It’s time for Jerry Jones to do some quick math. A Dallas Cowboys owner who is a lightning rod can certainly work the numbers. He purchased the Cowboys in 1989 for $150 million, and it is now valued at $8 billion by Forbes, making it the most valuable sports franchise on the planet.
And, on top of that, there is the enormous popularity. On Thanksgiving, despite a lacklustre matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, 42 million viewers tuned in to Fox, making it the most-watched regular-season game in NFL history. Large numbers.
Yet, as Jones sat in his office overlooking the practise field at the glitzy team headquarters dubbed “The Star” on a mid-December afternoon, the math was all about bottom-line results on the field.
How long can the Cowboys maintain their insane popularity despite having won no Super Bowls since…
Jones cut off the question mid-sentence.
“Since 1995-96,” he began, referring to the 1995 season, which culminated in a Super Bowl XXX victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team’s third in four years. “You add ’em up, and that equals four, and 23 equals 27.”
Yes, it has been 27 years since the Cowboys won a Super Bowl – several years before current linebacker sensation Micah Parsons was born, and back to when star running back Ezekiel Elliott was in diapers.
Jerry, it’s been a long time.
“I’m sick of it,” Jones admitted to USA TODAY Sports. “I was really upset about not getting a Super Bowl with (Tony) Romo here. We also had Bill (Parcells) here. A great coach and a great quarterback. It really bothers me that I didn’t get it done during those years.”
It’s not just not winning The Big One. The so-called “America’s Team” hasn’t even made it to the NFC championship game since winning four in a row in the first half of the 1990s. Since 1996, the Cowboys have gone 4-11 in the playoffs, including two defeats as the No. 1 seed (in 2007 and 2016).
“I can tell you about each of those disappointing years,” Jones said. “I can go back and pick about four of those years where we had the goods to be there, but for whatever reason, we weren’t. The motivation has arrived, and we created it by doing what we do in presenting the Cowboys. We write a check for our butt to cover with our mouth. Alternatively, should cover.”
With the Cowboys (12-5) hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a wild-card game on Monday night in Tampa (more numbers: Tom Brady is 7-0 against Dallas in his career), another opportunity – or intense fallout – looms for a team coached by Mike McCarthy and led by Dak Prescott.
Of course, with Jones, the storylines usually extend far beyond his football team’s travails.
In October, ESPN.com reported, citing an unnamed source, that embattled Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder told a fellow NFL owner that he “has dirt on Jerry Jones,” which he would theoretically use to take down others while fighting to keep his franchise.
The Washington Post published a photo in November of a then-14-year-old Jones at the horrific scene where several white students stood on the steps and blocked the entrance of six Black students attempting to integrate North Little Rock High School, which Jones attended – just days after nine Black students were prevented from integrating at Little Rock Central.
Although Jones is not shown directly interacting with the Black students – he is shown in the background and maintains that he was merely a curious observer that day – the photo sparked outrage for a man who was heavily criticised for his hard-line stance against players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustices during the movement inspired in 2016 by since-exiled quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Jones spoke extensively with USA TODAY Sports about the controversies, which are the latest in a string of newsworthy events that have occurred during his tenure as Cowboys owner.
‘I don’t believe it,’ Dan Snyder says.
According to the ESPN.com report, Snyder has used private investigators to track down other NFL owners, and Snyder, a longtime confidant of Jones, claims to “have a file” on Jones.
“First and foremost, I don’t believe it,” Jones stated. “The idea of being surveyed – I prefer that word to being followed, being tailed – is not new to me. And it really started when I first got to the Cowboys. It wasn’t Tex (Schramm, former Cowboys president), but it was close. We had some disgruntled limited partners… they wanted to know if there were any gaps in how I got involved with the Cowboys, or my financial credentials, or if I was a ‘Paper Tiger,’ or what I was.
“When the FBI arrived, they told me, ‘Jerry, you need to get a full-time person watching your plane.'” “Jones continued, reflecting on 1989 as he transitioned to his point about Snyder. ” ‘We’ve had enough of people being mad at you around here. You must keep an eye on your plane.’
“So, whenever I imagine someone looking at you, I’ve been moulded… That’s something I’ve grown accustomed to. Just don’t walk into a place and sit over there thinking no one is taking a picture of you. Or, if you’re in another part of the country, someone might say you’re there, and it’s difficult to tell whether it’s someone on the hunt for Red October pursuing you or just a fan on social media.
“I haven’t felt like Dan would do or go that far in relation to me because we’re friends. However, I am aware that Dan is his own worst enemy, his very own worst enemy.”
Jones also makes a key point about Snyder, who has hired BofA Securities to investigate the possibility of selling the Commanders amid speculation that other NFL owners could vote to oust him, as permitted by league bylaws: “I’ve seen nothing in terms of tangible evidence that would warrant him being voted out.” “Jones stated.
North Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957
While Jones seemed to dismiss any Snyder drama that might involve him, he was visibly moved by the Little Rock flashback and recent firestorm.
“I’ve been considering it,” Jones admitted. “The way I grew up – and that (Washington Post) article touched on the way I grew up a little bit – and the way that picture portrayed, I have always been sensitive about the inequities that were involved in those times. I was present. With consideration. That was the case at the time. I admire what those students stood for and what they attempted to accomplish (by attempting to integrate the school).”
While North Little Rock High School remained all-white for another decade, “The Little Rock Nine” eventually integrated Central High School in late September 1957, with President Dwight D. Eisenhower providing an escort from the United States Army’s 101st Airborne division.
Interestingly, despite the major national story and historical impact that unfolded, Jones stated that he was unaware of events at Little Rock Central (where his daughter, Charlotte, now the Cowboys’ executive vice president and chief brand officer, would attend years later).
“However, I didn’t even read a newspaper,” Jones admitted. “I didn’t even look at the television.”
According to Jones, the Little Rock Central saga was not discussed in his circles. Jones and his high school football teammates were warned by their coach not to show up at the front of their school on the day of the integration attempt.
What happened after that photograph was taken?
“It had been a long time,” Jones said. “It was yet another example for me. One of a thousand examples that heightened awareness of minority disadvantage. One in a million. It was a significant one.”
A Super Bowl craving
Leave it to Jones to try to turn that chapter of his life around. That’s his nature, and it’s what has made him arguably the best salesman in the NFL.
In other words, inquire about his football team.
“This foundation of skill and youth is arguably as good as we’ve had since those Super Bowl years,” Jones, who also serves as his own general manager, said.
The talent is already in place.
He also insists that, despite the inconsistency, the team’s resolve was strengthened as it stayed afloat after Prescott fractured his finger in the season-opening loss to the Bucs, 19-3, and missed five games following surgery.
“I must admit, when we lost Dak, I saw the Grim Reaper out there,” Jones reflected. “We had Andy Dalton two years ago” (as backup quarterback). I knew if he had to play for a while, we could keep the level up. I had no idea about Cooper Rush. To be fair, he did have that. We’re better off for having gone through it.
“Aside from our good health, one of the reasons I’m excited about this team is that we went through that. That aided our development. That instilled confidence in us.”
Given the Texas-sized pressure that comes with the intense spotlight, there’s growing speculation about whether McCarthy, in his third season as Cowboys coach, will be able to survive if Dallas falters again in the playoffs. McCarthy is Jones’ seventh coach since parting ways with his first, Jimmy Johnson, a few weeks after Dallas won its second Super Bowl in January 1994.