The Dallas Cowboys exist in part to play football, and in part to promote and sell the Cowboys brand. Cowboys owner, general manager, reptilian-like wannabe overlord of the NFL, and tone deaf attention whore Jerry Jones always finds a way to work his team into anything that can enhance the Cowboys brand that has nothing to do with winning football games. The second season of Hard Knocks featured the Cowboys, the show then went on hiatus for five years, and second season of reborn Hard Knocks was once again the Cowboys. The NFL Draft traveling circus was such a huge hit in Chicago and Philadelphia that Jones pitched a fit to the league to host it this year. Two years ago Amazon debuted its own version of Hard Knocks, All or Nothing, for 2017 it followed the Dallas Cowboys. It was inevitable.
As an Eagles fan, the primary reason to watch this show is that the Eagles won the Super Bowl while the Cowboys failed to participate in the playoffs. The schadenfreude of an inside look at the Cowboys season spinning out of control was so enticing that my wife, who enjoys watching the Cowboys lose almost as much as I do, enthusiastically agreed to watch and contribute some MST3K-style riffs.
However, All or Nothing, like the Cowboys season, “came up short, just like Zeke’s t-shirt.” says the wife. Because All or Nothing isn’t a show about the Dallas Cowboys. It’s a show about Jerry Jones. The players and coaches exist on the periphery, and some of it is interesting.
Before you ask, let’s get it out of the way early: Jason Garrett is shown clapping on the sideline 53 times.
Wife: “I think Eli is getting sacked more than Jason Garrett is clapping in this game. Oh there’s another one. For both.”
Ezekiel Elliott, bless his heart, appears to think the Dez Bryant/Josh Norman lame trash talking commercials are real. Dez Bryant is Dez Bryant: a petulant child. The only person shown actually coaching the defense is Sean Lee and his painfully crisp farmer’s tan. To prepare for the Rams, Rod Marinelli shows his players footage of humans being tossed around by a bull, a gator, a camel, and a bale of hay. The Rams offense then throws around the Cowboys defense. Rapper Cole Beasley’s side gig as a football player is barely shown. David Irving’s daughter is a scene stealer and Alfred Morris, his 1991 Mazda 626, and his impression of running back coach Gary Brown are good scenes away from the field. Meanwhile Dak Prescott gets very little screen time. It’s possible Jason Garrett has more on screen passing attempts than Prescott.
As for Garrett, little in the series dispels the notion that he is not Jerry Jones’s puppet. After their Week 2 blowout loss to the Broncos and their Thanksgiving Day loss to the Chargers, we hear but are not shown Jerry Jones, not Garrett, chew out the team. A meeting of Garrett’s coaches can’t start until Jones is reached on speaker phone.
When Garrett is allowed to pretend to coach, it’s unintentionally embarrassing. Not until the second episode do we even see practice footage, the wife wonders “is this a montage of Jason Garrett possibly motivating somebody?” His post-game speech following the Week 3 win over the Cardinals is met with the enthusiasm of waiting in line at the pharmacy. After the playoff eliminating loss to the Seahawks in Week 16, someone is seen eating a banana while Garrett addresses his team. Preparing for the first Eagles game, Garrett chews out his scout team for a bad day of practice. After he leaves, Orlando Scandrick, who comes off quite well throughout the series, then address the players with more energy, and they respond better.
But these are all sideshows to the main event of Jerry Jones and his family.
The very first scene sets the stage, literally, as we get a short behind the scenes look at Jones’ introduction into the Hall of Fame. Throughout the series, which is supposed to be a candid look at everyone on and off the field, we are shown multiple meetings of Cowboys executives consisting of only Jones family members that are obviously and painfully staged.
Wife: “Is there anyone from outside the Jones family that works for the Cowboys?”
Me: “Even Donald doesn’t let Tiffany do anything.”
We are also shown multiple scenes of Jerry Jones’ grandson John Stephen Jones playing football “of course he goes to Highland Park” says the wife, who spent the plurality of her childhood in Dallas. In one episode, presumably to show him what good football looks like, Dak Prescott hangs out with the team during practice. In another, the Jones clan are mesmerized by a hot dog bun during a game. The day after Thanksgiving, the Jones grandson throws a perfect bomb for a touchdown in a playoff game route in Cowboys Stadium, which was perhaps the best throw made in the show. Finally, we’re treated to an actual good football game as Jones leads his team from behind to win the state championship.
Jerry Jones is constantly shown in his helicopter. If it was possible to refuel in mid-air, he’d never touch the ground, like John Hurt in Contact. Midway through the season Dak Prescott and La’el Collins go fishing and see a helicopter in the distance, they joke that Jerry is on it.
That one scene pretty much sums up the show: Jerry Jones is everywhere. That’s both an endorsement to watch it, and a reason to never watch it.