Saturday, April 26, 2008

Jerry Jones and His Deal with the Devil

It’s one thing to dodge the potholes in the road as they come along, it’s a whole other thing to put them in the road yourself. Yet that’s exactly what the Dallas Cowboys are doing by selling whatever might be left of their souls by trading for disgraced former Tennessee Titan’s cornerback, Adam “Pacman” Jones.

Assuming as we must that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones approved this pending transaction, what this proves is that Jones secretly harbors an inner desire to be the NFL’s new Al Davis. Jones, always a bit of a maverick anyway, is further confirming that status by deliberating infecting his team with a cancer that the Titans are only to happy to cure themselves of.

Sure, we’ll hear the usual manure from the usual suspects, in this case Jones as owner and as Cowboys general manager, that he’s both spoken to Pacman and is convinced he’s sincere about turning his life around. It’s essentially the same line George W. Bush used when he said he looked into the soul of former Russian president Vladimir Putin and that’s not working out too well either.

You don’t have to venture too far into the realm of the internets to appreciate the liability that the Cowboys are attempting to take on by essentially taking over the cleanup of this toxic dump. In terms of rap sheets, Pacman’s alone rivals that of the current roster of the Cincinnati Bengals. And that was before the revelation earlier this week that Pacman was paying hush money in connection with his little, ahem, incident in Las Vegas.

Anyone who listened to even a part of Pacman’s radio interview a few weeks back with Michael Irvin, himself no stranger to trouble, couldn’t possibly have come away thinking that “yea, this is the guy we need to have on our team.” Anyone, except maybe Jerry Jones. Someone get him a transcript. Better yet, to appreciate Pacman is to hear him speak, so get Jones the tape. Pacman didn’t so much as own his former troubles as diminish them by laying blame in a somewhat whimsical fashion to his completely understandable obsession with strip joints. Except he likely couldn’t spell obsession and couldn’t define whimsical.

There are any number of variables that go into putting together a successful season. Talent is a given, but it isn’t the end of the rainbow. In a sport that depends on the ability to put a large number of players on the same page, the last thing a team needs is a bunch of rugged individualists, even ones with immense raw talent. One of the great secrets to the success of the New England Patriots hasn’t been overwhelming talent, but overwhelming teamwork. Whether it’s because the players unite behind the common theme of hating head coach Bill Belichick or some other reason, the Patriots are a team first.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, seem hell-bent on disproving the notion. They brought on serial gun nut Tank Johnson while he was still suspended. They also already employ one of the biggest distractions in recent memory, Terrell Owens. All Owens has done over the years and everywhere he’s been is burn every bridge he’s ever crossed, taking a fair share of collateral damage in the process. The fact that Owens hasn’t fully torched all of Irving, Texas thus far is more luck than maturity.

Then there is the matter of the traveling circus that vastly overrated quarterback Tony Romo has become. So proud, apparently, is he of having Jessica Simpson to squire around town that he seems incredibly oblivious to the distractions he’s foisted on his teammates in the process if the little side trip to Mexico he took with the vocally-challend Ms. Simpson during last season’s playoff bye week is any indication.

Sure, Romo would be a fool not to avail himself of the opportunity that his fleeting celebrity status has given him to take the measure of Simpson on a regular basis. But every question he has to constantly answer from a press that can’t tell the difference between news and fluff—“are they engaged?” “is she really as dumb as she seems?”—is another chance he doesn’t have to concentrate on more pressing matters of the day, like how to solve the Packers secondary.

But the Owens/Romo sideshows are about to seem like the halcyon days of yore once Pacman and his entourage arrive in Dallas, which may still be awhile if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decides he’s still offended by the fact that Pacman felt the urge to frequent a Manhattan strip joint the night before his come to Jesus meeting with the league last year.

Pacman’s mere presence is going to force virtually every person associated with the Cowboys, save maybe the third string ball boy, to constantly respond to what will surely be an endless series of Pacman-related questions. The Dallas media might tire of asking the same questions and getting the rote answers somewhere around next December, but the questions will dog the Cowboys at every stop they make during the season. And that’s assuming Pacman heads straight home after practice. Pacman being Pacman isn’t Manny being Manny. Pacman being Pacman involves late nights, people getting arrested, lawyers being retained and pleas being bargained. In other words, the chance that Pacman won’t be involved in something somewhere is roughly the same as the chance that a clock won’t tick.

Jerry Jones has always come across as the kind of guy so impressed with himself that there is no problem too large for him to handle. Pacman promises to test the depths of Jones’ seemingly unlimited supply of self-esteem and the utter patience of Cowboys fans that have been sorely tested the last two seasons.

This all is good news, of course, for the rest of the NFL East. While Jerry Jones is making deals with the devil, the rest of the division is just going quietly about their business of actually improving the team dynamic.

And if this Pacman thing doesn’t quite work, there’s also some good news for Jones. Odell Thurman was recently reinstated and is probably available and Rae Carruth has to be up for parole sometime in the next several years.

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