One is eighty and the other pushing seventy. One looks like the skeletal remains of an aged 1930s Chicago-land gangster and the other like a Michael Jackson starter kit with his recent face work and new teeth.
One built the Raiduhhhhs into one of the NFL’s elite franchises and then systematically shredded it, piece by piece. The other resurrected America’s Team from its late ’80s shallow grave, restored it to its glorious place among the champions, and then, for the sake of his own fragile ego, ran the architect of the Cowboys’ resurgence out of town and started looking for hand puppets so he could coach the team without anyone really knowing it (though most everyone suspects it).
Between them, Al Davis and Jerry Jones have the ownership of eight Lombardi trophies, though Jones only actually participated in winning three of his franchise’s five. The Raiders have been to five Super Bowls under Davis, winning three of them. When he was sane (or at least crazy like a fox rather than just plain mad), the Raiders general managing partner built the team into an enviable organization.
He did it by emphasizing a down-and-dirty, take-no-prisoners defensive mindset; a hard-nosed, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust running game; and a vertical, quick-strike passing game. He did it by signing players no one else would touch; mean suckers with a past, if not a rap sheet.
Jerry, conversely, made just the right hire for just the right time. He brought in a young, energetic, single-minded college football coach who would eat, drink, sleep football; divorce his wife; ignore his kids; and slave drive his staff until he got where he was going. And where Jimmy Johnson was going was just where Jerry dreamed it could be: to the very pinnacle of National Football League success. He was going – and dragging a giddy Jerry Jones along – to the place no team had been before. He was going to build a team that would win three Super Bowls in four years.
But Jimmy Johnson wouldn’t get that third ring.
Valley Ranch is an expansive football facility, but it could not house the enormously big heads of Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson…and Jones had the keys to the place. He paid the mortgage. In the divorce, Jimmy got hush money and Jerry got the Boys and the ranch. Jimmy got some gold, but Jerry owned the mine.
Meanwhile, fans of the Dallas Cowboys simply got the shaft.
Oakland Raiders’ and Dallas Cowboys’ fans know they owe a debt of gratitude to the men most responsible for making the right decisions, pulling the right triggers, and pushing the right buttons to get their teams to the status of storied franchise. Unfortunately, they also know that the line between genius and madness is razor thin and the cartoon-like leftovers of the teams’ owners/general managers are dancing like demented jesters all over that line.
Crazy like a fox is cool. Crazy as a mad hatter is sad.
One only needs to ask this question for perspective on the two teams’ current state of management: If either Jerry Jones or Al Davis were to fire himself as General Manager, would any other NFL team hire him as theirs?
I rest my case.
Dallas Cowboys. Oakland Raiders. Insanity in the owner’s box. Desperation on the field. Turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie on the table.
Happy Thanksgiving, America!