Today marks the 25th anniversary of Jerry Jones’ ownership of the Dallas Cowboys. The one thing that Jerry Jones has showed NFL fans is that there is more to pro-football than just winning on the field. It is possible to be a perennial .500 team and still lead the NFL in most-profitable franchise, most-watched TV games, and most-talked about on social media. With the criteria expanded to outside the white lines, let’s take a look at what I consider the 25 biggest wins of Jerry Jones’ ownership:
25. Bringing NBA All-Star game to Dallas
In February 2010, Jerry Jones brought the 59th NBA All-Star Game to the, formerly known, Cowboys Stadium. This was the first time since 1986 that the NBA’s star studded weekend returned to the Metroplex. The home of America’s Team became the fifth NFL or MLB venue to host the All-Star Game with game MVP Dwayne Wade leading the East to victory over the West, 141-139.
24. Partnership with 105.3 The Fan
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Dallas Cowboys played on KRLD in Dallas. In 2009, the Cowboys opted out of their five-year contract extension with KTCK 1310 “The Ticket” to make KRLD-FM 105.3 “The Fan” their flagship station. Initial reports of the ten-year deal included a 24-hour Cowboys station that would play old coaches’ shows and game broadcasts. For now, we have to settle for Jerry Jones’ voice overs on legal ID’s and Mickey Fisher.
23. Training camp in San Antonio
Before Jerry Jones’ arrival, the Dallas Cowboys held training camp for decades in Thousand Oaks, California, just outside of Los Angeles. From 1990 to 2001, the Cowboys had summer practices in Austin and Witchita Falls. What was so different in 2002 about holding it in a third different Texas city? First off, it was the first time the Cowboys would hold training camp indoors, a more favorable venue for fans to cheer and evaluate their team. Secondly, it helped Jerry Jones keep a foothold on a large metropolitan area near Houston, where an upstart NFL team was beginning.
22. First win in the NFL
Despite going 3-1 in preseason and defeating the John Elway-led Denver Broncos in overtime in the exhibition finale, opponents were demolishing the 1989 Dallas Cowboys with or without Herschel Walker. The question was whether this team could even win a game. Dallas began their series with the Washington Redskins at home with a 7-30 loss. Now heading into RFK Stadium without rookie starting quarterback Troy Aikman, even being competitive seemed daunting. However, the Cowboys found victory on that November night and beat Washington 13-3. The win would ultimately keep the Redskins out of the postseason.
21. Bringing Final Four to Dallas
The highlight of this accomplishment isn’t so much that another large sporting body acknowledged the grandeur of AT&T Stadium so much as it is Charlotte Jones Anderson, Jerry’s daughter, leading the initiative. It is proof that the Jones Charm is generational and hereditary, and that Jerry’s legacy of leadership will live on in the Metroplex long after he has gone to the owner’s box in the sky.
20. Negotiating NFL TV rights in 1994
The NFL was losing money under their current TV contract and Jerry Jones, being a former owner of Little Rock, Arkansas KARK, saw an opportunity to make more money off of the NFL’s television rights. According to Dallas Morning News’ David Moore, Jerry Jones contacted Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. and told the media mogul that the league would seriously consider his offers to broadcast the NFL on his Fox Network. News Corp. outbid CBS, the league’s TV deal jumped from $900 million to $1.1 billion in 1994, and Joe Buck went on to snicker forever-after on the NFL on FOX.
19. Beating the Vikings in 1996 playoffs
1996 was a tumultuous year for America’s Team. The league suspended Michael Irvin for the first five games from his cocaine possession arrest shortly after Super Bowl XXX and Emmitt Smith injured his neck in Week 1. The team limped to a 1-3 start, but rallied back to a 10-6 record to win the NFC East. It was playoff time on Saturday, December 28th, 1996 in Texas Stadium and the Cowboys demolished the Minnesota Vikings, 40-15. Despite all of the legal troubles, injury issues, and free agent departures, Jerry’s team seemed primed for the playoffs.
18. The Chicago 11
It’s a toss-up on what’s most impressive on “The Chicago 11”: that Jerry Jones would challenge the NFL old guard within his first six months as owner or that ten other owners would side with the Arkansas wildcatter. To replace Pete Rozelle as NFL Commissioner, old NFL owners like Wellington Mara, Art Modell, and Art Rooney chose Jim Finks, former New Orleans Saints general manager, as his successor. However, Jones saw that Finks and the old guard’s way of running the NFL completely missed the marketing and branding opportunities. It all started when Jerry Jones voiced his displeasure at a hotel bar in Chicago with ten other owners. “The Chicago 11” formed, blocked Finks’ nomination, and eventually gave rise to Paul Tagliabue. To this day, it is arguably the only good thing that has come from Jerry tirading at a bar.
