JOHN GRANATO

As long as Jerry Jones is around, Cowboys are a train wreck

Jerry Jones continues to be Jerry Jones. Rob Carr

Texans owner Bob McNair had a rough offseason. Seemed like every time he opened his mouth he got into hot water. The “inmates running the prison” was his crowning achievement. It cost him any chance of getting that statue of him erected.

After an 0-3 start there was plenty of talk about another lost season and where ultimately that blame should fall: into the lap of Bob McNair.

The team has turned its fortunes around but are they elite? No. Do we believe that this team can be special and win at the highest level? There really is no reason to think so.

But there is one thing we can thank Bob McNair for:

He’s not Jerry Jones.

While I wanted to see the Titans lose to the Cowboys Monday night so the Texans could extend their lead in the division, it was so much more fun watching Jerry squirm in his owner’s box while his sons kept their scowls for the cameras properly intact.

It was quite the night.

Another loss and another multi-turnover game for Dak Prescott.  But since then Jerry has given him the ultimate vote of confidence saying that Dak will get a contract extension.

Thank you Lord. Thank you for giving us Jerry Jones. He is the gift that keeps on giving.

What about Dak’s play gives you any indication that he deserves that kind of vote of confidence?

Through nine weeks Dak is the 24th rated QB in the league. He’s 26th in yards per attempt, 29th in yards per game. He’s tied for 22nd with 10 touchdown passes. He hasn’t thrown for 300 yards in a game this season. After a fantastic rookie season, he and the team have regressed in every meaningful way.

Also getting a reprieve after yet another loss was head coach Jason Garrett. He will not be fired during the season. And why should he? In his ninth year as the Cowboys head coach he has 69 wins and 58 losses. He’s been to the playoffs twice with one win in his eight full seasons to show for it. One. How could you possibly let him slip away?

On Tuesday Troy Aikman finally said what we have all been thinking for a long time. There needs to be a complete overhaul in the organization. It couldn’t have been easy for him to say that. He and Jerry Jones go back a long way. They won championships together. He stopped short of calling for Jerry to sell the team but he did use the word dysfunction and called for them to address how everything is done.

Good luck Troy. That is probably falling on deaf ears. Running the team is far more important to Jerry than winning. He proved that when he pushed Jimmy Johnson out the door. Jimmy took too much of the credit for those championships. Jerry’s ego couldn’t let that happen.

When asked by ESPN why he wouldn’t hire a real general manager Jerry said that he wouldn’t write the check for any player the G.M. chose unless he knew everything about him first. Why have a middle man?

Sound thinking there except for one small issue. What if you’re not any good at choosing and evaluating players?

There was a time when it looked like Jerry had turned a corner. It was the 2014 draft. With Johnny Manziel and all his star power in the state of Texas on the board and the Cowboys holding the 16th pick, Jerry’s son Stephen talked Jerry off the Johnny train and instead took guard Zack Martin out of Notre Dame. He was the third first-round offensive lineman the Cowboys had chosen in four years.

It shook me to think that Jerry had actually made a sensible and intelligent pick instead of that shiny new money making toy he could have paraded out at AT&T Stadium every week.

I don’t want to live in a world where Jerry Jones makes smart draft picks. I just don’t. But he did. Martin has gone on to become a perennial Pro Bowler while Johnny is toiling in anonymity in Canada.

But getting your first round pick right a few times does not make you a successful G.M. (see Rick Smith) and Jerry and Stephen Jones have been anything but successful G.M.’s. I say both because Stephen is the G.M. in name only. It’s been a collaboration, a collaboration of futility.

Next year they don’t have a first rounder because they gave that up for WR Amari Cooper. Then Golden Tate went for a third rounder and Demaryius Thomas for a fourth. Keep doing you Jerry. Keep doing you.

But nothing will change. It hasn’t for two decades. What other G.M. could possibly keep his job with just two playoff wins in 20 years? None.

After yet another dismal season Jason Garrett will probably be the scapegoat but maybe not. He’s been teflon, probably because he won’t challenge Jerry’s authority or celebrity. Can’t have a successful coach taking away some of the spotlight. That is unacceptable in Big D.

It may sound like I disapprove of all of this. I apologize if that’s what you’ve gleaned from this article. Be assured that I totally approve of the way Jerry is going about running the Cowboys.

My two favorite teams are the Texans and whoever is playing the Cowboys.

It’s not about the Cowboys per se. It’s more about their fans. Somehow someway they remain insufferable even through all this futility and incompetence. Twenty years ago when they were good it was unbearable.

Not to worry though Texan fan. The Cowboys won’t be good again for the foreseeable future. Not on Jerry’s watch.


