December 9, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones walks on the field before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

25 Years: Without Jerry, There Is No Cowboys Dynasty


“Too much of life is effort and risk. You can’t rely on fate. You don’t chase, you don’t win.”

- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

Twenty five years ago today the trajectory of the Cowboys franchise changed forever when Arkansas oil millionaire Jerrall Wayne Jones achieved an ambition of more than two decades and became an NFL owner.

The chase was on, and Jerry would win. Huge. In ways no one in the NFL had ever won before. He would take a wrecking ball to America’s Team, unceremoniously dismiss two NFL legends in Tom Landry and Tex Schramm, and in a few short years build a three-time champion out of a 1-15 grease fire.

Most folks rightly give the lion’s share of credit for those rings to head coach Jimmy Johnson. But without Jerry in Dallas, there is no Jimmy in Dallas. Recognize the transitive relation: A=B and B=C. Therefore, A=C.

Jerry = Jimmy and Jimmy = Three Rings. Therefore, Jerry = Three Rings.

Three rings in the past 25 years. That ties Jerry with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft for tops in the NFL over that span. Oddly enough, they both won them the same way – in a bunch. The only two franchises to win three championships in four years. Sounds odd to say it out loud, but Kraft hasn’t held up the Lombardi Trophy in a decade. Time flies when you’re not winning championships.

So Jerry’s in pretty elite company. No other NFL franchise won more than two rings during Jerry’s 25 years in the league. That “Got Five?” T shirt with the rings on it that you’ve worn threadbare? Today’s the day to thank Jerry for it, because without him you’re maybe still stuck at two.

Without Jerry, Cowboys fans don’t get the ‘90s dynasty. They can wistfully recall the ‘60s, when they were also-rans to the Packers. They can gnash their teeth about the ‘70s, when a Jackie Smith drop made them second fiddle to the Steelers. But without Jerry, this franchise doesn’t have a decade to call its own.

Without Jerry, the Cowboys don’t boast as part of their history the greatest football team ever to grace a gridiron. Think that mantle belongs to the ’72 Dolphins? Maybe, but being undefeated is more a function of luck than greatness. Think the ’85 Bears were better? Maybe, but if they were so dominant, what exactly were they doing in ’84 and ’86?

The success Jimmy and Jerry enjoyed together in Dallas was a phenomenon neither managed to duplicate in later years. In 1989, their first NFL draft together, they used five of their first six picks to draft future pro bowlers. That’s unheard of. The two enjoyed a five-year talent grab that built a dynasty.

In the four years after Jimmy left Dallas, Jerry teamed with Barry Switzer to draft two pro bowlers with 35 picks. In four drafts with the Miami Dolphins, Jimmy drafted three pro bowlers with 41 picks.

Those first five years of Jerry’s reign were lightning in a bottle, and Jimmy’s lack of subsequent success suggests Jerry played an important role in harnessing it.

There has been little to boast about the past 18 years, but the Garrett Era has given cause for hope: A couple of promising draft classes. A culture of hard-nosed competition at Valley Ranch. Smart roster decisions, such as locking up safety Barry Church long-term on the cheap following his Achilles injury, and allowing Jason Hatcher to play out his contract in the midst of a career year – 31-year-old defensive tackles are dead cap money waiting to happen. Jerry knows. Jay Ratliff told him.

Midway through his third decade in the role, Jerry is morphing into a GM who hoards the organization’s draft assets and ruthlessly assesses his own talent.

Time will tell. For now, Cowboys fans should celebrate Jerry for his role in perhaps the richest part of an already storied franchise history. Tom Landry is 25 years gone, and Jimmy was never built to last. These Cowboys are all Jerry’s, and how they perform these next few years will go a long way toward shaping how he’s ultimately remembered.

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  • Scott.

    He gets credit for being rich, purchasing the team and hiring jimmy. It stops there. Jimmy picked the talent, orchestrated the walker trade and made all the different personalities work together. The list of mistakes that Jerry has made are too long to list and anyone reading this will know what they are but I’ll list one big one. Jerry could not keep jimmy Johnson around. Jerry’s ego digs his hole every time he opens his mouth.

    • John

      That’s what conventional wisdom says, but in a 20-year head coaching career, Jimmy never stayed anywhere more than five years. He wasn’t much for stickin’ around, whether it was with Jerry or anyone else. And Jimmy’s track record with the Dolphins was pretty sorry, suggesting either he missed the collaboration he had with Jerry, or his stay in Dallas burnt him to a crisp and he had nothing left in the tank. I’m not sure anyone could have kept Jimmy around, and I’m not entirely sure he would have been much good had he stayed…

      • Pete Vieira

        wow!.. why don’t we give Jerrys mom the credit for giving birth to Jerry,without her no Jerry no dynasty ,wait and see next few years? what a joke ,John your wrong , Scotts got it dead on right.

