In the aftermath of Thursday’s embarrassing loss to the Chicago Bears, the entire Dallas Cowboys organization has been called into question. One former Cowboy and a commentator from that game, Hall-of-Famer Troy Aikman, could barely hide his frustration with what’s happening in Dallas. Now, Troy’s name has been thrown out as a potential savior for the team if he became the general manager.
I know your immediate reaction to that statement is something to the effect of, “Over Jerry Jones’ dead body.” And while it’s true that Jerry isn’t going to give up the GM title lightly, he has to be wondering if he won’t wind up a dead body before the Cowboys win another Super Bowl.
This notion of Aikman taking over in Dallas was first floated by longtime Cowboys reporter Ed Werder of ESPN:
If Jerry Jones is committed to winning, he should be open-minded and discuss hiring @TroyAikman to run football operation. It’s next thing Aikman wants to do in career. He’s no yes-man, knows successful organizational structure, can share decision-making, bring fan credibility.
On a #Doomsday podcast episode last year, this is @TroyAikman on running a team: “Would that be something I think it’d be interested in? The answer is yes. And I’d take it a step further: I think it’d be something I’d be very good at.
We don’t know if Jerry would have any real interest in hiring Troy. Not only does Jones covet the general manager title but his son Stephen is also a major figure in the front office. There is also Will McClay, who many consider the unofficial GM of the Cowboys, that would have to be factored into the equation.
Bringing Aikman in to take over any of those duties would essentially be an admission of failure by the current administration
But even if the Jones family wanted Troy, would Aikman want to work for them? He has been critical in the past of Jerry’s handling of the team, and was especially vocal this week about how he feels Jones has undermined his coaches.
“I think there’s some organizations that truly would do everything possible to win, they just don’t really know where to begin. And there’s different ways to do it. And I certainly understand that. But in Dallas, Dallas knows how it was done. I know how it was done. It was done with a really strong head coach who the players knew that that’s who they had to answer to.”
Clearly, if Aikman were to return to the Cowboys in an executive role, it would have to be with an understanding of where Jerry’s influence begins and ends.
Jones is capable of agreeing to such an arrangement, having reached one with Bill Parcells back in 2003. But how long he stuck to it is another point of contest, though Parcells has never blamed Jerry for why he left the Cowboys four years later.
Even if Jerry and Troy could reach an understanding, there’s also the question of if Aikman would even be good at the job. He has been in broadcasting since his retirement in 2001.
Comparatively, John Elway was involved in team management with the Arena Football League for years before he took over the Denver Broncos in 2011. Ozzie Newsome immediately moved into the Browns’ front office after he retired as a player.
The success of players-turned-executives in sports is as unpredictable as the NFL Draft. For every Elway or Newsome there’s a Matt Millen or Bart Starr. The post-playing success of Jerry West in the NBA led to many failed experiments with the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, as Isaiah Thomas.
Most hirings are a leap of faith, no matter how much you believe in someone’s potential. But would Jerry Jones believe enough in Troy Aikman, or anyone else for that matter, to give over true team management duties and become strictly the Cowboys owner? And would Aikman trust Jerry enough to take the gamble on working for him?
If you think Troy returning to Dallas would be another “yes man” situation between Jerry Jones and a subordinate, then you don’t know Aikman.
Unlike some of his former Cowboys teammates, Troy has kept a distance from the team since retiring. It has felt strategic at times; wanting to preserve his credibility has a broadcaster by maintaining the appearance of objectivity.
If anything, Aikman has been extra critical of Dallas since joining the media. Many fans have noted Troy’s lack of enthusiasm when discussing the Cowboys while covering their games.
It was also telling that Troy, as opposed to Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, or Larry Allen, did not have Jerry Jones introduce him at his Hall of Fame enshrinement. He instead chose Norv Turner, his offensive coordinator in Dallas and a member of Jimmy Johnson’s coaching braintrust.
This isn’t to say that Aikman has any ill feelings towards the Cowboys or the Joneses. But it does speak to the fact that Troy will be his own man.
I have no doubt that Aikmanis passionate about seeing Dallas return to its past glory. It came through Thursday night and in comments the next day; Troy’s visible frustration spoke to the connection he still feels with the Cowboys.
Could the desire to see the Dallas Cowboys winning championships again bring Troy Aikman home? And would that same desire allow Jerry Jones to finally put aside ego for the sake of winning?
This may be just a fantasy. But if Jerry doesn’t make a change soon, so will be seeing Dallas back in the Super Bowl.