From a thousand-foot view, Jerry Jones seems to be leading a pretty perfect life. In addition to owning the Dallas Cowboys, the Arkansas native has built up a massive fortune; as we saw during the NFL draft, that means he can afford virtually any luxury he’d desire. From a purely football perspective, though, things have been a lot tougher, as the Cowboys have struggled since their dynasty days of the 1990s.
While there’s plenty of room to nitpick and point fingers, most of the blame falls squarely on Jerry Jones. In the world of psychology, there one specific theory that could explain why the Dallas Cowboys can’t get out of their own way.
Jerry Jones’ ownership of the Dallas Cowboys has paid off, at least financially
These days, it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone other than Jerry Jones owning the Dallas Cowboys. While his time in charge of the team hasn’t been perfect, it has been pretty successful.
Jones took over a floundering franchise in 1989 and immediately shook things up by firing Tom Landry and replacing him with Jimmy Johnson. Although it took some time to turn things around, those moves changed the course of Cowboys history; the club turned into a modern dynasty, winning three Super Bowls in the 1990s.
Recent results, however, haven’t reached the same heights. Despite having a talented roster, the Cowboys have struggled to even make the playoffs; the 2020 campaign, in particular, seems to be dangerously close to disaster after only six weeks of action.
Jerry Jones’ NFL career, however, has been an unmitigated success from a financial perspective. When he bought the Cowboys, the club was bleeding money; today, Forbes lists them as the most valuable sports team in the world, worth approximately $5.7 billion. On a personal level, Forbes pegs Jones’ net worth at $8.6 billion.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect might explain the Dallas Cowboys’ problems
Jerry Jones doesn’t simply own the Dallas Cowboys, though. He also serves as the club’s general manager. That, according to many fans and analysts, is the root of the issues.
Jones’ dual role creates a lack of accountability. Acting as the general manager, he controls the personnel decisions; coaches, players, and staff alike fall under his purview. There’s not one, however, above Jones. While most general managers will be fired if they fail to produce results, Jerry isn’t going to fire himself or take a step back.
That’s where the Dunning-Kruger Effect comes in. While it might sound like a complicated psychological concept, the underlying principles will immediately ring a bell for Dallas Cowboys fans.
“Jones does not have this vast knowledge,” Mike Lombardi wrote in The Athletic. “Jones is what people refer to in the business world as having the Dunning-Kruger effect of management. In psychology, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias. Described by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, this bias results from successful people in one field who then believe that success without vast knowledge can extend to other endeavors. It can’t and never does. Their lack of self-awareness creates a void in evaluating their performance, leading to poor results over an extended period.”
Jerry Jones can easily solve the problem, but only if he wants to
Given his massive fortune and willingness to spend, Jerry Jones could easily overcome the Dunning-Kruger Effect; there’s no salary cap on coaches and staff, so he could break out his checkbook and pay any price to hire the best head coach, general manager, and scouts that money could buy. The real problem, however, is his willingness to do so.
Jones, as far as we can tell, wants to prove that he’s the top dog in Dallas; if the team succeeds, it’s because of him. That’s led to years of running in circles; despite having plenty of talent on the roster, the team simply can’t put everything together. While there have been some mitigating factors—Dak Prescott’s injury, for example, is no one’s fault—Jones’ influence has been the one constant over the years.
At the end of the day, the Dallas Cowboys issue boils down to one simple question: Is Jerry Jones’ desire to win strong enough that he’ll take a step back and let someone else call the shots? Unless something changes, it seems like the answer is a resounding ‘no.’