        • John

          I feel your pain. I really do. I used to blame Jerry, too. But the more I look at it, the more I think Jimmy’s as much to blame as Jerry. Jimmy walked out on that team, ’cause that’s what Jimmy does. He was just clever enough to engineer his own martyrdom on the way out…

          • Earl Robertson

            He left because Jerry is an idiot and he got tired of the BS he had to put up with! The same reason Parcells left! Stupid Jerry brings in a cancer name T.O. Bill had the same reaction as Jimmy had when idiot Jerry took some stupid Prince from Iraq on the sideline during a game!! So John this article you wrote makes me want to throw up !!

  • SmartThinking

    Jones’ ham-fisted firing of Landry and Schram, two legitimate NFL and Texas icons, will outlive any positive move he may have made for as long as he’s involved in this organization.

    There is no “We” in this organization. Everything is Jerry. Example: 2 1/2 hour interview yesterday of Jerry waxing poetic with sports reporters in Jones’ “team” bus. Where was the HC?

    You can throw all those numbers and statistics at your readers you want. It won’t change or alter the real truths that Jerry Jones, single handedly, has torn this once-great team to pieces and re-built it in his own image for all the world to see.

    And that image is an 8-8 team the past three years, full of over-priced, over-paid, over-rated, over-the-hill players who can’t carry the load.

    Nothing about this team will change from its mediocre stature until Jones hires a legitimate Football GM, writes him a check, apologizes to every true Cowboys fan for his egocentric mismanagement all these years, and gets the hell out of running, and I use the term loosely, this organization.

    • John

      Not sure what apologizing to every true Cowboys fan will do to change the team’s fortunes, but I’d argue Jerry’s been a different GM since he hired Redball. The transformation has been gradual, but he’s more focused on the fundamentals: hoarding organizational draft assets instead of trading them away, challenging players with a culture of competition instead of coddling them with one of entitlement, and ruthlessly assessing his existing talent, instead of throwing money after loyalty. Hasn’t impacted the win-loss column yet, but if he keeps it up, it will…

      • SmartThinking

        It might … In another twenty-five years! You Jones apologists trot out all these minuscule little dabs at changing the culture Jones has adapted but still won’t mention that he’s structured the organization into his own cult of personality.

        It’s Jones said this and Jerry did that. And now, we’re beginning to hear more from his trained monkey of a son babbling on about waiting until the late rounds to fill the defensive line while Jerry spends two and a half hours … two and a half hours inside his $1M bus droning on and on about what a smart guy he is and how this team will be a contender next year because he’s smarter than all the other guys in the room come draft day!

        Here’s the truth: Jones has mismanaged and micromanaged this organization into a laughing stock throughout the NFL. He has more coaches and coaches who coach coaches than any other team in the game. He’s wasted more money, legitimate talent and worthless talent than nearly any other team in the league … and the best we can manage is 8-8. His squandering of the cap, in any other business would be grounds for criminal action.

        But, you go on writing your stories about what a great asset he’s been to Dallas and how there wouldn’t be a dynasty without Master Jones at the helm. Just one thing. Kinda for your memory banks: The Dallas Cowboys had five Super Bowls and were a dynasty long before Jones bought the team and systematically tore it down to whatever it is today.

        Jones wants the credit. Let him take responsibility for the consistently poor product he hustles us Dallas fans every September into believing in.

        • Scott.

          I agree with everything you said but prior to jones owning team they only had 2, got 3, 4, and 5 after jones owned them. I give that credit to jimmy and not Jerry though.

          • Scott.

            Victories that is….

          • John

            Right. We know for a fact that Jimmy deserves all the credit for the Cowboys dynasty because when he got full control in Miami he won Super Bowls there, too…

          • Scott.

            Were talking about what jimmy did in Dallas, not Miami, hence your title. Jimmy deserves the credit that I mentioned in my previous statement and nothing more. Jerry’s has single hand idly destroyed this once proud organization with his bad drafts, egotistical decisions (firing Landry, jimmy, hiring Switzer, hiring campo, entire recent drafts where not a single player is on team) and many more. It’s his team, he purchased it cheap and it’s worth 2billion now. That doesn’t make it easy for lifelong fans who post on her daily.

