Jerry Jones and the Rise of America’s Team

Dallas Cowboys Star Logo | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

It’s January 31, 1993 at the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium with 98,374 in attendance for an epic showdown. It is a clash for the ages: the 13-3 Dallas Cowboys led by Troy Aikman battles for the Lombardi Trophy versus the 11-5 Buffalo Bills led by Jim Kelly. With both teams having explosive offenses, this bout was bound to be a shootout, but after four quarters of football, it was a one-sided match with an obvious victor. The powerful trio of Troy Aikman (Super Bowl MVP), Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith were able to put up 52 points and give Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones his very first Super Bowl victory, 1 of 3 to come. But how did Jerry Jones get so successful, so quickly? Let’s look as to how it all started.1

Jerry Jones isn’t widely known unless you know the sport of football. To many people, he may seem like a lovable, old man, but he is much more than that. Jerral Wayne Jones was a natural-born risk taker throughout his childhood, college, and professional career. He has always been tasked to overcome the odds, whether it is on the football field as a running back or in the classroom achieving his M.B.A at the University of Arkansas in 1965.2 Jones had a knack for achieving the absolute best in order to ensure that he would succeed, not just in the future, but at that very moment as well. He was able to launch his career business into full gear during 1964, which was his last year in college, by selling products from his father’s insurance company, Mobile Security Life. Jerry Jones was living the life, and even catching the attention of his former coach at Arkansas, Coach Broyles, who stated: “Shoot! He was wearin’ new clothes, driving a new Cadillac El Dorado, and carryin’ around a brief case. None of my other players was doin’ that.”3 But Jerry knew that he could live up to so much more as he had two goals in mind that he knew he needed to accomplish: make boatloads of money, and own a football team.4

Jerry Jones in 2015 | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

From 1965 to 1969, Jerry Jones was in the process of making boatloads of money at his father insurance agency, but he knew that he wasn’t done. He didn’t just want to expand on his franchise. He wanted to completely rewrite his own legacy and begin the next chapter of his life by owning a football team. Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys were not his first choice, as he attempted to purchase the San Diego Chargers…yes, the San Diego Chargers! At that time, he was completely invested in purchasing this team for a 120-day, $50,000 option on Barron Hilton’s, founding owner of the San Diego Chargers, $5.8 million stake. Jerry was ecstatic that he was about to live his dream of owning a football team. But Jerry’s father had different thoughts. His father convinced him that he should walk away, because it was not worth it. Jerry was disappointed, but at twenty-four years old, he knew that an opportunity would arise again.5

As time passed on, Jerry Jones was not content with himself. He was in the process of completing his first goal rapidly, by utilizing $500,000 in which he garnered in 1970 from his father’s insurance company to further his wealth in the business of oil and gas exploration. But it was like he struck gold. By 1981, his oil wells, all thirteen of them, culminated to provide him with $10 million. By 1986, Jerry Jones became one of America’s wealthiest men, bringing in $174.8 million. But something was missing. Jerry Jones knew what he wanted to accomplish in his lifetime, and many people believed that he was heading down the right path, but only Jerry knows what Jerry wants.6

So out of nowhere, Jerry Jones got the opportunity of his lifetime to overcome his nightmare and fulfill his lifelong dream. With Jerry enjoying the life in Mexico, his dream was suddenly getting closer, as there, he read about the sale of the Dallas Cowboys. This football franchise to many is the pinnacle of what it means to be a football team, so it seemed like a match made in heaven. Jerry Jones knew that there wouldn’t be another opportunity like this, so he called upon Mr. Bright, the then Cowboys owner, and simply said, “Mr. Bright, my name is Jerry Jones. I’d like to buy your football team,” which would ultimately become the phrase heard around the world.7 Would the Dallas Cowboys actually be bought by Jerral Wayne Jones? Would Mr. Bright pull the trigger and deliver America’s Team to the forty-six year old who was trying to fulfill his long-term goal of owning a football team? Would Jerry Jones become even more successful?

