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. Not going to lie I am impressed at how Jerry Jones was able to take what he learned from his father’s legacy and make his own. Growing up watching football I knew who Jerry Jones was but I never knew the story of how he became the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. I think he is a very smart businessman and luckily for him, it all worked out.

  2. Ever since I was growing up here in San Antonio I have been watching the Cowboys. I am a huge Cowboys fan. However I do not like Jerry Jones. I was hoping this article would reveal if Jerry had made his money in the beginning, by simply selling insurance, or by being an executive at his fathers company. Jerry Jones is not the best owner. The only reason he won those super bowls was because of the trio. The only reason he was able to acquire the trio in the early first round was due to the prior loosing seasons. The Cowboys as they stand currently are a good team, however Jerry needs to get out of the way for them to succeed. He is far too controlling of an owner. In fact he does not hire a general manager and mans the position himself. He hires timid coaches who always fall in line with what he wants rather than exploring differing strategies to arrive at the best one. This has caused the cowboys fans a decade of agony. Jerry does not hire people base on their skill, he hires people who he likes. He had a chance to hire the best coach of the decade in Bill Belichick, but he was not willing to give up the slightest bit of control. As an owner Jerry Jones’ ego is bigger than Jerry world itself.

  3. I love the Dallas Cowboys; but I didn’t know much about the Cowboy’s owner, Jerry Jones. I was inspired by Jones’ determination and enthusiasm to set a goal early in life and stay focused until the goal was achieved. Jones not only met the goal; but far exceeded his goal by turning a huge profit on his investment and having the accolades for his team. Three Super Bowls titles and, six players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame under his ownership is impressive. My ask, is for Jerry to set some new goals to get us out of this dry spell.

  4. I do not watch much football but I know that people are either die hard Cowboys fans or they completely are against them. It is interesting to hear the business side of the team, and it is clear that Jerry Jones is a risk taker. I really enjoyed his story and it made me connect it with the values that are expressed at St. Mary’s because even though Jerry had a lot of money, he know that his true happiness would come from owning a team and I am glad he was eventually successful doing so.

  5. This was truly a great article Juan! Jerry Jones is definitely a unique character not only in the sports world, but in life itself. As a Cowboys fan I have seen and heard about all that Jerry Jones has done for the Dallas Cowboys and you didn’t leave any important parts out. I’m especially a fan of how you went into detail about the transition from Tom Landry. Since their inception, Tom Landry was synonymous with the Cowboys, and for Jerry Jones to move on from him truly meant that from there on out, everything that happened to the team, both good and bad, would be because of him.

  6. As a football fan I can attest to the greatness and level of competitiveness Jerry Jones staff has been held to over the years. Unfortunately over the last couple of years Jerry Jones and the Cowboys organization has seemingly faltered in terms of performance. The business aspect of this article also points out the type of money moves Jerry Jones makes in order to further the success of his franchise, that will (hopefully) return the Cowboy’s to its past glory.

  7. Great article! before reading this article I had only known that Jerry Jones as the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. I have a completely new understanding of who he is. I would have never imagined of the insane amount of wealth that he had come into, especially being so young. He was very determined to buy a team and he finally took that risk with patience and determination. He was very inspiring to many people.Very well written.

  8. As a cowboys fan, I have always had mixed feelings about Jerry Jones. On one hand, I feel like he has done great for the franchise, and we wouldn’t have won in the 90’s without him at the helm. But on the other hand, these past couple of years have been rough, and I felt like someone else should be making most of the football decisions, and his current choice of head coach is questionable. But one thing for sure, it would be hard to see the cowboys without him.

  9. Jones sounds like a cool person that was able to follow his dreams and become what he wanted.I personally am not a cowboys fan but I still like the story and article because it was well written, fun, and interesting to read.The article is very good at story telling and giving you all the good parts to keep the reader and let them have an enjoyable experience.

  10. Football is a big part of America. I like watching football and keep up with the games. Coming to live to Texas I realized that being a Cowboys fan is something huge. You can see all the critics, happiness, anger from all the fans. Jerry Jones is a great coach and he is for a long time with the Cowboys. He had great moments were the Cowboys were very strong and top candidates, but then other moments they have their downs and are not as strong. This article talks about Jerry Jones and how he is here now.

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