USA TODAY: Inside the Cowboys war room

Discussion in 'NFL Zone' started by Chief, Apr 28, 2008.

  1. Chief

    Chief "Friggin Joke Monkey"

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    By Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY

    IRVING, Texas — About two hours after the first day of the NFL draft completed Saturday night, a euphoric buzz still flowed from the war room in the scouting wing of the Dallas Cowboys' headquarters.

    Jerry Jones, the team's vigorous, hands-on owner, popped into the room that is the nerve center of draft efforts before heading home. He found many of the faces that had been there all day and deep into the night seated around an L-shaped bank of conference tables.

    Coach Wade Phillips still was there. So were Jones' sons, team vice presidents Stephen and Jerry Jr., and a handful of scouts. The owner sat down and popped a beer.

    He took ribbing from Stephen, as they recalled Jerry's urge to trade to the top of the second round to draft Texas A&M tight end Martellus Bennett or perhaps a wide receiver. The Cowboys traded with the Seattle Seahawks to move up three slots in the first round to draft South Florida cornerback Mike Jenkins with the 25th pick, following their selection of Arkansas running back Felix Jones with the 22nd choice.

    But a trade wasn't necessary to land Bennett, nabbed 61st overall. It was the best deal that didn't happen. The Cowboys take a committee approach with draft-day moves, with the elder Jones, who also serves as the GM, having the final say.

    "Sometimes, Jerry gets on a roll and you can't stop him," Phillips said of Jones' reputation as an eager draft-day dealer.

    On Saturday and Sunday, the Cowboys made six trades — more than any in a single draft under Jones.

    He headed into the weekend having made 45 trades in 19 drafts, and completed the first trade for a suspended player in NFL history by landing cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones last week from the Tennessee Titans for a fourth-round pick. He also shipped tight end Anthony Fasano and linebacker Akin Ayodele to the Miami Dolphins for a fourth-round pick.

    Yet as the owner angled to move up in the second round, Stephen delicately led the room's consensus to stand pat.

    "Don't you want to go and get yourself some dinner?" Stephen recalled telling his father. :laugh2:

    They laughed about it hours later, content that they helped a 13-3 team that was bounced from the playoffs by the New York Giants, move closer to getting over the hump — in what Jones called a "now" draft.

    The group also reflected on some of the unexpected twists during the day. When Jones called Jenkins to inform him of their pick, there was silence on the other end of the line. Jenkins' mother — perhaps excited by the news — had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital. Fortunately, Jones found out she was OK.

    One of the scouts, Drew Fabianich, mentioned the text message received from his wife: His 17-month-old son, Markus, was taken to a hospital in Austin after being bitten by a rattlesnake. He, too, is fine.

    Stephen also got unsettling news. His wife called to alert him of an incident that occurred at his son's soccer game. When the ball landed in a yard adjacent to the field, a man took aim to it with a gun. Stephen said that the children were OK.

    Then there was the call that came into the war room before the draft. A caller identified himself as an Oakland Raiders' representative, and said he wanted to go over the details of the trade for the fourth overall pick. Tom Ciskowski, the Cowboys' assistant scouting director, didn't recognize the voice, and hung up. It was a crank call from Larry Lacewell, the Cowboys' former scouting director. :eek:

    Jones never pursued a trade to move up to Oakland's spot to draft Arkansas running back Darren McFadden. He suspected it would take a three-team trade to pull it off. The decision to settle on the other running back from his alma mater, Felix Jones, had its perplexing considerations.

    After a healthy war-room debate that Jones said began at least two slots before Dallas was on the clock, the Cowboys took Felix Jones over Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall, chosen a spot later by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mendenhall was projected as a top-15 pick in mock drafts.

    "How did he get to 22, if everybody had him ranked in the top 12?" Jones said. "Several teams passed on him."

    The pick hinged on choosing a player the Cowboys envision as a better fit when packaged with new starting tailback Marion Barber.

    "Barber let us have the luxury of taking Felix," Jones said. "We've got a Mendenhall-type runner in Barber. Him complementing Barber gives us a dimension that Mendenhall-Barber does not."

    Sitting in Ciskowski's office after the draft, Jones acknowledged the Arkansas connection. Asked if there's any fear that a decade from now Mendenhall will be viewed as a Hall of Famer, Jones shrugged.

    "No," he said. "You can't do this and not pass on some outstanding players. I passed on Randy Moss for Greg Ellis. What I would be sad about is if Pittsburgh has won a Super Bowl or two (and) we haven't."

