Dallas Cowboys GM Jerry Jones was given his job by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones the minute owner Jones fired his friend/coach/former teammate/nemesis/adversary Jimmy Johnson.
Jones will tell you he has always been the General Manager of the team, from day one. In a sense, that is true. But Johnson revealed in 2012 that he and Jones had a contractual agreement that he would have the say on all things football. Here is how Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News reported Johnson’s comments:
Jimmy Johnson said he wasn’t interested in creating controversy, but he wanted to set the record straight Wednesday about his role with the Cowboys in the years he coached the team.
“The time I was with the team, I had complete and total responsibility over the football operation,” Johnson said in a telephone interview from his home in the Florida Keys. “That meant personnel, the draft, coaches, including the strength coach. Everything.
“It was always in my contract.”
Johnson was reacting to comments owner Jerry Jones made in the wake of the Cowboys’ loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Jones said he ran the Cowboys’ football operation from the day he bought the team in 1989 and would continue to do so.
“When I bought the team, the night I bought it, I said I would be doing what I’m doing and that’s GM the team and making the final decisions on personnel,” Jones said late Sunday night. “That’s the way it’s always been done. We’ve won three Super Bowls doing it that way, so I’m going to do it again.”
Johnson, who coached two of those three Super Bowl teams, and has been widely credited for assembling the talent that twice beat the Buffalo Bills and the team that went on to win a third against the Pittsburgh Steelers under Barry Switzer, agreed that Jones held the title of “general manager” but…
“When we signed that first contract Jerry said, ‘I’ll be in charge of the finances, you’ll be in charge of the football,’ we’ll make history,” Johnson said.
Johnson and Jones had a winning formula. Jones, the promoter with the Midas touch, turned the Cowboys—and really, the NFL—into a money-making machine. He used Texas Stadium as a revenue-winner by signing deals with firms like Pepsi and Nike. The NFL sued him, lost, and then joined him. With Jones in the lead, the National Football League became America’s pastime and a branding juggernaut.
Meanwhile, Johnson pulled off the football deal of the century with the Herschel Walker trade and put together one of the most dominant teams in NFL history.
Johnson received national acclaim for his accomplishment in turning around a franchise that seemed to have pulled loose of its moorings and was adrift.
It is not speculation or unfair to say that Jerry Jones envied Jimmy Johnson. When Johnson seemed to snub Jones during the post-Super Bowl celebrations, after the team had won back-to-back Lombardi trophies, the rift lead to Jones’ dismissal of Johnson. Jones ate a million or so bucks, literally paying Johnson to go away.
Jones would famously assert that “any of 500 coaches could take this team to the Super Bowl.”
He was apparently somewhat right about that. The team Johnson had built was so strong that it withstood the storm its owner’s ego created, reached the NFC Championship game the year after Johnson was set free, and won the Super Bowl the following year.
But the new era of free agency (which Jones helped to bring on) took its toll. Players left for more money in other places. The core group of players grew older and the supporting cast became weaker. Barry Switzer, another old friend of Jones’ from Arkansas and Johnson’s replacement, forgot he had packed a gun and was detained at an airport. That gaffe aided Jones in getting rid of yet another old friend.
Then it was Chan Gailey and his marginal success followed by Dave Campo and his three straight 5-11 teams.
Jones was truly the General Manager of the team once Jimmy left. And that team slid into disarray. Jones had to bring in Bill Parcells, a football guru and personnel evaluator not unlike Jimmy Johnson, to salvage the team, turn it around, and get it pointed in the right direction. Then, Parcells was turned out to pasture. And on we go.
Under Jones the GM, the Dallas Cowboys have mismanaged and missed on personnel decisions so much that the team has been mired in .500 ball for nearly two decades. That kind of NFL irrelevance happens in other cities and to other football teams. That does not happen in the city of Tom Landry or to America’s Team.
Unless, of course, Jerry Jones is in charge.
Jones has overseen some of the worst drafts in NFL history. His 2009 draft consisted of 12 players. Three years later, not a single player from that draft remains on the team. Most of them are not anywhere in the NFL. In 2008, Jones had two first round picks. He chose RB Felix Jones and CB Mike Jenkins. Jones, who was not a featured back at the University of Arkansas, never established himself as one in Dallas, either. Jenkins was up and down, a so-so NFL cornerback. Both are gone.
