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With Jerry Jones Still at the Helm, Cowboys Remain Their Own Worst Enemy

The Dallas Cowboys are 6-2 and sitting alone atop the NFC East. For the first time in what seems like forever, the Cowboys are not just keeping their collective head above water at midseason, they’re actually competing at a very high level every week—looking downright unstoppable at times.

Yet for some reason, something doesn’t seem quite right in Dallas. So far no team in the league has been able to slow the roll of running back DeMarco Murray, who has been on a record-breaking tear, but a few internal speed bumps popped up this week, which could threaten the promising season—one new, one omnipresent.

The lesser of the two being the situation between wide receiver Dez Bryant and running back Joseph Randle; the two argued on the practice field Friday, just as the media arrived.

Neither Bryant or Randle would comment on the source of the tensions, nor would any of their teammates, but a source within the organization said it was about a comment Randle made when he was arrested for shoplifting underwear and cologne from the Stonebriar Centre Mall on Oct. 13.

“Dez didn’t miss no games for slapping his mama,” Randle was caught on video saying at the time of his booking. He was referring to an incident from July 2012 in which Bryant was charged with misdemeanor family assault for striking his mother. The charge was eventually dismissed.

Randle also mentioned nose tackle Josh Brent, who was convicted of vehicular manslaughter stemming from a 2012 car accident that caused the death of teammate Jerry Brown. “Josh Brent, he’s still up in the locker room. He was driving drunk. That’s stupid,” Randle said.

As if the stupidity of Brent’s drunk driving somehow diminishes the stupidity of an NFL player shoplifting items at a mall he could very easily afford to buy.

The team, understandably, tried to downplay the incident.

“There’s fiery guys, things happen all the time. It just so happened that you guys were out there for a little bit of it. All that’s handled and we’ll movie forward,” said tight end Jason Witten, always the diplomat.

Bryant himself added, “It’s all good, it’s alright, you know. That’s ain’t no big deal. We’re trying to get on these Arizona Cardinals.”

Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden, who played with both Bryant and Randle at Oklahoma State, insists the bickering goes way back. “They’re always arguing about something. I’ve seen them fight over who is better, Jordan or Kobe. … I’ve been around them, so nothing surprises me.”

Of course, maybe this really is much ‘ado about nothing. After all, drama is like oxygen in Big-D.

The Bryant-Randle tiff certainly pales in comparison to the Cowboys’ biggest internal obstacle—the menacing presence of owner/general manager Jerry Jones, who obviously loves the spotlight that comes along with success more than the success itself.

In the days leading up to their Monday night face-off against the Washington Redskins, a promo for the game featuring the Kid Rock song “Cowboy” played approximately every two minutes on ESPN. Jones was the biggest star of the spot, with his smirking mug upstaging every cheerleader, mascot and player on the field.

[See the entire MNF spot here]

Can you even imagine a Rooney or a Mara agreeing to something like that—let alone being desperate for it? No. You cannot.

Jones’ spotlight carried right through into the game, as it always does, with his instant reaction shots being the punctuation on any big play—either for or against the Cowboys.In the third quarter the game actually took a backseat to Jones himself, who was interviewed at length by Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden, who paused intermittently to acknowledge that a football game was, in fact, being played.

That’s all par for the course in Jerry World, but what happened next took Jones’ hands-on ownership approach to a whole new level. It happened not long after an injury suffered by quarterback Tony Romo, who, after laying on the field for an alarmingly long amount of time, headed to the locker room for tests.

Romo’s exit left the reigns of an incredibly tight game in the hands of backup Brandon Weeden, a former second round pick who wasn’t good enough to earn a roster spot with the Cleveland Browns after two seasons, who signed with Dallas in the offseason.

In the face of circumstances no coach wants to be faced with, Jason Garrett wasn’t rattled—at least not initially. Weeden was effective enough to lead the Cowboys potent offense, driving them down the field on two scoring drives, the second of which was a touchdown drive that tied the game 17-17.

Enter Jerry Jones, in full-on panic mode to ruin everything.

With the surprisingly competitive game stealing attention from his overreactions in the owner’s box, Jones headed down to the locker room to personally assess Romo’s injury situation. Quickly determining there was nothing to be concerned about, despite the QB’s offseason back surgery, he then scurried out to the sideline in a tizzy to inform Garrett that Romo was cleared to return.

Once again neutered by ownership, Garrett had no choice in the matter but to yield to the demands of Romo, who began arguing to be put back in the game the moment he returned to the sideline. No matter that Dallas had just scored more points on two drives with Weeden than almost three quarters with Romo, who was getting steamrolled by a suddenly formidable Washington pass rush,

In the end, Jones and Romo both got exactly what they wanted. And the Redskins got the win.

Suddenly the outlook on Dallas has shifted dramatically. One week ago they were sitting pretty at 6-1, two weeks removed from a signature win against the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks on the road, which legitimized a Cowboys team known mostly over the last decade for chronically underachieving.

Locker room strife becoming public is never a good sign, especially when coupled in the same week with a brutal divisional loss on a national stage. But the real problem remains Jones, same as it ever was.

Any thought that Jones’ penchant for meddling and micromanaging was symptomatic of failures in Dallas is officially dashed. This is the best start to a season the Cowboys have had since 2007, and yet Jones is as visible and hands-on as he’s ever been. Perhaps even more so.

That’s the worst possible news for Cowboys fans, because Jones, despite his best intentions, has proven himself time and time again an ineffective GM. He’s overemotional, prone to knee-jerk reactions, and his looming presence doesn’t just hinder the coaching staff, it’s a constant distraction.

The circus never comes to Dallas—it just exists there. And if the Cowboys are the NFL’s Barnum & Bailey and Ringling Bros. rolled into one, then Jones is their flashy, yet incompetent, ringmaster. He’s all style and no substance, existing for the sole purpose of stealing the spotlight from the real performers and feeding his own celebrity.

Jones’ drive to succeed is enormous, perhaps dwarfed only by his own narcissism and ego. The success of the Dallas Cowboys means everything to Jerry Jones, but he remains inexplicably blind to the role he’s played, and continues to play, in their failures.

And until Jones finally sees the light—or walks into it—the Cowboys are never going to be the championship franchise Dallas dreams of. At best they’ll be over-achievers waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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