    Strategy reverberates across the league

    Such are the risk vs. reward decisions that played out and represent the draft's essence. In addition to Dallas' dilemmas, other compelling storylines unfolded in Atlanta and Baltimore.

    • Falcons owner Arthur Blank seemed relieved Sunday morning to have a new marquee quarterback in Boston College's Matt Ryan. Last season's 4-12 implosion began when Michael Vick was implicated as part of a dogfighting ring.

    Ryan was picked third overall, over LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. The Falcons also traded up to land a second first-round pick, 21st overall, to take Southern California tackle Sam Baker.

    Although Baker was projected as a second-round choice, Ryan undoubtedly will be cast under the more intense scrutiny as the Falcons proceed under new GM Thomas Dimitroff and rookie coach Mike Smith.

    "Whenever you take a quarterback as high as we did, there's always a degree of risk," Blank said in a telephone interview. "Just look at history. But based on our opportunity to address the so-called 'face of the franchise' we don't see a lot of risk."

    The immediate upside is Blank's comfort level with a player he admires for dedication and leadership.

    "Michael is in jail," Blank said. "We don't know how long that will be for. We don't know what physical and mental condition he'll be in when he gets out. … We owe it to our fans, coaches and players to move on. Selecting Matt Ryan was the important way to do that."

    • The Ravens took the second quarterback chosen, Delaware's Joe Flacco, addressing a need highlighted 10 days before when veteran Steve McNair retired. Picking eighth, Baltimore hoped to get a shot at Ryan. But after Atlanta's pick, the Ravens maneuvered for additional picks. They eventually landed at 18th to draft Flacco.

    "It's not easy to go into a school like Delaware and put a high grade on a quarterback," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' scouting director, mindful that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and former MVP Kurt Warner came from the 1-AA ranks.

    DeCosta remembers the excited message he received last fall from one of his scouts, Joe Douglas, which put Flacco on Baltimore's radar. Douglas told DeCosta: "Delaware has a quarterback who is legit."

    Cowboys' window is now

    That the Cowboys haven't won a playoff game in 12 years gnaws at Jones, who weighs the risk of his moves while considering this window of opportunity that exists with an emerging quarterback in Romo among 13 Pro Bowlers. There's also a new, $1 billion stadium.

    The makeup of his current team is bolstered by the presence of all-pro receiver Terrell Owens— considered a risk after his fallout in Philadelphia. Now he's added Pacman Jones to that mix.

    "Jerry's a risk-taker," said former star receiver Keyshawn Johnson, now an analyst for ESPN. "It's worked for him in the past. It might work for him again."

    Pacman Jones comes with no guarantee that he will be reinstated before the season after numerous brushes with the law. Says Jerry Jones, "He understands the opportunity that he can lose or he can gain."

    Jones, who made a fortune in oil exploration, bought the Cowboys in 1989 for $140 million. Forbes estimates the Cowboys' current value at $1.5 billion.

    "This is not buying bonds," Jones said. "This is drilling for (oil) wells. A bunch of safe picks have been dry holes. So you might as well accept the fact that you're taking risk and try for the upside."

    In recent years, the Cowboys indeed had big hits but there have been glaring misses.

    "It'll bite you when you miss," Jones said. "You pay for that. You pay for missing on those offensive linemen, paying $49 million for Leonard Davis and re-signing Flozell (Adams, six years, $43.8 million). We're glad we have them, but it might have been a different dynamic."

    The dots always connect from draft to draft. Jones knows this as well as anyone.
  2. ThreeSportStar80

    ThreeSportStar80 Benched

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    Adding Pacman Jones was like playing with house money for Jerry Jones, he's in a win/win situation...
  3. CrazyCowboy

    CrazyCowboy Well-Known Member

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    I like pacman as a player......he will change as a person
  4. Hoofbite

    Hoofbite Well-Known Member

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    What a tool.
  5. lkelly

    lkelly Well-Known Member

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    I'd like to start up a collection to buy Lacewell a house near that soccer field and give him a t-shirt with a soccer ball on it as a housewarming gift.
  6. Chocolate Lab

    Chocolate Lab Run-loving Dino

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    But on a more positive note, it's a beautiful thing that Ciskowski doesn't even recognize Larry's voice. ;)
  7. Cowboy Bill Watts

    Cowboy Bill Watts Member

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    wonder where jacob rogers is?:cool:
  8. RXP

    RXP Well-Known Member

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    Any form of communication from Larry Lacewell should be considered a joke and completely ignored.
  9. Sarge

    Sarge Red, White and brew... Staff Member

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