Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys on February 24, 1989 and immediately made an impact that left fans of the storied franchise with a horrible taste in their mouth by firing beleaguered head coach Tom Landry. Landry was fired on a day simply known as “Black Saturday” as he was playing golf with his son. General Manager Tex Schramm and Jones took the quick flight to Austin to where sports history was made.
I recall the press conference as Tex Schramm made the announcement of the sale of the team and the dismissal of Landry, recalling that he looked like he had just kicked his best friend to the curve. In a way, that is exactly what happened. To paraphrase Schramm, “How can you turn off a relationship you had for 29 years?” Schramm was hurt by the changes within the organization as the tyrant Jones took over and started his “from socks to jocks” regiment of ownership.
Tex Schramm was the first hire for the Cowboys first owner, Clint Murchison. Schramm had been working for the Los Angeles Rams the seasons before including time spent working with a future commissioner, Pete Rozelle. Many people the remember that Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi both worked on the New York Giants staff together making them one of the most dynamic coaching staffs in NFL history. The same goes for the Los Angeles Rams front office staff. With having the likes of Rozelle and Schramm in the same wing, you couldn’t help be envious.
Schramm built the Cowboys from the ground up in the front office while Landry had the daunting task of making a team of “left-overs” from the other teams in the NFL. At the time that Dallas entered the league, they didn’t have a college draft until the next football season so they were dealt a supplemental draft that allowed NFL teams to select a few players on their roster so that Dallas could select them. Many of the players were cast-offs who didn’t have much discipline in the ways of coming to practice or sometimes not making it to the games. Football in those days wasn’t as a big a business as it is today.
When Jones bought the team, he didn’t buy from Murchison but from Bum Bright. Bright had bought the franchise a few years earlier in 1984. Bright held onto the team for just 5 years before selling it away to the man we know as Jerry. Bright wanted to find an owner who would fire Landry because he couldn’t do it himself. Schramm intervened at every pass trying to give the aging legend time to turn it around. In the time that Bright was owner, the team began its descent into mediocrity. In ’84, they went 9-7 to 10-6 in 1985 but fell to 7-9 in ’86 breaking the 20-season winning record streak and having a losing season since 1965. The 1987 season wasn’t much better as the team went 7-8 and in what would be Landry’s final hurrah, they went 3-13.
When Bright was combing through selective owners, it was rumored that Jones wasn’t even the highest bid to buy the franchise in 1989. Bright was happy to see that Jones was going to clean house and start over, something he didn’t have the gumshoe to do in his tenure.
Jones cleaned house on the coaching staff, front office, and the roster letting go of people that had worked for the Cowboys since day 1. In the time prior to the house cleaning Jones performed, the Cowboys had been to the playoffs for 18 seasons with 13 division championships and made 5 Super Bowl appearances with 2 wins. After, the Cowboys have one 3 more Super Bowl titles, 8 more division championships but hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2009.
Despite the early success, Cowboy fans have endured 25 years of Jerry Jones and at age 71, he is still going strong as being the key focus in the front office aspect of the team holding the titles of owner, general manager, and president. His reign will continue as long as the good Lord allows.