          • SmartThinking

            What are you? 30 years old? The dynasty, as you call it, was already in place. Landry, Schram, Brandt and many, many others made that happen while Jones still had his feet firmly entrenched in the oil patch.

            There were conference and division winners in Dallas before there was a Super Bowl. And those wins continued. So did the Super Bowl appearances. A point unsurpassed in the NFL until Pittsburgh bettered them a few years ago.

            Heed the lesson re: history. You write like Jones began this team. Maybe to you. But to those of us who were there at the beginning, there is a rich, successful history of winning with this franchise. Why do you think Jones bought the team in the first place?

            Jones and his continued inept mismanagement has ruined this organization, possibly for a decade. That is undeniable. And just because he tosses in another coach here or there or humiliates his HC again and again doesn’t contribute one thing to even a division win. There are no Super Bowls in this team’s future as long as Jones has his hands on the helm. That’s the legacy he’s brought to the Dallas Cowboys and what will be etched into his headstone once he’s mercifully gone.

        • John

          Not sure what any of that means. If you can divorce yourself from the history, and take a “smart” look at the GM moves from the past three years, you’ll find there have been plenty more hits than misses… The Redball-Jerry collaboration is moving the needle, but all you see is 8-8.

          • SmartThinking

            I see 8-8 because that is the reality. And your smart wordplay doesn’t change that FACT.

            Jones and his crew have monkeyed with this team to the point where it is, possibly, un-fixable. And that, too, is reality. You have sources. Check with anyone in the business who’s name doesn’t end in Jones and they’ll, no doubt, be forthright.

            That you’ve stated, twice now, that you don’t know what any of this means makes me question whether you’re qualified to speak on this subject. I know I am.

            And, by the way, when you suggest that I can’t put the history down I might remind you, those who fail to pay heed to history are doomed to repeat it. Another lesson you might want to consider when you pen your next big report on how Mr. Jones and his ever-growing cadre of experts are doing such great work out there at the ranch.

  • Earl Robertson

    This is crazy!! Who to say another owner that bought Cowboys wouldn’t have got Jimmy! Jimmy is the only reason why the Cowboys won 3 SBs. He is the reason they traded Walker! Yes Jimmy didn’t do that great when he left that was because he was years removed from college. Pete Carroll did the same thing he knew of the good players in college and drafted them. With the team Dallas had they could have easily won 5 SBs with Jimmy as coach. Jerry only smart moved was hiring Jimmy but since he fired him there is no way you can say Jerry did anything to help the Cowboys he hurt them greatly and after that huge mistakes he continues to destroy all the pride that the Cowboys once had!

    • John

      If Jimmy drafted poorly in Miami because he was too far removed from the college game, then he would have drafted poorly in Dallas had he stayed. By your own admission, the talent to sustain the dynasty wasn’t going to be there. And there’s no way to predict what Jimmy would have been like as a leader in year 6 with the Cowboys, because in a 20-year head coaching career he never stayed anywhere that long. Seems speculative to assume Jerry forced him out, when five years and a cloud of dust was Jimmy’s behavior pattern long before he ever teamed up with Jerry.

      • Earl Robertson

        He wouldn’t have to draft good he had a team that would have won 4 if not 5 SBs. Jimmy would have stay until the talent level wasn’t good enough to compete for a championship! You right it is speculating but I would bet on it. Jerry actions cause Jimmy to want out, everyone knows that!

        • John

          I used to believe that, too. But the more I look at it, the more I think Jimmy was burnt out. I think he saw how much harder the second championship was than the first, and he didn’t have the stones to go for a third because he knew it would be even harder than the second. He saw a way to leave town a martyr and he jumped at it. He walked out on you and never looked back – and he was just fine with that.

          • Earl Robertson

            The second championship was not hard they lost two games to start the season because Smith held out. They lost another game because Lett hit the ball when it got block. So the 2nd championship year they only lost 1 game really. They dominated the SB in the 2nd half. To let you know how good this team was if the stupid ref would have thrown a flag on Dieon for interference on Irvin they would have won 4 SBs in a row with 2 of them coming with Switzer as coach. Jimmy was twice the coach Swizter was

  • Simoni M.

    The cowboys are now an embarrasment. I don’t wear cowboy gear anymore because I am ashamed of the Jerry circus and constant failures. Tom and Tex had rebuilt the Cows in the late 80s with a core of great players and had already picked Aikman as the next Cow QB. Without clown Jerry, the Cows and Landry would have had numerous Superbowl in the 90s. And we sure as hell would have had winning seasons this century!!! Jones has failed as an owner.