The Dallas Cowboys Franchise was recently reported as the most valuable franchise in the NFL at an estimated 2 billion dollars (and yes that’s billion with a “B”). In a 2012 ESPN poll the Cowboys still rank on top as the “most popular” team in football. However, even with all the money and fame they’ve not even come close to a Super Bowl since their last Divisional Play-off visit in 1996. It leads one to question, did Jerry Jones’ passion for winning switched from Lombardi trophies to Forbes rankings?
The Cowboys Franchise was purchased in early 1989 by Jerry Jones for a whopping 140 million. The first major change wasn’t to go after the fan base, but rather to hit the reset button. Now one could argue that this move was the best thing that ever happened to the Cowboys. Sure this meant the exit of Tom Landry, but it also allowed Jones to usher in Jimmy Johnson. None-the-less, the move created a huge division in the faithful followers. Many quickly “jumped ship” after seeing what they believed to be the public humiliation of Tom Landry.
Oct 23, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones smiles prior to the game against the St Louis Rams at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
To add insult to injury; the team’s performance was atrocious, turning in a pair of losing seasons. But the reset started to take hold in 1991 as the Cowboys found themselves back on top of the NFC. First with an 11-5 winning season and then followed by a pair of Lombardi Trophies (1992-1993). This is where; in my opinion, things changed in regards to Jerry’s passion toward the team. Pleasure had turned to business.
Jerry Jones had purchased an ailing franchise and within five years was hoisting two Super Bowl trophies. In other-words, he achieved his goal of owning a dominant NFL team. Like any successful entrepreneur, you’ve got to find a way to reinvent yourself and create new challenges to overcome. And he did, by now focusing on becoming the most lucrative franchise in sports history.
Lightning struck again in 1995 as the Cowboys once again found themselves Champions; but by this time plans were in motion to either expand Texas Stadium or look elsewhere. The pre-production of “Jerry World” was underway. By the end of the 1996 season, the passion for “team success” seemed to have fleeted, as talks began with the City of Arlington as well as surrounding cities. The talks were centered on who would better support the creation of a new Cowboys Mecca.
Mar 31, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; A general view of Cowboys Stadium prior to the South regional final game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Florida Gators at the 2013 NCAA Tournament at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
By 2004, Arlington had worked out a deal to increase city taxes to offset building costs as well as to improve infrastructure to the area around Randol Mill Road. Now follow for just a moment the time line:
1994: Proposed expansion to Texas Stadium
1997 – 2000: Shopping the idea of a new stadium to prospected cities
2004: Arlington Wins!!! New taxes for residents
2005: Stadium designed and is estimated to cost $650 million
2006: Excavation begins
2009: Cowboys Stadium – the new 1.15 billion dollar mecca opens
Did you see a pattern? The Cowboys last saw football success in the 1996 season, going deep into the play-offs but losing to the Panthers in the Divisional Round. From 1997 until almost present day it seems the focus has been about the Stadium, not the team itself. There’s no denying Jones is a capable evaluator of talent, but could it be possible the General Manager stretched himself too thin, losing focus on team success?
Jan 24, 2013; Fairhope AL, USA; An NFL football on the field for Senior Bowl north squad practice at Fairhope municipal stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Now for the good news. At the end of the 2012 season, Jerry Jones made the now famous statement, “it’s going to be very uncomfortable at Valley Ranch”. The statement wasn’t about hosting a Super Bowl or bragging about having the largest stadium video board. Nor was it about owning the most valuable franchise in American sports history. The statement pointed back to Valley Ranch; to the team. Has his focus finally returned to winning?
The answer to that will play out during the 2013 season. In my opinion, Jerry Jones appears to have come full circle. From owning a winning team, to creating an empire, and finally back to desiring Lombardi trophies. Whether you love him or hate him, he’s here to stay. At least for now he might finally be focused on what the fans want….winning.