17. First playoff win over Chicago
On December 29th, 1991, the Dallas Cowboys, led by backup quarterback Steve Beuerlein, took their 11-5 wild card berth into Soldier Field to battle the NFC Central champion Chicago Bears, still led by former Cowboys assistant coach and Landry loyalist Mike Ditka. Never trailing the entire game, the Cowboys forced three turnovers and defeated the Monsters of the Midway, 17-13. In only 104 weeks, Jerry Jones’ team had gone from 1-15 to their first playoff victory.
16. Herschel Walker Trade
At the time, fans and critics vociferously panned the Herschel Walker trade. It was another example of how that Arkansas hillbilly Jerry Jones was destroying the Dallas Cowboys. Maybe the idea of a Japanese consortium owning America’s Team wasn’t so bad after all. Other than the veteran players, the Cowboys weren’t going to play and release at the end of the year anyway. Dallas received eight total draft picks from 1990-93 that helped them obtain Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Alvin Harper, and Darren Woodson, key contributors to the team’s upcoming three Super Bowls. “The Great Train Robbery” helped seal Jerry Jones’ reputation as a wheeler and dealer.
15. Sweeping NFC East in 1998
In the off-season of 1998, Barry Switzer resigned after a dismal 6-10 record and putting the Cowboys in a tailspin that could dismantle the dynasty. While some speculated Jones would bring in George Seifert or Norv Turner, Jerry Jones surprised Cowboys Nation with the hiring of Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Curious to see what the rookie head coach would bring to Dallas, Gailey improved Dallas to 8-3 after their first eleven games. By season’s end, with an NFC East title, the Cowboys had swept the entire NFC East, a feat not even Tom Landry or Jimmy Johnson had done. The dynasty was saved.
14. First playoff win in AT&T Stadium
After being stunned 31-33 in the inaugural game against the Giants and after being humiliated for a decade by the Philadelphia Eagles, the 2009 Dallas Cowboys crushed Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb’s team 34-14 in the NFC Wildcard on Saturday, January 9th, 2010. It was the first playoff win in thirteen years and it couldn’t be attributed to Jimmy Johnson’s influence whatsoever. The Cowboys were back to doing it Jerry’s way.
13. Beating the 49ers in 1993 NFC Championship Game
Though today Cowboys fans decry their owner’s outspokenness and gift of gaffe, only rivaled by Vice President Joe Biden, in January 1994, it was Dallas head coach Jimmy Johnson who was writing checks with his mouth. In three-inch “headline,” sports writers were to quote the coach as saying, “We will win the ballgame.” This was the first NFC Championship in Texas Stadium since 1977, and the Cowboys prevailed resoundingly over their West Coast rivals for a shot at repeating Super Bowl champions.
12. Winning NFC East in 2009
The year 2009 produced uncertainty for the Dallas Cowboys. How would the offense function without Terrell Owens? How would the Cowboys perform in their new stadium? How soon until Wade Phillips would be fired? Well, fourth year receiver Miles Austin replaced Owens convincingly, the Cowboys went 6-2 in their state of the art venue, and Wade Phillips earned a contract extension. 2008’s missed playoffs were sure to be an exception, not the trend. Dallas was back and it was thanks to Jerry Jones’ general managing.
11. Hosting Super Bowl XLV
Having long been an innovator and respected among league peers, even if it came with moments of hardship, Jerry Jones established himself firmly as a key part of the NFL power structure with hosting Super Bowl XLV. Though the poor weather and the seating fiasco put a damper on the Big Game’s festivities, this accomplishment is one that Jerry Jones can reference as making progress within the league, not just within his own organization.
10. Presenting Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, and Larry Allen into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Diogenes fans and the lazy media brand Jerry Jones as not being a football guy, who is only concerned about money and is an overall egomaniac. What, then, does it say that three of the four Dallas Cowboys that played for him asked for his presentation at their Hall of Fame inductions? Certainly, this was another win for Jerry because it validated him as being a great owner who had a tremendous rapport, admiration, and care for his players. Three out of four, people.
9. Beating the 49ers in 1992 NFC Championship Game
As Pat Summerall said in the pregame introduction, the 1992 Dallas Cowboys only won one game in 1989. Now, they were one win from the Super Bowl. Triumphing over the San Francisco 49ers, in their own stadium where infamous Cowboys nightmares occurred, declared to the world that the Dallas Cowboys were back. Jerry Jones beat them all. They couldn’t laugh or deride anymore. The critics would have to answer Jimmy Johnson’s question: how ’bout them Cowboys?
8. Winning Super Bowl XXVIII
“Two in a row: how sweet it is!” said Emmitt Smith in the closing moments of Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta, Georgia. This 30-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills proved that the previous year’s Super Bowl wasn’t a fluke that got out of control. No, Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys and turned them back into a dominant force set to rule the 1990’s pro football landscape. Within only five years of ownership, Jerry Jones had the Cowboys tied for most Super Bowl wins in history. The only way to avoid lauding Jerry Jones was to heap praise upon Jimmy Johnson.
