If commissioner Roger Goodell wants to make a big deal about personal responsibility, why stop with suspending Adam “Pacman” Jones? What about the guy who hired him, especially since it’s the same guy who ramrodded an internal investigation through in time to squeeze him into one last game?
That would be Dallas owner Jerry Jones, whose appetite for risk-taking only increased when he left the oil-drilling business behind and bought the Cowboys nearly 20 years ago.
With Pacman already on the NFL version of double-secret probation for a host of violations, the player got into an alcohol-related scuffle Oct. 7 with one of his bodyguards at a private party. Following a team investigation, Jones laughed the whole thing off — “It never occurred to any of us that he might have an incident with an individual that was sitting there to keep it from happening,” the owner said — and dared the commish to do something about it.
A quick check of Pacman’s dossier back at NFL headquarters would have reminded him that was a bad bet. Pacman’s latest run-in, by most accounts, barely merited an entry. But once Goodell pulled the file, there was no ignoring its heft. Pacman has been arrested six times and visited by the cops an even dozen since being drafted by Tennessee in 2005. He was coming off a league-imposed, 17-month suspension when Jones hired him in August.
“I’m disappointed,” the owner said Tuesday evening at the team’s Valley Ranch site. “But candidly, I’m not second-guessing the time and the effort we’ve invested. I know I’ve personally invested a lot of time with Adam and his business.
“I’m not trying to be philosophical, but I don’t regret having spent that time. We could have ended up with a very positive result here. … If it weren’t meaningful, and the potential so really good, both for the individual as well as the team, if it weren’t so good it would be too easy.
“It’s supposed to be hard,” he added, “and it’s supposed to have risks.”
It’s a shame the commissioner doesn’t keep a file on owners. No sooner did Jones buy the team than he turned it into a halfway house for talented troublemakers. More than once, enough players were under indictment, investigation or suspension — remember the Cowboys’ infamous “White House” parties hosted by Michael Irvin a few years back? — that you wondered how they would field a team.
And how’s this for a partial list of other wayward projects that, like Pacman, ended badly: Alonzo Spellman, Demetrius Underwood, Quincy Carter and Harvey Martin. It should come as no surprise that Pacman’s loudest defender in the Dallas locker room, Tank Johnson, is one of those reclamation efforts himself.
“Sometimes you don’t have to go to the principal’s office. Sometimes, you can handle it in the classroom,” said Johnson, who came to Dallas after being waived by the Bears following a string of firearm violations and the shooting death of a friend in a nightclub.
You might think Jerry Jones would get tired of walking around with his fingers crossed all the time and telling a succession of coaches fielding questions about disciplinary matters when to move their lips. But the only thing Jones seems worried about is another Super Bowl trophy to put in the case alongside the three he’s already won.
Pacman’s suspension came just ahead of the NFL’s trading deadline, and just before the Cowboys’ splashy deal to bring receiver Roy Williams over from Detroit. Say what you want about blowing up team chemistry, since Terrell Owens, another petulant star, is likely to feel threatened by the move and rachet up the bad behavior. But as a misdirection play, it was a stroke of genius.
As ESPN.com noted, the trade quickly shoved the news about Pacman far down the page, not unlike the time Jones lost a grievance to former Cowboys receiver Jimmy Smith and quickly buried that story by announcing a huge contract extension for quarterback Troy Aikman. What will be interesting this time is whether Dallas plays well enough in the next few weeks to keep Jones from taking the blame.
Quarterback Tony Romo, punter Mat McBriar and running back Felix Jones all are out due to injuries, and Jones’ suspension, coupled with still-injured cornerback Terence Newman, leaves Dallas dangerously stretched in the defensive backfield. Coach Wade Phillips was feeling enough heat before this latest rash, and his job is far from secure.
That would be a risky enough climate for most owners, especially one whose team started the season among the handful of contenders to win it all. Not Jerry. He’s hoping Pacman can turn around a decade of trouble in time to convince Goodell to let him play, preferably by the end of the season.
“If he earns his way back,” Jones said, “I would definitely consider him back to the Cowboys.”
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitkeap.org