The eight-episode All or Nothing series focusing on the 2017 Dallas Cowboys takes fans behind the curtain on a variety of topics, ranging from the important to the banal. (Case in point: In one 30-second stretch, owner Jerry Jones raves to his sons about the quality of a hot dog bun at a high-school football game.) When it comes to one of the biggest topics of the year for the team and the league, however, not very much is said or shown.
Jones vs. Goodell. The NFL’s biggest offseason drama of the past season, by far. Jones tried to keep the Commissioner from getting a contract extension, which was as a practical matter an effort to replace the Commissioner with someone new. It got nasty. It got ugly. The league and multiple owners believed Jones instigated former Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter to unload on league leadership during a quarterly earnings call regarding the mishandling of the anthem issue.
So what does All or Nothing say about this subject? Something far closer to nothing than all.
The only reference came in a short segment after the loss against the Falcons in Episode Five, with narrator Jon Hamm saying this: “The loss in Atlanta isn’t the only thing on Jerry Jones’ mind.”
Next, a reporter is shown asking Jones if he’s still planning to sue the Competition Committee over Goodell’s contract. (Litigation was threatened against the Compensation Committee, not the Competition Committee.)
“Again, I’m really not gonna get into that right now,” Jones says. “But as far as what we’re doing, any of those issues are concerned here. . . . I’ll be speaking to that as we go along here over the next few days.”
Then this from Hamm: “Reports have surfaced that Jones is considering legal action to block the contract extension of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The reports also suggest that Jones’ actions are retaliation for the suspension of Ezekiel Elliott.”
Next comes another clip from Jones talking to reporters on a different occasion, with Jones being asked whether fellow owners should slow the process of extending Goodell’s contract.
“We make the Commissioner of the NFL the most powerful person that I know of, as to the organization and his constituency,” Jones says. “It’s a big deal when we not only hire him but when we extend him. So that’s a lot of consideration. It shouldn’t surprise anybody.”
Next comes a clip of a local news report, with the anchor explaining that Jones received a letter from the NFL accusing him of engaging in conduct detrimental to the league’s best interests.
“It’s a situation that will drag on for months,” Hamm says. “In the end, Jones will not pursue legal action, and the Commissioner’s contract will be extended.”
And that’s it. No mention of Papa John. No mention of owners discussing the possibility of taking away the franchise, or of the manner in which Jones and son Stephen aggressively dismissed that possibility (even though the NFL’s Constitution & Bylaws contain a clear procedure for doing so). Ultimately, no mention of the league forcing Jones to pay back more than $2 million in legal fees incurred by the league and its teams as a result of the threatened litigation and the actual/perceived support for Ezekiel Elliott’s court challenge to his suspension.
It’s really not a surprise. The league produces All or Nothing, with since-promoted COO Maryann Turcke’s name being the first of three executive producers listed at the end of each episode, above Ross Ketover and Pat Kelleher. The league has no reason to air this specific item of dirty laundry, and the Cowboys have no reason to push for it.
Still, it’s impossible to tell the story of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys without giving something more than short shrift to the biggest NFL beef of the year. Although the rest of the effort was entertaining and enjoyable, it’s another example of the reality that a documentary produced by the subject of the documentary is never going to open the door the way that an independently-produced documentary would.
While something is still better than nothing, none of these efforts will ever truly be comprehensive and complete if key topics are negotiated down to a nub because they make people with the NFL and/or the team on which the series focuses uncomfortable.