to keep Parcells in the fold. “The alternative to that was not even close,” Jones said. “He gives us the chance to win and win big in the immediate future. I have placed a big emphasis on winning big in the immediate future.” Jones said he has no concerns about talk of Parcells’ future coming up again next season. He said that is par for the course with a coach Parcells’ age. “Could another year of disappointment make a difference here?” Jones asked. “Yes. It takes so much out of him to not be successful.” But right now Jones believes Parcells is as committed as he was when he signed on three years ago. Moreover, Jones said Parcells is excited about the Cowboys and their hopes for next year. Because of that and because the NFL of today allows teams to become big winners overnight, Jones said he can live with Parcells being here on a year-to-year basis. “I am about winning,” Jones said. “Bill Parcells is about winning.”

Getting a new labor agreement would go a long way toward helping the Cowboys become big winners in 2006. Jones would have a lot of flexibility under the salary cap to shore up problem areas if they get a new deal.

Topping the list of priorities is addressing the offensive line. He said the return of left tackle Flozell Adams will help. But Jones also said the Cowboys must address right tackle in the draft or free agency. Rookie Rob Petitti struggled at the position last year and has not proven to be more than a quality backup. Jones said the Cowboys will not sign a big-money tackle in free agency, paving the way for them to possibly draft an offensive lineman in the first round. The Cowboys haven’t taken an offensive player in the first round since drafting tight end David LaFleur in 1997. They haven’t taken an offensive lineman in the first round since Howard Richards in 1981. Jones said the Cowboys are still doing their homework, but he would lean toward taking an offensive player in the first round. And with right tackle as one of “our acute needs” he “wouldn’t hesitate to take an offensive tackle” in the first round if one fell to them at No. 18.

Jones said concerns at right tackle are behind his recent about-face on Jacob Rogers, the second pick from 2004 who has yet to play an offensive snap for the Cowboys. After not getting on the field as a rookie, Rogers was the favorite to win the right tackle job in training camp last year. But that was before he was dogged by shoulder and knee injuries, raising questions about his toughness.

The Cowboys were expected to cut ties with Rogers in August after he went against the club’s advice and underwent microfracture surgery to repair a right knee injury. Jones even called him one of the most disappointing draft picks of his tenure. Rogers was put on injured reserve but spent the year in Arizona rehabbing rather than in Dallas. It was supposedly only a matter of time before he was released. Jones is now looking at Rogers as a possible answer at right tackle, although Jones said doesn’t know if Rogers will be ready to practice before training camp in August. “Need,” Jones said when asked why Rogers is back with the Cowboys. “I want to give us every shot. We’ve got a lot invested in him. I want to give us every shot to get that value, and in that case, it gives him that kind of shot, too.”

In addition to needing help at safety, linebacker and kicker, Jones said the Cowboys would like to improve at receiver. He said those plans don’t include controversial receiver Terrell Owens, who will be released by the Eagles next week. “There are so many issues there that I can’t put that into the equation,” Jones said.

Regarding a kicker, Jones said the Cowboys will depart from their history and pursue a veteran in free agency because playing for Parcells might not be the best place for a rookie kicker. Jones, however, said pursuing top free agents such as Adam Vinatieri and Mike Vanderjagt is unlikely because of their big-money demands.

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