February 25, 1989 is a day that will forever be a red-letter day in the history of the Dallas Cowboys and, by extension, the NFL. That was the day that Jerry Jones assumed ownership of the team and began the process that ultimately led to the team winning three Super Bowls in four seasons. He also brought a new way of doing business to the league.
A younger Jerry Jones was a free-spending owner. He was more than willing to invest money in his team to achieve his ambitions. Jerry built the dynasty that brought early success in the truly old-fashioned way - he bought it. Jones invested the one proven asset that he acquired by buying the team, Hershel Walker, into a deal that would bring many of the key figures of the 90's era Cowboys to Dallas when he traded the running back to Minnesota. When other pieces were needed to complete the puzzle he spent freely to purchase the services of men like Charles Haley. While the NFL "establishment" owners had reputations for doling out the capital they acquired grudgingly, Jones took the opposite approach.
Success as we know came quickly. Other owners were forced to follow suit in order to keep up with the Joneses. To do so it was necessary to not only emulate Jones in securing talent it was also necessary to take steps to boost revenue to keep up with the expenses incurred in securing that talent. That is where Jerry Jones was able to transform professional football.
Jones is a marketing genius. Everything he does as owner, president, and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys is aimed at marketing his team. Jerry could sell ice cubes at the North Pole. That is the reason the team consistently ranks as one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. From seats in the stadium to jerseys and other merchandise, everything revolves around selling the team. In the words of Jerry's daughter Charlotte they are selling a lifestyle.
That was the lesson that Jerry Jones taught the company of owners in the NFL. There is more to professional football than just sixty minutes of action in the fall. It is a year-round business with unlimited marketing potential. There is always something else to sell and additional dollars to bring in to fill the league's coffers. Jerry brought the realization that the league is a conglomeration of 32 brands operating under the umbrella of an even bigger brand and that all of them can be attached to everything that people are interested in.
Pizza, beer, and even airline travel have all turned into profitable marketing opportunities for the NFL and a lion's share of the credit for opening the window to those avenues traces its origins to Jones taking advantage of every chance to promote his team. Jerry proved himself to be a pioneer in the modern business of football. In doing so he revolutionized the game.
"It was about looking for better ways to do it. For whatever reason, I have always had an exaggerated thinking about what our game is and about presenting it, and about what it can be, the aura of it. It was always there."
Many of us damn Jerry Jones for the Cowboys shortcomings. We hold him accountable for the dismissal of Tom Landry even though Bum Bright intended to make that firing a condition of any sale of the Cowboys. There is justification for this, but we must also recognize the success he has brought as well. Not only are there three Lombardi Trophies that were added during his tenure as the team's owner there is a lot more success that was provided courtesy of Jerry Jones. His marketing genius has put many dollars into the pockets of his family and those of his fellow owners but they are not the only winners.
You and I are winners as well. By skillful marketing the league has become the biggest sports market in the United States. To fill that need we have products like NFL Sunday Ticket which allows fans to faithfully follow their team regardless of their local market. We have access to team merchandise that was unimaginable before Jones and a few others started to actively promote their teams beyond the game. We can follow our favorite squad year round with dedicated media, including this site, simply because a few managed to create a widespread year-round interest.
It took a collection of business geniuses to create the football environment that we now enjoy, Key among those was Jerry Jones. For that, coupled with the success of his own franchise on both the field and balance sheet, Mr. Jones deserves enshrinement in Canton's hallowed halls. His name will be considered for this honor over the next few months. By the end of the season we will know if Jones will be a member of the Hall Of Fame Class of 2017.