A tempestuous relationship reached its silver anniversary this year. It was on Feb. 25, 1989 that oil man and outsized character Jerry Jones purchased my team — and America’s team — the Dallas Cowboys.
It’s been a wild ride for the fans and, most of all, for Jones. The Arkansas oilman didn’t do himself any favors when he strolled into Dallas and fired two of the most beloved figures in Cowboys history — Tom Landry and Tex Schramm. Schramm, the team’s only general manager, was at the forefront of molding the Cowboys legend. He made quick and frequent use of the term “America’s Team” and made sure the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were on everything from calendars to The Love Boat. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, everyone across the nation knew what that blue star on the side of the silver helmet meant.
And Tom Landry…what can you say about The Legend? I still get a bit choked up when I see the symbol of his legendary fedora on the ring running around Cowboys Stadium (sorry, AT&T Stadium, sheesh.) He embodied class, smarts and winning while wearing a suit on the sidelines and putting God and family above even football. There will never be another like him.
And Jones fired both of them as soon as he swept into North Texas.
That public relations nightmare has haunted Jones for 25 years, according to the man himself. Speaking this week about what he might have done differently in his 25 years of ownership, Jones said he would have kept Landry on for at least a year. What I found most interesting about his interview, however, was the admission that Bum Bright, the man who sold the team to Jerry, said Landry needed to be gone and even offered to do the deed himself. Jerry opted to swing the ax on his own and the rest is history.
Jones has certainly had his share of miscues. I remember outwardly cringing when I was watching an interview with him in 1989 and he was asked a question about his young quarterback, Troy Aikman. He responded with, “All I can say right now is that he looks good in the shower.” Um, what was that Jerry?
It’s fashionable to bag on Jones. Just today, listening to one of the East coast-based stations on satellite radio, I heard one of the hosts asking listeners “How has the last 25 years been for you Dallas fans,” using a very sarcastic tone.
Well, we won three Super Bowls in the 90s, so yeah, it hasn’t been all that bad. The Seattle Seahawks, who have been around since 1976, won their first Super Bowl this year, so they’re 1-for-38. I’ll take the Dallas numbers, thank you.
Granted, it hasn’t all been cookies and cream. Jones made a brilliant decision to hire University of Miami coach Jimmy Johnson, which ultimately led to all those Super Bowl wins. He got a state-of-the-art stadium built using mostly his own money, a rarity in the sports world these days, and he has gone out and got talent when it was available, no matter the cost.
So, I like Jerry the owner. Who I don’t like is Jerry the general manager. Ego keeps Jones from filling this role with a real football man, that same ego that ran Johnson out of town. Sure, we won a Super Bowl in 1996 with Barry Switzer at the helm, but that was Jimmy’s team set on autopilot. Now, we’re in the midst of what seems like an eternal mediocrity; 8-8 anyone?
Still, disregarding the Cowboy-haters on talk radio, Jones has had a good run. Will I say the same in another 25 years? Not if General Manager Jerry has anything to do with it.