Jerry Jones believes in risk. He likes to say his best moves have been the riskiest.
In 1989 when he bought the Dallas Cowboys, the team was losing more than $1 million a day. A few weeks ago the Cowboys were named the most valuable sports franchise in the world at an estimated $4 billion.
Not all risks pay off.
The Cowboys took a risk in selecting Randy Gregory in the second round of last year’s draft. They knew of his failed drug test at the scouting combine. They knew of his issues with anxiety and other foibles while at Nebraska. They figured the second round — with the 60th overall pick — was the perfect spot to take a player considered the best pass-rusher in the draft.
Gregory’s issues have not stopped. He was suspended the first four games of the season earlier in the offseason. According to sources, he is facing a longer suspension for another violation of the substance abuse policy. ESPN’s Ed Werder reported Gregory has entered an undisclosed treatment facility, is not expected to report to camp this week, and might not participate at all.
He did not have a sack in 12 games as a rookie. He missed four games because of injury.
Provided there are no other missteps, Gregory could miss 14 of the first 32 games of his career because of injury or suspension.
When Rolando McClain‘s 10-game suspension was announced last month, I advocated for the Cowboys to release the veteran middle linebacker. He has had his chances and not been able to live up to the privilege of playing for the Cowboys, as Jason Garrett likes to say.
My immediate reaction to Gregory’s increased suspension did not bring about the same feelings. I can’t give you a good reason why. Maybe it’s because McClain is 27 and has retired twice, and Gregory is just 23.
Like I said, I don’t know the reason why I feel more compassion for Gregory than I do McClain.
I understand Jones’ compulsion to give second and third chances to players. He wants to help them, but some of that is in part because they can help him by winning more games.
Nothing about Gregory’s track record so far in his career can be considered surprising. Some teams were not going to draft him at all because of the off-field issues. The Cowboys met with him at Valley Ranch before the draft. He sat down in front of Jones in the owner’s office and said he wanted help from the organization to keep his life in order. They became convinced they could help him and provide for him an environment to succeed.
It all started so well last summer in training camp. He had three sacks in the preseason. Then he got hurt in the season opener and missed time with a high ankle sprain. He was never as good after he returned.
The Cowboys open training camp in Oxnard, California, on Saturday. Gregory can practice over the summer and play in the preseason games. If he does this preseason what he did last preseason, then it will only be a tease. He won’t be back on the field in a real game until Thanksgiving at the earliest.
The Cowboys took a risk on Gregory they thought was worth taking, but so far it has come up dry, like the oil wells Jones dug without success over the years.
Who knows if Gregory will ever become the player the Cowboys had hoped, and who knows if it will ever stop Jones from taking risks, either.