As all of North Texas remains paralyzed by “Ice Calamity ’09” (see? I used to be in the news business), I pretty much have the church building all to myself. Just me and Suzanne’s space heater alone in my study for maybe a couple of hours. Plenty of time to get all of Sunday night’s worship order together for Lance (No, we’re not canceling our evening assembly for a TV show. Get real.) and knock out the rest of Sunday morning’s sermon.
Tomorrow I’m going to dedicate this space to a frank discussion about church potluck dinners. I’m looking for your thoughts and your input, especially those of you my age and younger. Friday, a word or two about Small Groups and our goal here at Legacy to raise up 100 co-leaders for 50 new groups.
Today, an open letter to Dan Reeves:
Dear Danny Reeves,
You know how much I love you. OK, maybe you don’t. Our paths have only crossed a couple of brief times. You were my guest on my tiny little talk show in Marble Falls, Texas the day after the Cowboys hired Chan Gailey. As Gailey’s little league baseball coach in Americus, Georgia, you were perfect. We talked about Gailey’s character and integrity and how good that was going to be for a Cowboys team that was absolutely out of control. I also interviewed you in August 2004 as part of a cleverly-contrived countdown to football season on a show I was hosting in Dallas. You were, and still are, my pick as the greatest football player ever to wear #30. We spent most of that 20-minutes, as I recall, talking about a football team lacking real direction. You wouldn’t remember me at all. But I’ve always admired you.
What’s not to like about you, Mr. Reeves?
As an undrafted quarterback out of South Carolina, you worked harder than anybody else to play mainly a backup role as a Cowboys running back for eight seasons. You were the leading rusher on the very first Cowboys team to ever post a winning record. You were a huge on-field and locker room leader on the Cowboys first Super Bowl teams. You were the very best kind of player-coach. You cut your full-time coaching teeth under a legend in Tom Landry. For eleven seasons you worked under Landry. At one time you were the front-runner to replace “the only coach the Cowboys have ever had.”
But you couldn’t wait that long. You took the head coaching job with the Broncos in Denver and took them to four AFC title games and three Super Bowls, winning NFL Coach of the Year honors three times. You also took the Falcons to the Super Bowl after a successful four-year stint with the Giants. In all, Danny, you appeared as a player or coach in 50 playoff games and nine Super Bowls. You won NFL Coach of the Year five times and you’re the sixth all-time winningest coach in NFL history.
What’s most impressive to me about your stellar football career is that, through all the successes and accolades and honors, you’ve maintained your character and integrity.
And I have mixed feelings about it. So must you.
My first thought is that this could be the very best thing that’s happened to this troubled franchise since Jerry Wayne bought the team 20 years ago. As a team consultant—is that really what they’re calling it?—you would provide much-needed direction. Football direction. Morality direction. Character direction. Team-first direction. How to be a winner and how to act like a winner direction. Yes. Do it. This team needs you.
But my other thoughts, the ones that consider the big picture, tell me you don’t want any part of this thing. And, as a huge Dan Reeves fan, I wouldn’t want you to be associated with this team right now for anything. Every person and everything connected to this organization goes south. And as long as Jerry Wayne remains the owner and general manager, there’s no hope for anybody turning this thing around. Not even you.
Jerry doesn’t just tolerate selfish, me-first-team-second behavior out of his players, he goes out of his way to bring more selfish players in. He doesn’t just turn his eyes away when one of his players embarrasses the organization with an arrest or a shooting or a vulgar rap video. He hands out massive contracts to even more players with those same histories. Why would you even consider this gig? You want to be associated with this mess?
The Cowboys are coming off, arguably, the most disappointing season in franchise history. A re-loaded 13-3 team, that had everybody (almost) talking Super Bowl, flames out at 9-7 and misses the playoffs. Again. The Cowboys have as many playoff wins in the past 13 years as the Detroit Lions. Zero. Every other team in the NFC has at least one postseason win during that stretch. Cowboys and Lions. Great. Matt Millen’s a national punch-line as a GM. Owner Jerry would never even consider firing GM Jerry, even though his record is comparable to Millen’s. Dan, why would you even return his phone call?
This team’s answer to the train-wreck that was the ’08 season is to get arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct (Anthony Spencer), produce a vulgar rap video and send it to dozens of media outlets and paste it on YouTube (Martellus Bennett), sign a deal to star in a reality TV show (Terrell Owens), and agree to let Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders host a cable show in which the winner of a contest receives an invitation to participate in Cowboys training camp. The working title for that show is “So You Wanna Be A Cowboy?” My question to you, Mr. Reeves, if you wanna be a Cowboy, is why?
The owner of this team seems much, much more interested in marketing his blue star than in winning football games and Super Bowls. Any publicity, even publicity that makes normal people cringe in disgust, is good publicity according to Jerry Wayne. Sir, you don’t want your respected name or your unblemished record or your immaculate image or your impeccable character stained by this organization. Don’t do it.
…somehow Jerry gives you the GM’s job. That’s the only way. Don’t even consider any other position. I know Wade Phillips replaced you as head coach when you left the jobs in Denver and Atlanta. And it would be tempting if Jones offered to let you replace Wade here. It would be sweet. Selfishly, I’d love to see it. But it’s not enough. As long as Jerry’s in charge of operations, it won’t work. Not for you. Not for the team. If Jerry will step away from the GM’s chair and give you the exact same power and control he gave Bill Parcells, then I would urge you to take it. And I would proudly pull my Cowboys sweat shirts and caps out of the 13-year-old mothballs and root hard for your success. With you at the helm, character would matter. Integrity would be important. Team-first concepts would be demanded. Nothing that compromises team focus or unity would be tolerated. T.O. would be gone. Tank Johnson would be gone. Keith Davis would be gone. PacMan Jones would be gone. Jessica Simpson would be gone. Martellus Bennett would be gone. Ken Hamlin would be gone. And players with their histories and records and tendencies won’t ever be brought in. There won’t be a DJ playing music on the sidelines at training camp. Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders will be told to take their circus somewhere else. HBO will be told “no.” Players and coaches will be held accountable to on-and-off-field standards of excellence. Dan Reeves, you are no-nonsense. Jerry Wayne is all-nonsense. Jones handing the GM job to you is the only way.
Which means, I’m dreaming again. It’ll never happen. Jerry’s only seeking a reputable name, an untarnished image, a nice representative of past glories to distract the media and his detractors. That’s all. He’s too stubborn and short-sighted and too driven by his over-inflated ego to do anything else.
Mr. Reeves, I hope you can return soon to the NFL. Consultant. GM. Coach. Whatever. I hope some team recognizes your talents and gifts for shaping young men into quality football teams that represent their organization and their fans and their cities well.
For your sake, and your sake only, I hope it’s not here.