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COMMENTARY : Who's Going to Be Toasting the Cowboys Now?

March 31, 1994|BILL PLASCHKE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hours after announcing in an Orlando hotel bar that he wanted to fire Jimmy Johnson and hire Barry Switzer, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys was confronted last week with his comments.

"Aw," he said, "that was just whiskey talking."

So much became obvious on Wednesday in an announcement that made our skin crawl.

Calling the shots for America's premier sports franchise is not Jerry Jones, but Jack Daniels.

Who else would have hired Barry Switzer as a head coach?

Who else would have placed America's Team under the charge of America's Most Wanted?

Whatever shreds of good publicity Jones garnered by allowing Jimmy Johnson to walk away with a fistful of dollars Tuesday vanished Wednesday when he handed his two-time defending Super Bowl champions to a man whose first task will be to read an NFL rulebook.

A man whose idea of a big play is a pitchout.

A man whose idea is a big game is one at Ames, Iowa, in November.

A man whose idea of a good quarterback is Thomas Lott.

A man who gave us Brian Bosworth.

Switzer is not NFL head coaching material. He is whiskey talking.

So Jones wanted a former college coaches with twang who haven't worked in five years?

Why not Frank Broyles? Was Darrell Royal busy?

Why hire the one man who has never coached your offense, never coached in your league, rarely even coached players who have been successful in your league?

Jerry, because he was your freshman football coach at Arkansas? Because he talks like you? Because he has less hair than you?

The smart move would have been to hire defensive coordinator Butch Davis. One of Jimmy's guys. Make the players believe that Jerry would have never fired Jimmy, that he loved Jimmy's entire system, that he was just trying to survive now that Jimmy has abandoned them.

Instead, Jerry does the one and only thing that makes players and the public believe the worst thing they can possibly believe.

That Jerry was going to fire Jimmy if he didn't quit first.

Switzer contributed to this notion in Wednesday's news conference when he said that Jones had phoned him last week about the job. Jones later disputed that, saying he had only phoned him to explain why he had spoken his name in that bar.

Jones says he didn't talk about the job with Switzer until Monday.

Hard to tell what to believe. But Wednesday's announcement was not to believed.

Who is Switzer going to draft next month? He hasn't been involved in college football since Johnson coached there.

Who will he sign to replace the Cowboy free agents who will think twice about returning to a home that has been ravaged? Does he even know how many teams are in the league?

"The Cowboys have done to themselves off the field what no other NFL team has been able to do to them on the field," said agent Leigh Steinberg, who has been counseling client Troy Aikman to be a voice of reason in this madness. "Emotion has overcome self-interest. They have forgotten very quickly what it is like to be 1-15."

Of course, we were saying this about Jones before. Remember when he fired the guy with the hat?

"Jerry has qualities very similar to that other Arkansas comeback kid," Steinberg said. "My feeling is that in the long run, this could be a success. But in the short run? Well . . . "

In bars throughout Dallas, whiskey sours are loudly insulting margaritas and then claiming, "Aw, that was just Jerry Jones talking."

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