King Jerry

Cow­boys owner en­ters elite club

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - Dal­las Cow­boys owner Jerry Jones,

FRISCO, Texas — Jerry Jones never seems sure where to start in trac­ing the roots that led to him be­com­ing one of the NFL’s most pow­er­ful men.

His in­flu­ence in the league is as good a rea­son as any why the Dal­las Cow­boys owner and gen­eral man­ager will be in­ducted to­day, along with six for­mer play­ers, into the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame.

Maybe it’s Jones, at age 9, dressed in a bow tie by his mother so he could greet cus­tomers at the fam­ily gro­cery store in Arkansas.

Or per­haps it’s the young Ra­zor­back who fig­ured out he could buy game tick­ets from stu­dents for $1 and sell them for $20, which in­cluded leav­ing the locker room to make ar­range­ments for fans.

The most di­rect link, of course, is Jones emerg­ing as the sur­prise buyer of the proud but fad­ing Dal­las fran­chise for $140 mil­lion in 1989.

That came a lit­tle more than 20 years af­ter a failed bid for the San Diego Charg­ers, which he tried as a pre­co­cious 20-some­thing with al­most noth­ing but bor­rowed cash.

“Th­ese years have been so filled up with spe­cial times, even the rough ones, I thought that was my re­ward,” said Jones, who has been on the stage as a pre­sen­ter three times: for re­ceiver Michael Irvin, run­ning back Em­mitt Smith and of­fen­sive line­man Larry Allen.

“Even when we’ve had some se­ri­ous dis­ap­point­ments there was al­ways, when you looked at a full year, I’ve never re­ally cov­eted or re­ally thought about what I’m do­ing is about ul­ti­mately be­ing rec­og­nized.”

And yet Jones, 74, will be in Can­ton, Ohio, tonight, about 20 years af­ter rankling the NFL over rev­enue is­sues so much that the league sued him. He sued back.

It’s just shy of 25 years since Jones star­tled the league with the fir­ing of coach Jimmy John­son af­ter con­sec­u­tive Su­per Bowl vic­tory.

This was the same guy who dumped Tom Landry, the only coach the Cow­boys had known in 29 years, when Jones bought the team and hired John­son, who had no pro ex­pe­ri­ence.

Jones turned on his for­mer Arkansas team­mate with the cryp­tic line for oth­ers to hear in early 1994 that the owner could find 500 coaches to lead those tal­ent-laden Cow­boys. The bit­ter­ness has slowly faded.

“I don’t think there’s a roller coaster big enough to say how that re­la­tion­ship has evolved,” John­son told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “But I think Jerry and I have al­ways liked one an­other. We’ve al­ways had great re­spect for one an­other. There’s never been any ques­tion about our pas­sion or our drive, both of us.

“The main thing is, I’m re­ally happy for Jerry. It’s an honor that he re­ally de­serves.”

Jones’ wife, Gene Jones, will present her hus­band, a nod to Jones’ feel­ing that the Hall of Fame recog­ni­tion is as much about the fam­ily as it is the mark he left in turn­ing the Cow­boys into the most valu­able brand in sports; Forbes mag­a­zine’s most re­cent es­ti­mate was $4.2 bil­lion.

A big chunk of that worth comes from Jones’ crown jewel, the $1.2 bil­lion show­place that ush­ered in the era of 10-fig­ure sports sta­di­ums in the United States a decade ago.

Don’t ask son Stephen Jones, the ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of per­son­nel, to pick that or any other facet of Jones’ le­gacy as the rea­son he’s join­ing a list of con­trib­u­tors that in­cludes the late owner Jones prob­a­bly looked up to the most: Oak­land’s Al Davis.

“Only thing I can say is full body of work,” Stephen Jones said. “To me, it’s five star at all lev­els. It’s at the club level. It’s at the NFL level. To me, he checks all the boxes in a dou­ble-plus way.”

Jerry Jones said he thought his dream of own­ing an NFL team died with his pur­suit of the Charg­ers. He had made his for­tune in the oil busi­ness when H.R. “Bum” Bright de­cided

to sell the Cow­boys. And there were plenty of peo­ple close to Jones who ques­tioned why he would take over a fran­chise that he said was los­ing $100,000 a day.

Within a decade, he had won three Su­per Bowls, pushed back with own­ers enough to help get a land­mark TV deal that led to huge jumps in rights fees, and won the right to forge his own spon­sor­ship deals.

All the while, his power grew in the small cir­cle of NFL own­ers, cul­mi­nat­ing in his vi­tal role a year and a half ago in bro­ker­ing a deal to let the St. Louis Rams move back to Los An­ge­les — and get an­other team there with them. The Charg­ers moved from San Diego a year later.

“It’s co­in­ci­den­tal, pos­si­bly, that the tim­ing of this Hall of Fame thing is com­ing along here about the same time that we’re where we are with the league,” Jones said. “I feel very strongly, what I do with the league is for the Cow­boys and I feel strongly that this is go­ing to be bet­ter for ev­ery team in the league.”

Crit­ics point to Jones’ GM fail­ures, with the Cow­boys now at 22 years and count­ing since their last Su­per Bowl ti­tle. Dal­las has won two play­off games since then.

But there’s no dis­pute about his abil­ity as a busi­ness­man trans­lat­ing to in­flu­ence on the league, or his global star power.

“I re­ally think it’s val­i­dated his jour­ney, in terms of what he’s all about,” Stephen Jones said. “He’s re­ally stepped out there and had a vi­sion for the NFL that not ev­ery­body shared.”

AP file photo

Dal­las Cow­boys owner/gen­eral man­ager Jerry Jones, who grad­u­ated from North Lit­tle Rock High School and was a co-cap­tain on the Arkansas Ra­zor­backs’ 1964 na­tional cham­pi­onship team, will be in­ducted into the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame in Can­ton, Ohio, to­day.

AP/MICHAEL OWEN BAKER

Since pur­chas­ing the fran­chise, Jerry Jones has turned the Dal­las Cow­boys into the most valu­able brand in sports, worth $4.2 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Forbes mag­a­zine.

AP/GUS RUE­LAS

74, will be in­ducted into the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame to­day by his wife, Gene. Jerry Jones has been on the stage as a pre­sen­ter three times for for­mer Cow­boys: re­ceiver Michael Irvin, run­ning back Em­mitt Smith and of­fen­sive line­man Larry Allen.

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