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UPDATE: Late Tuesday afternoon, the Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The column has been updated accordingly, and the author stands by the central point -- that Jerry Jones changes his beliefs about the team based more on the calendar and fan reaction than what's on the field.

COMMENTARY

Jerry Jones told KRLD-FM earlier this month that "it's going to be very uncomfortable for the next few weeks and months at Valley Ranch."

So far, he's fired running backs coach Skip Peete and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Firing the coach of the 31st-ranked rushing unit in the NFL was a near certainty, while Ryan takes the fall for a defense that lost starters like a toddler loses teeth.

The firings won't be the last moves this offseason; a new offensive play-caller is a near certainty, they must address the run game either through improving the offensive line or adding running back depth (preferably both), and there will be tough salary-cap-versus-production personnel decisions involving Jay Ratliff, Miles Austin and Doug Free, among others.

However, the decision makers for Dallas aren't about to change.

Jason Garrett will return as coach. Tony Romo will be quarterback. Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan will still have a prominent role in the offense, though his title may change. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis is here to stay, unless another team makes him a better offer. Most importantly, the same general manager will still be in the owner's suite next season, and he'll still be trying to spin local media his way.

This was one of the times Jones should have stuck to his guns and avoided the spin machine.

Mr. Jones, say you believe in what you and Jason Garrett are building. Say if we continue to see improvement and get some guys healthy, we have a contender in Dallas. Say the end of the year was a disappointment, but there's hope on the horizon because of the way the team responded to their coach down the stretch after Jerry Brown, Jr.'s death.

All those things are likely true, but Jones can't bring himself to look past the disappointment of the end of the 2012 season. If he did, it'd throw off his annual schedule of bashing the team, then talking up Dallas' decisions through the Combine/NFL Draft/free agency, before falling in love with the team during OTAs, and finally declaring that love during training camp, when someone with a microphone gets Jones riled up enough to declare the team a Super Bowl contender.

2012 shouldn't have been a glory-hole-or-bust year. But 2013 can be.

If Sean Lee and Bruce Carter can stay healthy, they both looked like worthy starters. Anthony Spencer showed how valuable he can be against the run (though Dallas will have to fight to retain him this offseason). Brandon Carr and Mo Claiborne can be an elite corner tandem, and DeMarcus Ware is still a terrifying pass-rush threat.

Offensively, Dez Bryant proved to be worthy of that No. 88 Cowboys jersey. It's been a long time since Dallas had a running back with the raw skills of DeMarco Murray, provided he can ever stay healthy. Jason Witten is still as steady as ever. James Hanna and Dwayne Harris both have potential to be major contributors next year.

The biggest issues and question marks heading into the offseason remain in the offensive and defensive lines.

If the offensive line was even mediocre in 2012, Dallas may have been a playoff team. Defensively, the team has to decide whether Jay Ratliff and Marcus Spears are still worthy of large salaries. Either way, the Cowboys will need to look in the draft and free agency for both talent and depth on both lines (which may be tough, considering Dallas will also need to draft a quarterback to develop and at least one running back with Felix Jones unlikely to return).

Every part may not fall into place, but that just makes Dallas the same as every other team in the league. They have the raw talent to cover over weak spots, provided those weaknesses aren't as glaring as they were in 2012. The NFL is now ruled by parity, and if you have the right coach and quarterback (which Jones apparently believes the Cowboys do), then any team can make a run to the Super Bowl.

Jerry Jones could have said any or all of those things, and sent a larger message about the direction of the franchise (namely, that it has one). Instead, he sacrificed his defensive coordinator to sate season-ticket holders calling for blood. He apparently didn't realize most of them are calling for his blood -- occasionally not just metaphorically (nearly 20 years of bad football will try a few's patience more than others).

If you believe you've got the right people in the decision-making positions, there's no reason to tough talk about a lack of comfort. After years of Jerry Jones being over confident in the Dallas Cowboys' potential, this is one time the owner and GM should show a little faith in his team-building process.

Even with a new offensive coordinator and running backs coach next year, the message Jones sent was it's business as usual with what used to be one of sports' great franchises.


Josh Davis is a WFAA.com web editor and long-suffering Cowboys fan who previously covered the Texas Rangers. You can get in touch with him to tell him how wrong he is on his Twitter (@javisdavis) or at jdavis@wfaa.com.

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