Does the Cowboys’ culture need to change for them to succeed? | You Pod to Win the Game

Yahoo Sports’ Senior NFL Writer Charles Robinson and USA Today’s Dallas Cowboys’ writer Jori Epstein discuss the stubbornness of owner Jerry Jones and how that stubbornness leads to a culture that may not be the best for producing championship teams. Hear the full conversation on the You Pod to Win the Game podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen.

Video transcript

CHARLES ROBINSON: Does the culture need to fundamentally change for this team really to move forward meaningfully? And I had never really thought about it that way, with the idea of how they view themselves. And this sort of-- but after you had said it to me, I kind of replayed what Jerry had said, where he had talked about focusing on all these positives and stuff. And I was like, man, Jori's right. Like, there is this element of embracing a sort of culture of greatness that really isn't so great. And maybe that's part of what's standing in the way of the organization at times.

JORI EPSTEIN: Right. I mean, again, I just happen to really identify with like the blue collar mentality, the grind-- like, how can you outwork everyone versus just decide you're already there? And I don't think this is a players' issue, to be clear, and certainly not the players coming in. Like, I have no questions about Dak Prescott's work ethic. I think if you see Micah Parsons compete, you know how he's competing and the way he's competing.

And there are a lot of guys. I could go down the list about that. That said, when you have [INAUDIBLE], like you said, being like, look, we're great, when you have the valuation of them being, what, $7.5 billion roughly for their value on Sportico this week. And you see, OK, well, James Washington goes down at receiver. They're thin, and Jerry's telling us today, yeah, I don't feel any urgency to bring another veteran in. And I mean, you just don't always see decisions being made in what appears to be the best interest of winning.

And I think that's challenging. I think that the league is too much of a league of parity to overcome that a lot of times. You can't put yourself at a disadvantage because disadvantages are going to come, and we just haven't seen that. And I think, again, even getting a quarterback like Dak in the room who might be the leader you want. It might be that caliber of top 10 quarterback that you need. If you don't give him any tools to work with or the coaching at certain times in his career that he needs, I think it's not that he's not taking responsibility. They're not setting him up to win.

CHARLES ROBINSON: And not only that, I think it would be different if there wasn't $20 million of available-- I mean, look, there's availability to make moves. Now, I get it. I'm not a fan of teams, unless it's by design, necessarily pressing themselves up against the salary cap and maxing it out before the season even starts, particularly knowing that, hey look, at the end of camp, some individuals might become available that you didn't necessarily think would be. And then, obviously, the trade deadline is far more active now.

So I like having some of that cap ammunition there. As you said, with the Washington injury, you know, Michael Gallup pretty much being like, hey yeah, I don't know if it's realistic I'm going to be out there in week--

JORI EPSTEIN: Yeah, he will not be out there.

CHARLES ROBINSON: Yeah. Yeah. I just don't know offensively-- I don't see how this team can realistically be better. And you know more about the team than I do. But look, I saw the spark at times with Pollard, right? And I get the idea of not only fans wanting to embrace that, but you know, reporters asking the question. Like, OK, you kind of see the gear change here. But then, Jerry comes out and says-- he basically says, look, I feel like a lot of the bulk of what happens in the backfield still has to go through this guy.


CHARLES ROBINSON: And at times, that feels, like, stubborn. It just feels stubborn. That's-- I don't know how else to process it than just, you know, this feels like a stubborn statement.

JORI EPSTEIN: Yeah, we see a lot of stubbornness out here, a lot of intransigence. You start to get all of the thesaurus words very familiar because you're constantly using them. And again, if he had said, we're not using our cap space because we want to save room for CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, Micah Parsons coming up, and so we need guys to step up. We need guys to really, like, take it to the next level. They do say some of that, but I think there's a difference between saying we're going to rely on people to step up than, well, we didn't need Randy Gregory. We didn't need Amari Cooper. No, you didn't need them. You don't have them.

Live the reality that you are, but be realistic about and be realistic about the work it's going to take to get there. And I don't think that it should always be this like salesman, we have it what we need, and we're better than we were last year. Like, on what metric are you better than you were last year? Like, Dak's shoulder is better than it was last year when he strained it in training camp.

I think Jerry does it to try and sell the fans, and he's clearly an incredible businessman. But at some point, you start to deceive players. One of the worst decisions you can make in this league at general manager is deceiving yourself thinking you're there.


JORI EPSTEIN: Now, I will say, Jerry the owner and Jerry the general manager in theory are relatively different parts of him. And maybe when he's giving this sales pitch, it's Jerry the owner who wants to sell tickets more than Jerry the general manager. But if you can't keep those straight, and you're making personnel decisions accordingly, you can get a little confused and not necessarily always make decisions that are going to lead to the best chance to win.