Felix Jones (from Jerry’s Alma Mater) was selected over the speedy Chris Johnson and Rashard Mendenhall. That kind of mistake at RB was a repeat from the 2004 draft (another mangled mess), when the Cowboys traded down and took Julius Jones, rather than staying put and selecting Steven Jackson.
A mismanaged roster. Misfires on both personnel and head coach hirings. I would point particularly to the promotion of Dave Campo, who was clearly over his head, and to the hiring of Wade Phillips, the laissez faire coach, who knew how to scheme a defense and spin an excuse for losing.
But Jones is not a failure. How can a self-made billionaire be a failure? He bought a flagship NFL franchise and turned it into an empire. Even through two decades of mediocrity, the Cowboys remain among the most marketable teams in America. They remain the team America loves and loves to hate.
The Cowboys are the NFL’s most valuable team for a sixth straight year thanks to the league’s highest sponsorship and premium seating revenues—a combined $200 million. The Cowboys are the first American sports franchise worth more than $2 billion. The ’Boys are still America’s Team. Thirty-one million viewers tuned in to their Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Dolphins, making it the most-watched show of the 2011 fall TV season.
Everywhere but on the field, The Cowboys are still the team to beat. Merchandise flies off the shelves. Talk radio phones light up. Acres of paper and tons of Gigabytes are used up in the discussing and cussing of the Cowboys.
Then, there is Cowboys Stadium, perhaps Jones’ crowning achievement as a D/FW business owner and as a sports team owner. One of the most beautiful and versatile sports venues in the world continues to score one huge sporting event after another.
Hello, Super Bowl. Hello, NCAA Final Four. Hello, College Football Championship.
Meanwhile, Jerry Jones, bolstered by past successes on the field and current successes off, defiantly dismisses every suggestion that he might not be the best man for the job of Cowboys General Manager.
Why, though? He has fired coach after coach for not getting the team to the ultimate prize. Why does he give himself a pass?
“I pretty much go with what I did the night I bought the team,” Jones said, via the Star-Telegram. “I said I was going to be the GM. . . . It would be a facade if someone else was sitting in my shoes and someone thought they were spending the money. It would be deception. . . . I would grant you the decisions that have been made over the years have not produced a Super Bowl, two Super Bowls or three Super Bowls that I would like to have been a part of. And the only thing I am going to do there is keep trying and then make sure I get the credit when we do get that one. Y’all are going to give it to me, aren’t you?”
Credit. That is what Jones craves. Jerry Jones would rather never win another Lombardi trophy than to have his Cowboys win it and someone else get the credit for it.
Jerry Jones would rather never win another Lombardi trophy than to have his Cowboys win it and someone else get the credit for it.
In that selfish approach, Jones is defying the logic that he and every other successful person knows: “Success happens when you don’t care who gets the credit.”
Rather than letting history take care of itself, Jones is determined to force history’s hand. He believes he can make his critics admit it was all his doing.
Well, I admit. This mess is all his doing.
And now we have the 2013 NFL draft, which has Jones failing again. Failing to get value when he trades his first round pick. Failing to recognize a third round pick from a first. Failing to remember he has already used two second round picks to try and find a complement TE to Jason Witten. Failing.
I give Jerry credit for that.
Finally, I will get to the point of this article, as suggested by its title. What about “Jerryatrics?” What does this term I have coined mean? What does it mean to be Jerry Jones today?
- It means you are an old dog trying to learn new tricks, but still gnawing on the same old bone.
- It means you are self-deluded, blinded by the successes of the past, believing you had more to do with them than you did.
- It means you have surrounded yourself with friends and family that tell you what you want to hear, rather than what you need to hear.
- It means you are a complicated man: both wise and foolish. Your wisdom glistens and sparkles and attracts worldwide attention and international acclaim to the city quietly nestled between Dallas and Fort Worth. Your foolishness, meanwhile, keeps spotting can’t-miss football talent that mostly misses.
- It means you are driven–and nearly driven mad–by the need to be recognized for your genius.
- It means you hold everyone accountable but yourself.
- It means you are the kind of man that will put your ego and self-fulfillment ahead of the tens of thousands of fans that have made you and your team both prosperous and prominent.
- It means you are the worst kind of fool. There is no fool like an old fool. And there is no fool more foolish than the one that fools himself.
Jerryatrics, just like it sounds, is getting really, really old.
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