It’s not often we get complete candor from NFL Team executives. Usually there’s a positive spin put on most situations, or simply the avoidance of a tough subject. However, in a recent press conference, Stephen Jones made about as honest a statement about the Cowboys’ relationship with their fans as you’ll ever hear.
When asked if he’s worried that there is a generation of Cowboys fans who don’t remember the team from its championship years, Jones said:
“I mean, I’m worried every day that we don’t get a championship. You worry about that all the time. That’s why we’re very aggressive in trying to get there. It’s just not acceptable in our minds that we haven’t been able to win a championship in so long. I do worry about that. I worry about that all the time.”
Jones’ concern was not just in losing the current and future generations. He also expressed worry about the state of older, longtime fans.
“I worry about that with older fans, that they finally say, ‘We’re done…’ That’s why we try to do everything we can to show respect to our fans, to do things that I think are good things that our fans think are good things for our team. But at the end of the day, as I said, it’s all about the game and it’s all about winning a championship, and we got to get that done.”
Now, the cynical among you will argue that this is a business perspective and not about any real love or concern for the fans. If the Cowboys’ popularity drops then so does the franchise’s income.
There is some truth to that, of course, but the Cowboys’ success is also a very personal thing for Stephen and Jerry Jones. It’s a testament to their football acumen and management skills. They have lived in the shadow of Jimmy Johnson and want to change the narrative that the Jones family can’t build a winner without help.
It has been two decades since the Cowboys last won or even appeared in a Super Bowl. During that stretch they have eight playoff appearances out of twenty seasons. They are 3-8 in playoff games and have not advanced past the second round. They have 162-158 regular season record (50.6%) in the last 20 years.
Things could be worse, of course. In the 17 years since they were reformed in Cleveland, the Brown have one playoff appearance and a 83-189 record (30%) in the regular season.
Obviously, comparing a franchise like the Dallas Cowboys to an expansion team has plenty of room for erroneous reasoning. However, when it’s the team you love than any degree of failure can feel like the absolute worst.
In some ways, the constant flirting with success can be even more frustrating. Browns fans have been beaten down to the point of near hopelessness. Cowboys fans are constantly thinking that the next season will be the one that they get back to the mountain top. The difference in expectation and results leads to far greater disappointment.
Stephen Jones’ worry is valid. How long can a team be perennially disappointing without losing support?
As the most valuable franchise in all of sports (per Forbes), the Cowboys don’t have to worry about money for a long time. Stephen’s comments are not about finances but about the legacy of the team and, yes, the fans who represent their national appeal. The Jones don’t want to lose either.
One thing the Jones can take comfort in is that it may only take one season to make up for the last twenty. A recent Twitter poll showed how much a single Super Bowl win can make up for years of disappointment:
Which is better?
Obviously, the Cowboys have done much better than 3-13 most seasons. But as we said earlier, that can make things all the more frustrating. Some teams can’t even see the hump in front of them, let alone get over it. Dallas always feels like they have one leg over and just can’t make that last little push.
Still, 2016 is yet another season when all things seem possible. Hope springs eternal among Cowboys Nation and we think anything can happen as long as key players stay healthy.
As Stephen Jones wonders, will that hope ever dry up?
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