The League

Derede McAlpin
Crisis Litigator

Derede McAlpin

Vice President Levick Strategic Communications

When in crisis, watch your blind side

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There's no doubt, the Dallas Cowboys are in crisis management mode.

With a shiny new stadium and expectations high, one disappointment has followed another. Even with star quarterback Tony Romo at the helm, they lose. Without him, they suffer one of the worst defeats in Dallas Cowboys franchise history, an embarrassing loss 45-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. Expectations had actually been well-managed for that game as owner Jerry Jones and 80 million others weren't necessarily looking for a victory. They wanted to at least see signs of energy and motivation as they confronted the nascent Packers. Alas, nothing of the sort was at all in evidence.

America's team, 'built to win,' must now face the New York Giants. The game will no doubt attract a high viewership among those who like to watch train wrecks.

What to do? Well you fire the coach, of course, because in crisis - as the saying goes - the gods demand a sacrifice. Jones complied; firing head coach Wade Phillips and placing offensive coordinator Jason Garrett at the helm.

A team's success in the NFL is naturally measured by wins and losses, but there's also the bottom line. The Cowboys did not win one playoff game between 1996 and 2008, but ranked among the top league revenue generators throughout this period. No doubt the team had a bankable brand. Now fans are fed up. The "Cowboys have more fans looking to sell Permanent Seat Licenses (PSLs) than any other team," according to Forbes.

As with most big businesses, crisis management in situations like the one facing the Cowboys presents a daunting task. It calls for a full organizational assessment. Here, there can be no full assessment until the impact of Phillips' departure and Garrett's promotion can be measured. We've seen other teams - the 2010 Baltimore Orioles, for instance - respond at once to a management change. But is Garrett cut from the same mold as Buck Showalter?

Odds are that -- especially in a business where you don't have 162 games to self-redeem -- the Cowboys will need a more thorough reconstruction. There's a crisis management problem here that most sports organizations never face: a brand that was once so proud, so marketable, so imposing on public perception, that a "bad season" actually becomes a bet-the-company crisis. Jerry Jones must now wrestle with the same "crisis of public faith" that has recently confronted Toyota and Johnson & Johnson.

The Dallas Cowboys won't go out of business. The real question for their personnel and communications managers is, rather, can they ever be the Dallas Cowboys again?

By Derede McAlpin  |  November 9, 2010; 11:27 AM ET  | Category:  Coaching , Dallas Cowboys , Jerry Jones , NFC , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Victims of the hype machine | Next: Jerry Jones: Architect of mediocrity, enabler of failure

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