It was 1989. The Soviet Union was still hanging its Iron Curtains. The first text message happened, the NFL still encouraged helmet-to-helmet hits, and on February 25, Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys. Jones, now 71, was a 46-year-old Arkansas native turned oil and gas exploration man with his company, Jones Oil and Land Lease, becoming successful enough to pay $140 million for the ‘Boys. As Jones put it to ESPN, “The NFL was in a slump, a flattening period when we came in in 1989. Not only was Dallas really as an area struggling economically, but the NFL was in a flattening period of time and our rights had flattened in television through two negotiations in a row.” That was the environment Jones walked into, and after he officially took control, the franchise would never be the same again.
Before Jones assumed full control over player personnel, the Cowboys, under direction of their coach Jimmy Johnson, traded running back Herschel Walker. If the Cowboys don’t trade Herschel Walker, then they don’t draft Emmett Smith. If they don’t draft Emmett Smith, they probably don’t win those three ’90s Super Bowls.
In case you’re not familiar, the Hershel Walker Trade (the biggest trade in NFL history), between the Vikings and the Cowboys, involved 18 different moving parts: Walker, a RB, and four draft picks went from Dallas to Minnesota, while the ‘Boys received 5 players and eight picks — although four were conditional. The Cowboys were able to trade some of those picks for Emmett Smith. You know who Emmett Smith is. Running back, and not a bad one.
After Johnson was let go and Jones assumed full personnel control over the Cowboys, however, the franchise has become best known for the $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium. Oh, and for being a .500 football club. From 1997-2014, the Cowboys were 136-136. They are the definition of a mediocre team during the regular season. During the playoffs, over that same span of time, the ‘Boys have won exactly one game in 2009 against the Eagles. This kind of non-success, not-quite-failure can breed resentment in a fan base, like when Grantland’s Andrew Sharp announced that, “Nobody needs more Jerry Jones in their life. Stay off the radio, stay off the sidelines, stop reminding people that you own the team,” in a piece titled The Dallas Cowboys Are Trying To Kill Me.
Sharp’s crisis is motivated by the fact that Jones acts as the Cowboy’s general manager, as well as the owner. While Jones maintained that the general manager should always be as close as possible to the ownership (and you can’t get much closer than the same body) to CBS back in November. He also has a flip phone — Jones, not Sharp. Saying that he’s hell bent on bringing a Lombardi Trophy into Cowboys Stadium, Jerry Jones is angling for another 15-20 years as the commander-in-chief of the Cowboys. Good luck with that, Cowboys fans.