 

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

A curious thing might be happening with the Texans. This year's third round pick, Kahale Warring, has barely played in camp due to injuries and is in danger of being stashed on IR for the season. One of last year's third round picks, Martinas Rankin, may be in danger of not making the roster. The 2017 third rounder D'Onta Foreman was cut earlier in camp. While historically the Texans have been terrible picking in the third round, just taking a look at the Bill O'Brien years makes for some surprising results.

Keep in mind that these numbers are very fluid. Everyone has different criteria for what makes a hit or a miss. But let's dive in and see how the Texans have done.

By the numbers

First, let's take a look at the historical success rate by position of third round picks in the NFL. "Success rate" means the player became a functional NFL starter, which you would expect from most players selected in the third round.

The numbers:

3rd Round - OL (40%) TE (39%) LB (34%) DL (27%) WR (25%) DB (24%) QB (17%) RB (16%)

(Source: Arrowheadsports.com)

Now the Texans

Bill O'Brien has been around since the 2014 draft, so that is where we will focus. Let's look at the third round picks:

2014: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Louis Nix DT. Nix was a complete bust; C.J. developed into a decent tight end before concussions prematurely ended his career. Still, you could reluctantly call him a hit. Nix is a clear miss.

2015: Jalen Strong, WR. Complete miss.

2016: Braxton Miller, WR. He at least saw some action on the field before being cut but another big miss.

2017: D'Onta Foreman, RB. Cut in camp this year, so another complete whiff.

2018: Justin Reid, S, Martinas Rankin, OL, Jordan Akins, TE.

Reid has all the ear markings of a perennial Pro Bowler. Akins has emerged as a decent threat in a crowded tight end room. Rankin, as mentioned earlier, might not make the team. So two hits and for now Rankin is a miss. We won't look at 2019 yet, but the Warring pick - questionable at the time - could easily be another clunker, but we may not know until next year. What happens to those two over the next few years will help add clarity to these numbers.

Is it as bad as it looks?

So overall, with nine third-round picks in the O'Brien era, the Texans have three hits, five misses (if you count Rankin) and an incomplete.

The positives? They are batting 1.000 on tight ends (pending Warring) and safety. They are zero percent on OL, RB and WR.

The overall hit rate is .375. In a given year, NFL starters from the second and third round combined make up roughly 30 percent of the league. Even if you count Fiedorowicz as a bust, they are still at almost 29 percent out of the third round, which would be above the league average, according to a Forbes study from the 2014 season. While that number varies year to year, it is likely no more than a few percentage points. So about average.

Throw in the second round picks, where Bernardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham and Nick Martin have all become starters with one glaring bust - Xavier Sua'Filo - and they are hitting at 75 percent in the second round, 66 percent overall in rounds 2-3. Now you could argue Martin is not a good player, but he has been a starter pretty much since Day 1. Even taking him out, that is still 55 percent. Again, the bust is glaring in Sua'Filo, which makes it look a lot worse.

The good news

The narrative is the Texans tend to nail their first round picks. According to the Riot Report, first rounders only hit at a 53 percent rate for a player to become a consistent starter over five years.

Again, looking at the O'Brien era only, the top picks have been Jadeveon Clowney, Will Fuller, Kevin Johnson, Deshaun Watson and Titus Howard. Eliminating Howard since it is too early, Clowney and Watson are clear hits; Fuller is a good player who can never stay healthy. If he does, he could be a key contributor but that remains to be seen. Still, he is an NFL starter so give him a hit, even if it is incomplete. Johnson was a disaster and is gone. If you give them Fuller, that is still 75 percent, well above the league average. If you don't count Fuller, they are right at the league average, slightly below. Again, all of this is specific to the O'Brien era.

What does it all mean?

The third round misses have been high profile, colossal mistakes, which makes it look worse. Foreman was supposed to develop into a home run threat on offense. Miller was a high profile project. The team traded up to get Strong. Nix never made it to the field. But overall, the results are about on par with the rest of the league, even above average. Those were not the results I expected when I started this article. But there is also no way to quantify players who hung around and contributed but were never really "hits" or "misses." The Texans misses were clear, as they are no longer on the roster.

Which brings us to Duke Johnson

While many have been critical of the Texans for giving up a third to get Duke Johnson, it makes a lot of sense. You are getting a proven NFL player with starting capabilities for a pick that hits less than 30 percent of the time. While building through the draft is important, it also goes to show that most teams and fans greatly overvalue draft picks. And most picks are like buying new cars - the value goes down as soon as you get them off the lot. Johnson should provide a much surer thing than a third-rounder.

The bottom line

As with most things, when it comes to drafting, the Texans are about average. The third round busts look bad relative to expectations, but overall the number of hits is about where the league is. They probably aren't as good in the first round as the perception. Obviously good teams do better than than average, bad ones do much worse, but as with most things, the Texans aren't bad at drafting high-round picks.

They are just mediocre, a staple of the organization since its inception.

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