When I was a little kid, I would watch the Dukes of Hazzard on Friday night. Right after that show was a show called Dallas, but it was on a 10 pm which was past my bedtime. My dad would let me watch the intro to the show (watch here) just so I could see the aerial view of Texas Stadium. Yeah, I was weird like that.
Despite having a cool title, the show Dallas didn’t really capture my attention. I wasn’t old enough to understand that grownup drama, however, I did know one thing - it was about a rich oil tycoon (J.R. Ewing) and that people wanted to shoot him.
So it seemed only fitting that in 1989, wealthy oil man, Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys. And just like J.R., it didn’t take long for people to start hating him.
Right out of the gate, Jones fired Cowboys legend Tom Landry. He replaced him with his college buddy who was a hot-headed, no-nonsense, college national champion coach named Jimmy Johnson. The two Arkansas guys turned around and traded away the team’s best player, Herschel Walker. The team would finish 1-15 during the first year under new management and Cowboys fans were up in arms. What type of madness was going on in Dallas?
Well, as we quickly learned, the team got better and it got better fast. Just three short years after their one-win season, the Cowboys would be Super Bowl champions. They would win three Super Bowls in a span of four years. It was amazing.
As great as it was, the Jerry/Jimmy marriage ended after their second Super Bowl. Just when Jones had everyone liking him, he had to go and mess it up. And to make matters worse, he brought in another friend, Barry Switzer, to run the team. Switzer was terrible. He had no control over the team. When star player Deion Sanders refused to watch film or participate in the team’s weight training regimen, he just whipped out his checkbook and paid the fines.
When Mike Woicik, the team's gruff strength and conditioning coach, complained about Sanders' indifference, Switzer sided with his new star. "We're talking about Deion Sanders here," Switzer told Woicik. "If he doesn't want to do something, he doesn't have to."
Can you imagine what impression that left for younger players nowhere near as talented as Sanders? What would Jason Garrett do if Dez Bryant tried to pull something like that?
If there ever was a “puppet” coaching the Cowboys, it was Switzer. But that’s how Jerry wanted it. With success happening so fast for him in Dallas, winning seemed to come easy. But it wasn’t. And Jerry would learn that over the course of the next 20 plus years. The Cowboys have not made it out of the divisional round of the playoffs since their last Super Bowl victory during the 1995 season.
Win or lose, Jones did things on his terms. He would make bold moves. The decision to replace Landry with Johnson was a great one, but many thereafter were not. His general manager skills hit a terrible stretch. He traded premium draft stock for wide receivers Joey Galloway (two first-rounders) and Roy Williams (a first and third). The Cowboys spend many years whiffing on draft picks (i.e. Shante Carver, Bobby Carpenter). And Jones would always sideswipe the salary cap by back-loading deals, mortgaging the team’s future for success now. It was a recipe for disaster, but he always believed he was just one player away from a championship and would roll the dice as he tried to take a shortcut. These dice rolls crapped out.
What was telling about Jones when it came to the success of the team on the football field, is that he was only as good as the people around him. Fortunately for Jerry, he was relentless in his effort to be the best. Say what you want about his methods, the guy is always trying. And throughout the years, Jones himself has succumbed to others around him that he feels can lead him back to victory. It’s no longer about the ego. He just wants to win.
Jones isn’t just an owner that sits in the booth watching things go on around him. He’s personally connected with the team and that will never change. Future Hall of Famer, Jason Witten had this to say about him:
“The guy can be anywhere in the world and he chooses to be here with us and invested into what we’re trying to build, and that’s what we fall in love with.”
Jones is often vilified by fans outside of Dallas. In 2003, he was voted the most disliked sports figure according to a poll from Sports Illustrated. Part of that just comes with the territory of being associated with the Cowboys, but Jerry exacerbates this by his own outspoken ways. He’s rich, he’s cocky at times, and he’s always meddling. And whether their play warrants it or not, he always has the Cowboys in the limelight.
While three Super Bowls is plenty for any owner to hang his hat on, Jones contribution extends far past what the team does on the football field. Love him or hate him, Jones’ contribution to the league are prolific. He took a stand on television rights for broadcasting NFL games that ultimately led the emergence of FOX network joining the party.
Recognizing the value that is the product of the Dallas Cowboys, Jones would balk at the idea of revenue sharing. During the mid ‘90s success, he struck deals with Nike, Pepsi, and AT&T worth more than $60 million. The commissioner at the time, Paul Tagliabue, stated that the success of the league has come from the ability to operate as a partnership. The league sued Jones, but Jerry fired back with a counter suit. When the dust settled, Jones kept his deals.
He believed in himself when he built his $1.2 billion football stadium, known as “Jerry’s World” that would seat over 100,000 people and generate ridiculous revenue, not just for Cowboys games, but other big-time events as well. Other teams have since followed suit, including bringing teams back to Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
This list goes on and on.
The Cowboys haven’t always been winners under Jones’ watch. His general manager skills aren’t anything worthy of a bust. But as owners go, very few have had the impact as the man in charge in Big D.
Jerry Jones is very deserving of his place and Canton.