7. Buying the Dallas Cowboys
It was twenty-five years ago today that an Arkansas oilman purchased the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Stadium from H.R. “Bum” Bright for $140 million. In addition to falling on hard times on the field, the club was bleeding millions of dollars and parts of the franchise were owned by the FDIC. Spotted at Mia’s Mexican Restaurant in Dallas with Jimmy Johnson plotting the revolution of America’s Team, Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys on Saturday, February 25th, 1989. A day later on a Sunday night at a press conference with Jimmy Johnson and longtime general manager Tex Schramm, the Metroplex would be introduced to Jones’ ownership, which got off to an inauspicious start with the firing of Tom Landry. From Day One, Jerry Jones was the devil, a Dallas-Fort Worth sports Nixon that would be lampooned and criticized by fan and columnist alike. Like Liberace, Jerry Jones cries all the way to the bank.
6. Winning 1995 NFC Championship Game
For the first time in four straight years in a row, the Dallas Cowboys were in the NFC Championship game. For the second of four of those years, the venue was Texas Stadium. For the first time since 1989, the team was under the complete purview of Jerry Jones. There was no one else in the front office or sidelines to take the credit. Jones made it the show the NFC Championship game would become with Michael Buffer’s famous quotation kicking off the event. Dallas would go on to its third Super Bowl berth in four years with a 38-27 win over the Green Bay Packers.
5. Being richest, recognizeable team in NFL
In 1989, Jerry Jones purchased the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Stadium for $140 million. As of September 2013, the Cowboys are worth $2 billion. Not only that, but studies show the Dallas Cowboys are America’s Team year after year after year. Not only that, but routinely Dallas Cowboys games comprise multiple top 10 games of the season. Who needs wins to stay popular when all you need is a good marketing strategy?
4. Winning Super Bowl XXVII
It was the Buffalo Bills’ time. While the Cowboys were struggling to get into the playoffs, the Bills were wide right away from having a Super Bowl title. However, the 1992 Cowboys proved that it wasn’t enough to just be in the dance. They were taking it all. They creamed Buffalo 52-17 and would have set the record for most points scored in the Super Bowl if not for Don Beebe catching a hot dogging Leon Lett. On the sidelines, in the closing moments, Jerry Jones could be seen throwing his fists into the air with the words “Championship!” coming across his lips. From 1-15 to his first Super Bowl victory — talk about a five-year plan.
3. Beating NFL Properties
In the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s, NFL Properties ran the licensing for NFL teams outside of TV contracts and paid $3 million per team in 1995. To bankroll keeping the dynasty together, Jerry Jones announced in training camp of that year a host of corporate sponsorships with companies that were in direct competition with those affiliated with NFL Properties. For instance, American Express was now the official credit card of the Dallas Cowboys, even though Visa was the official credit card of the NFL.
Not too happy with Jones’ innovation, the NFL filed a $300 million lawsuit against Jerry Jones, who countersued for $700 million claiming the NFL was violating antitrust legislation. Jones managed to get around the lawsuit by claiming Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, American Express, Nike, et cetera were the official brands of Texas Stadium, not the Dallas Cowboys. In the end, the NFL announced in late 1996 that team owners could handle team-specific licensing. Jerry Jones fought the NFL and won again.
2. Winning Super Bowl XXX
A buzzed Jerry Jones, spurned by Jimmy Johnson not allowing him to sit at a table with him at a league meeting in 1994, boldly proclaimed that, “Any one of 500 coaches could win with this team.” Well, the Dallas owner was right, and he was vindicated in 1995 when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17, earning their third Super Bowl win in four years.
“Are you having fun yet, Jerry” Coach Switzer asked his owner while holding the Lombardi Trophy. Jerry grabbed the trophy from his hands and held onto it a little longer with his enthusiastic grin that irked enemies and made friends smile. Jerry Jones had done it without Jimmy Johnson, who would take a job with the Miami Dolphins the next season.
1. AT&T Stadium
The more the media and fans refer to a venue that doesn’t even have Jones’ image as “Jerry World,” the more people are going to wonder over time the genius, vision, and innovation it took to build an Eighth Wonder of the World to house America’s Team. Cowboys Stadium, AT&T Stadium, or whatever corporate name it will have in the year 3000, will forever stand as a testament to the marketing and business talent and determination Jerry Jones’ life has exuded. Even if another owner possesses the Dallas Cowboys longer than Jerry Jones (who will do so in 2015, surpassing Clint Murchison, Jr.), it’s highly unlikely anyone will be able to put their indelible mark on the franchise the way Jerry did with AT&T Stadium.
Even the new stadiums that have been built don’t compare. Yes, there are bigger video boards out there, but none that hand double-sided over the playing surface like at AT&T Stadium. With the AT&T Cotton Bowl, Cowboys Classic, and College Football Championship Game all being played at AT&T Stadium, there is no other venue that does football better.
Sometimes, there is more to winning in football than just on the field. Throughout Jerry Jones’ 25 years of ownership, he has shown exactly that. Though for long suffering Cowboys fans, may his next 25 years of ownership include more playoff wins, NFC Championship game berths, and Super Bowl wins.