Jerry Jones is NOT a Lean Thinker, Apparently?


Giant video board in new Cowboys stadium causes problems for Titans punter – The Huddle –

Are you ready for some football????

OK, so nobody ever accused Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones of being a lean thinker… but did there's either a “product development” problem (with the product being the new Cowboys Stadium) or a great PDCA opportunity – if they will take advantage of it.

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the giant HD scoreboard for the stadium. It's the world's largest screen, but the most interesting feature is that it hangs OVER the field, much the way a scoreboard at a hockey or basketball game would.

The obvious question would be this — well what about punts? Wouldn't 4th down punts possibly hit the bottom of the scoreboard? How high does it have to be?

That question was asked a hundred times during the construction and Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones always denied it would be a problem. He pointed to analysis of how high punts normally went in an NFL game and that there was margin where punts would NOT hit the scoreboard. No problem, insisted Jones.

So what happened during the very FIRST pre-season game? Doink…. see the video.

Jones, in a very classic traditional management approach, did what else? He blamed the PUNTER! No need to look at the system (or look in the mirror) when you can blame somebody else!

Trapasso's punt was ruled a dead ball when it hit the structure, which is 90 feet above the field. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who's been outspoken in his pride for the stadium, said he doesn't anticipate making changes to the video board.

“That's not the point,” Jones said of the possibility of raising the board, via the Dallas Morning News. “How high is high if somebody just wants to sit there and kick straight up?”

Does that pride prevent Jones from being willing to admit he made a mistake? Or might have made a mistake? Cowboys coach Wade Phillips was also convinced that the Titans were “trying” to hit the scoreboard.

The Cowboys' punter doesn't think there is a problem — is this a legitimate difference of opinion? Or, as in many workplaces, does McBriar live in a culture of fear where he'd better not disagree with the boss? Jones is General Manager — making player decisions — in addition to being owner and amateur stadium designer.

Cowboys punter Mat McBriar told the DMN he doesn't anticipate connecting with the scoreboard this season.

“I don't think I'll really get near it,” McBriar said. “If I do, it's a miskick.”

Yep boss, that's a great scoreboard, no problem, great idea boss.

It doesn't seem like there is much of a Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle going on here. At what point will the NFL step in and insist that the scoreboard not block punts every game? ESPN reported that the NFL's “competition committee” will meet urgently this week to discuss the issue. If the Cowboys refuse to fix the problem themselves, they'll probably get a solution forced upon them.

League rules say the minimum height is 85 feet and the Cowboys have it set at 90 feet. So it “meets spec” but is it high enough? Seems like it is not.

News reports said that Jones and Cowboys used ONE punter (McBriar, their punter) to gauge how high somebody could kick. His testing showed he could kick 100 feet high, so it sounds like a bad design AND a refusal to think PDCA. It's amazing how stubborn some people can be when they are convinced a design is “right,” it seems. As this article says:

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones helped set the height at 90 feet above the field – 5 feet above the league minimum – even though tests using the team's punter, Mat McBriar, showed he could clear 100 feet. The reasoning behind cutting it close was that during the tests, McBriar was trying to boot it that high, but a regular punt has a lower arc and is usually kicked toward a sideline, not right down the middle.

“I'm not worried about it,” Jones said. “I'm very comfortable that our height on our scoreboard is OK.”

Is Jones a stubborn buffoon or would adjusting the height be an overreaction to a single data point? I guess maybe that's why these pre-season games are like a prototype of sorts? Adjusting the height would add cost, apparently…

The board has to go up to fit the stage for a U2 concert on Oct. 12. The Cowboys could leave it at that new height or they could use that opportunity to put in a system that would let them raise and lower it whenever they want. However, that would add to the price tag of a stadium that's already nearly double its originally projected cost of $650 million.

Do you see dynamics like this in your workplace? What do you think will happen in this case?

Or maybe this is all a brilliant publicity stunt?

Please check out my main blog page at www.leanblog.orgThe RSS feed content you are reading is copyrighted by the author, Mark Graban.

, , , on the author's copyright.

What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

Get New Posts Sent To You

Select list(s):
Previous articleLeanBlog Podcast #73 – Doug Burgess, Xerox
Next article‘Takt Time’ for Apple’s App Store and for Healthcare
Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. A great example of not letting facts get in the way of truth.

    Fact: You can hit the scoreboard with a punt.

    Truth: It's 5 ft above spec, so it's higher than needed.

    No problem!

    (Fact: We have hundreds of cars sitting on a lot that we can't sell!

    Truth: We count those cars as revenue when they roll of the line, not when we sell them.

    No problem!)

  2. Another thought — why not design in flexibility with the scoreboard height? I can't believe that they didn't design it with hydraulics so it could be moved up and down.

    Rather than insisting on ONE perfect infallible design, why not spend a little more for something that's flexible and can be PDCA-ed?

    Seems like a good general design principle.

  3. This kills me. The NFL seems to think it is a problem, but they won't change anything until next season.

    Here is a new article:

    Jerry Jones just seems stubborn about it. And the Cowboys kicker says "nobody has told me to not hit it."


    "Jones has been a staunch defender of the height of his boards for various reasons, including how much time and money it could cost to hike them. (They cost about $40 million to install.)
    The boards are going higher to fit the stage for a U2 concert in October, but the screens will have to be disconnected. To lift the boards and keep them operable will require engineering and architectural adjustments."


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.