It was February 25, 1989, and the franchise of not just the Dallas Cowboys, but of the whole National Football League would change forever. Jerry Jones had purchased the Cowboys for a whooping $140 million from H.R. Bright and the football world went berserk.8 It was done. Jerry Jones was in the process of completing his long-term goal, and with arguably one of the most well-known franchises of that era. But the fans did not know what was in store next in “Jerry World.”9 Tom Landry, the original coach of the Dallas Cowboys, had to go according to Jerry, since he had other intentions as to who he wanted in his place. Tom Landry for twenty-nine years had been the face of the franchise, with his signature fedora. He helped guide the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories, and helped revolutionize the game of football. And now he was about to be thrown away by the new kid on the block, Jerry Jones.10

Statue of Tom Landry | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

With the departure of Tom Landry came the arrival of Jimmy Johnson, a former Arkansas Razorback, the head coach at the University of Miami, and most importantly, a fellow friend of Jerry Jones. Johnson came with the intention of being just as impactful as Tom Landry had been. The journey to success, however, wasn’t as simple as both Jerry and Jimmy thought, and that could be seen in their first year with the Dallas Cowboys, as the duo led the team to a 1-15 record, which ultimately was one of the worst in not just the 1989 season, but in NFL history.11 The Dallas Cowboys nation believed that it was one of the worst decisions that the franchise had made in some time, and for a good reason. The franchise that was used to being productive in developing winning records, which eventually culminated in a number of Super Bowl victories, was heading downhill and quickly becoming a disappointment. But in Jimmy Johnson’s eyes, the road was not over. He utilized his first year, like other head coaches would do in their first year, to study the playbook, the players, and overall get a feel for the game of football at a professional level. He realized what he needed to change and what he wanted the Dallas Cowboys to become.

In the following year, Jimmy Johnson traded their productive running back in Hershel Walker for a variety of players and draft picks that would be beneficial in the long run. With the team already drafting an elite wide receiver in Michael Irvin in 1988, and by picking the franchise quarterback in Troy Aikman with the first overall pick in the 1989 draft, and finally drafting the legendary running back in Emmitt Smith in the 1990 draft, the team was slowly building its nucleus for years to come. It still didn’t look good for the team, since it missed the playoffs again in 1990. But once the next season began, the Dallas Cowboys seemed unstoppable for the next couple of years, especially in 1993.

Troy Aikman at the Packers at Redskins Wildcard Game 01/10/16 | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

1993 was the year that the 13-3 Dallas Cowboys were taking on the 11-5 Buffalo Bills; and it was not even close. By the end of the second quarter, the score was already 28 from Dallas to 10 from Buffalo, and the rest of the game was not even close. At the end, the score was 52-17 in favor of the Dallas Cowboys. And the rest, as they say, is history. The star quarterback in Troy Aikman took home Super Bowl MVP in an unprecedented fashion, by putting up 273 yards with 4 touchdowns. Jerry had done it. He had completed his goal of not just owning a football team. Ultimately, he achieved the highest achievement that any football organization strives for: the Lombardi (Super Bowl) Trophy. Jerry wouldn’t stop there, as he won another Super Bowl with Jimmy Johnson the following year against, ironically, the same team, the Buffalo Bills, and another Super Bowl under the next head coach of the franchise, Barry Switzer, in 1995 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.12

Championship Banners of the Dallas Cowboys at the AT&T Stadium | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Jerry Jones, though at times controversial, will undoubtedly go down as one of the most successful businessmen out there. Jerry Jones is on another level as a football team owner. He was able to completely change the feel of the Dallas Cowboys and will continue to change it while he is the owner. He has been able to win three Super Bowls, has helped propel six of his superstars towards Hall of Fame status, with him being enshrined in the Hall of Fame in the class of 2017, turning the Dallas Cowboys into the most valuable franchise in all of sports entertainment, by turning the $140 million into $5.5 billion, and we still have not seen the last of Jerry Jones as a part of the Dallas Cowboys.13 Things are looking bright for this franchise as they have formed the new trio in Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper that could be a part of this organization for years to come. Only time will tell until America’s Team is back on the big stage and is able to take home what is rightfully theirs with another Lombardi Trophy.

Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
  1. “Super Bowl XXVII – Dallas Cowboys vs. Buffalo Bills – January 31st, 1993,” Pro Football Reference, 2019, https://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/199301310buf.htm.
  2. Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: Sports Figures, 2019, s.v. “Jones, Jerral Wayne (‘Jerry’),” by Jim Campbell.
  3. Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: Sports Figures, 2019, s.v. “Jones, Jerral Wayne (‘Jerry’),” by Jim Campbell.
  4. Jeff Pearlman, Boys will be boys: the glory days and party nights of the Dallas Cowboys dynasty (New York: Harper Paperbacks, 2010), 16.
  5. Jeff Pearlman, Boys will be boys: the glory days and party nights of the Dallas Cowboys dynasty (New York: Harper Paperbacks, 2010), 17.
  6. Jeff Pearlman, Boys will be boys: the glory days and party nights of the Dallas Cowboys dynasty (New York: Harper Paperbacks, 2010), 17-18.
  7.  Jeff Pearlman, Boys will be boys: the glory days and party nights of the Dallas Cowboys dynasty (New York: Harper Paperbacks, 2010), 18.
  8. “Who Is Jerry Jones? Everything You Need to Know,” The Famous People (website), October 11, 20177. https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/jerry-jones-4310.php.
  9. Linda E. Swayne, Mark Dodds and Mark S. Nagel, Encyclopedia of Sports Management and Marketing (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc, 2011), 354.
  10. Jeff Pearlman, Boys will be boys: the glory days and party nights of the Dallas Cowboys dynasty (New York: Harper Paperbacks, 2010), 11-13.
  11. Linda E. Swayne, Mark Dodds and Mark S. Nagel, Encyclopedia of Sports Management and Marketing (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc, 2011), 354.
  12. Pro Football Referenced, 2019, s.v. “Dallas Cowboys Franchise Encyclopedia.”
  13. “Dallas Cowboys,” Forbes, September 2019, https://www.forbes.com/teams/dallas-cowboys/#6037ee691426.

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52 Responses

  1. I’ve never really been a fan of football, but reading this article and learning about Jerry Jones was surprisingly interesting. Learning that his goal to own a football team and he actually achieved it is amazing. Not only that, but he got most of his wealth from his thirteen oil wells which is actually kind of shocking. He was literally one of the richest men in 1986 due to investing in oil and gas.

  2. What am amazing story about Jerry Jones. I have to admit I knew only the major details about him, such as the fact that he owned the Dallas Cowboys. While he not only made a difference from the team holistically, he made a difference for each individual member of the team. He genuinely cared about their future and wanted to guide them. That is an amazing thing that he completely changed the way the game was played. He will no doubt go down in history for his work with the Dallas Cowboys.

  3. This is a great article. I’m not much a fan of football, much less the Cowboys, but this was still a very interesting article! It was very fascinating to read about the Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his hard work and dedication. It is very impressive to see all the work he has done for this team and the name he has created for himself.

  4. Before reading this article I had no idea who Jerry Jones was. I’m originally from Colorado and did not know of the cowboys until I moved down here to Texas and saw the large number of fans. However, this article was really informative and I could have never imagined the huge amount of wealth especially being so young. I may not be a fan of the cowboys however I do have greater respect for the team and the owner.

  5. I did not know much about Jerry Jones so I found it interesting to learn about his career and how he accomplished his goals. He was very determined to buy a team and he finally took that risk with patience and determination. I can only imagine how different things would be if he had gotten the Chargers instead of the Cowboys, especially at such a young age compared to most others.

  6. This was a very well-written article that gives insight into the life of jerry jones. Until reading this article I only knew that Jerry Jones owned the Dallas Cowboys football team. A really interesting thing to read about was Jerry jones was one of the richest men in 1986 due to investing in oil and gas exploration. Crazy that jerry jones always knew he wanted to own a football team and as we know he accomplished that with the Dallas Cowboys.

  7. Before reading this article, I knew a little about Jerry Jones. Now, I know more about his past before owning the Dallas Cowboys. I had no idea that it was his goal to own a football team. Also, I had no idea that he got most of his wealth from his thirteen oil wells. This led to him being one of the wealthiest men in America during 1986 with $174.8 million. Hopefully the Dallas Cowboys have a good season this year.

  8. Congratulations Juan on your nomination for category of “people”! I enjoyed reading your article about the football team Cowboys. I always heard negative things about the Cowboys. But after reading I realized that many teams have ups and downs. I enjoyed how the article talks about the story of Jerry Jones and how he got to where he was. I think that the reason why the Cowboys aren’t so successful is probably because of the coaching staff.

  9. Before reading this article I had only known Jerry Jones as the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. Now that I have read this, I have a completely new understanding of who he is. I neve would have imagined of the insane amount of wealth that he had come into, especially being so young. It is a great and informative article !

  10. I have always been a cowboys fan. We have had our ups and downs through the years and Jerry Jones has been in charge through all of it. There has not been a head coach change in a long time i feel that could be a reason for our lack of success. This article tells a lot about Jerry Jones and he got to where he is now. It was well put together and informative.

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