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Jerry Jones is only hurting his own legacy over Jimmy Johnson and Cowboys Ring of Honor

Dallas’ owner has taken unfair criticism at times, but now he’s validating much of it in handling of longtime feud.

Super Bowl XXVIII - Dallas Cowboys v Buffalo Bills

Jerry Jones has taken plenty of criticism through the years. Like with most celebrities, some of it has been justified and some unfair due to ignorance or bias. But with his ongoing refusal to induct legendary coach Jimmy Johnson to the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, Jones is only damaging his own legacy and the memory of his greatest NFL success.

The feud between Johnson and Jones is well documented and will soon reach its 30th anniversary. For most of us, it began in March of 1994 when Johnson shockingly left the Cowboys following back-to-back Super Bowl victories. A breakdown in the working relationship between Dallas’ head coach and the owner/general manager, with ego over who got credit for the team’s dynasty of the 90s as the driving force, led to Johnson’s untimely end.

Over time we’ve seen varying degrees of warmth and hostility between the two, but with the enduring hope that eventually they’d let bygones be bygones and that Johnson would be welcomed fully back into the Cowboys family. While former players like Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin have never shied away from crediting their former coach, Jerry Jones has never allowed Johnson to have his rightful place among Dallas’ greatest contributors in the team’s own Hall of Fame, the Ring of Honor.

The Ring belongs to the franchise, something that Jones merely acquired when he bought the team in 1989. It was started in 1975 by then-president and general manager Tex Schramm. But by their handling of it in relation to Johnson, the Jones family is showing just how much of an oligarchy they really are.

I was seven years old when Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys. I didn’t really become a fan until 1993 when my uncle started inviting me to watch games with him and his buddies. To me, back then, names like Tom Landry and Roger Staubach might as well have been Abraham and Moses.

One of the things I’ve always heard and scoffed at from the oldheads in Cowboys Nation is their displeasure about how Jerry Jones treated Tom Landry after buying the team. It never really made sense to me; Landry was about to turn 65 and the team hadn’t had a winning season since 1985. The fact that Jones hit the reset button when he came in just seemed like good business sense given the circumstances.

Of course, I had no emotional investment in all that Landry had done for America’s Team at that point. And frankly, I never will. It wasn’t my era. But now that I’ve experienced Jones’ pettiness towards Jimmy Johnson through the years, I can better relate to all the bitterness of how Johnson’s predecessor was treated.

It’s been especially discouraging in recent years as Jones keeps talking out of both sides of that thin-lipped mouth. In August of 2021, as Johnson was being celebrated for his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jones made a clear statement that Johnson “will be in the Ring of Honor.”

Did Jones mean it at the time? Did he get caught up in the moment? Or did he just say what he needed to go get out of there without the FOX crew pummeling him into dust? We may never know, but he’s been backpedaling like Deion Sanders ever since.

A year after Jones’s placating proclamation, he was asked when he’d follow through on that promise. His response had a far different tone from the year before:

“I’ve said I’m gonna put him in. Now when I put him in, and the circumstances around when I’m going to do that, there’s a lot more than Jimmy to think about. It isn’t at the end of the day tailored around whether Jimmy is sniveling or not.’’

Quite a shift, no? Guess it’s easier to talk tough when you don’t have the guy sitting right next to you, let alone all those retired NFL legends. Jones’ snotty remark only shows his own Napoleon complex about his perceived role in building the Cowboys’ last championship teams.

This story has recirculated recently due to the announcement that the great DeMarcus Ware will be the next inductee to the Ring of Honor. While the Cowboys’ all-time sack leader is certainly more than deserving, it’s a significant moment as Ware will be the first player from the last 20 years to be inducted. It opens up a new era of expected inductees like Jason Witten, Tony Romo, and others who left indelible marks on the franchise.

But opening the door to the modern era before honoring Jimmy Johnson is just another slap in the face. What’s worse, Jones’ stated logic for inducting Ware this year over Johnson only shows his own hypocrisy.

“Ware is a player. Jimmy is not. I wanted to put a player in.”

This comes from a man who never played a down of professional football, Jones’ was a college football player at Arkansas, where he met and befriended teammate Jimmy Johnson in the early 60s, But Jones got a gold jacket in 2017 as a “contributor” to the game, citing his success as the Cowboys owner and all he’d done to lead the league commercial growth.

The problem isn’t that Jimmy Johnson wasn’t a player. It’s still that he’s Jimmy Johnson, the guy that the majority of the world credits for building the modern Dallas Cowboys. That still sticks in Jones’ craw and doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

This is all Jones has left to punish Johnson with. The former coach already has the credit, the beloved status on FOX Sports, and now his own bust in Canton. The Ring of Honor is the only weapon left in Jones’ vindictive arsenal.

But what Jones either fails to understand, or is just too entitled and obtuse to care about, is how much this tarnishes his own memory with the younger generations of Cowboys fans. We didn’t care about Tom Landry, especially when Jones gave us three Super Bowls, those fly Starter jackets, and all the swagger of the 90s. The fans are still here, fueling the most valuable franchise in spots, despite decades of failure on the basis of that former glory.

Jerry Jones the owner has rarely let us down. Jerry Jones the general manager hasn’t been as successful, but also hasn’t been as bad as many try to promote. The Cowboys have stayed relevant and fielded championship-worthy rosters multiple times since the dynasty.

We all know Jones, who turns 81 next month, is desperate to win one more Super Bowl while he can still take credit for it. Even the 1995 championship gets credited to Jimmy Johnson, being won on the backs of his key players. Jones wants one trophy in the case that he can say came without any influence or contribution from his former friend.

If Jerry Jones allows this to go on much longer, and especially if he doesn’t live long enough to rectify it, this is part of what he’s going to be remembered for, and it’s worse than merely having an adequate acumen for football. This is now getting to the core of who he is as a person, and people become much less forgiving when they don’t like you.

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