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In no time at all, he's 100 feet from where he just was, heading toward the chain-link fence separating the sweaty masses from the football field at Midwestern State University, where, moments before, the Dallas Cowboys finished their afternoon workout.
"We can talk over here," Jones says, popping the top off a black felt-tip pen as he moves his stocky, white-haired legs forward, always forward.
Over here, as it turns out, is at the edge of the frenzied throng, the passionate and the downright nutty who have come out to cheer Jerry's Team during nothing more than a mere practice. Jones--smiling as always, his face red with heat and delight--scribbles his name on anything the fans give him: footballs, caps, shirts, napkins, you name it.
"We love you, Jerry!" they scream. "Jerry! JERRY!"
He just keeps on smiling and signing for a good 30 minutes, till almost 7 p.m. last Sunday, even as his players--fullback Daryl "Moose" Johnston and just-turned-coach Bill Bates among them--drive by on their golf carts, ignoring the persistent pleas for a little attention.
What's even more astonishing is that Jones does indeed hold a conversation over the hootin' and hollerin'. Hell, he's more coherent than usual--maybe the badgering of the crowd forces him to concentrate on his answer a little more, or maybe he's just showing off.
Or maybe it's the question itself: What does he think about the assertion of some Cowboys, former and current, that head coach Chan Gailey is, well, