The Education Of Jerry Jones – The Dallas Cowboys, Jimmy Johnson & Contracts
— Feb. 25, 1989, the day he purchased the team
It is interesting indeed that Jerry Jones specifically mentions contracts the day he agreed to buy the +Dallas Cowboys. In fact, it was a “complete understanding” of these contracts that he intended to possess.
As a successful business man from the slippery wildcatting world of oil, it is to be presumed that Jerry Jones brought a certain level of understanding about contracts to his new venture. We can also presume that the above quote had more to do with becoming more familiar with contracts in the world of The National Football League.
It can be presumed also that the man he hired to succeed Tom Landry as Head coach of America’s Team, Jimmy Johnson, already possessed a certain level of understanding regarding professional football contracts, at least those binding agreements of the Head coaching variety. Connected to this understanding is also the necessary prerequisites for a successful team, for it is the existence of this dual understanding that provided the germination leading to back to back Super Bowl wins for Owner Jones and Coach Johnson as well as the demise of perhaps the greatest team in NFL history.
This dual understanding is taken from the fact that Jimmy Johnson refused to sign a contract to coach the Cowboys unless he had full and final authority over all personnel.
The inglorious beginning of a 1-15 season, coupled with the fact that Jerry Jones was extremely busy trying to plug the huge financial losses the Cowboys were experiencing when he bought the team, kept this vital term of their contract from surfacing. When the next year saw the on-field reward of a playoff berth thwarted only by losing the last two games as a result of a Troy Aikman injury, it was evident that the Cowboys’ Star was on the rise. With the financial outlook also corrected, the attention of the General Manager could now be focused elsewhere, including a complete understanding of contracts. And focusing on contracts was what Jerry Jones began to do with a vigor he brings to every business endeavor.
During the next season, Jones approached Johnson about deleting the contractual term giving Johnson all power over personnel.
And the saga was on!
It would continue until Jones made the following famous quote weeks after their second consecutive NFL Championship in 1994.
“I think there are 500 coaches who could have coached this team to the Super Bowl.”
— March 23, 1994, Jones to the Dallas Morning News on Jimmy Johnson after consecutive Super Bowl titles
It was also just another day in the education of Jerry Jones regarding contracts. With Johnson’s continued refusals to cede contractual authority over personnel, Jones came to realize that there was only one way to eliminate that vital term. Eliminate the person holding that power.
So two months after rare back to back Super Bowl victories, Owner Jerry Jones was now a General Manager holding the authority he so desperately desired.
The Dallas Cowboys have never been the same. They have never recovered.
Yes, Jones achieved his third Lombardi Trophy two years later, yet the victory has proven hollow. Jones has failed to receive credit for that championship. Popular opinion holds that it was achieved with “Jimmy’s” players and coaches.
While the education of Jerry Jones regarding contracts can be considered complete, the gridiron profit has been nil. The Cowboys have just experienced their 18th consecutive season without a championship, an unprecedented stretch of futility in their history.
And Jerry retains full authority over all personnel.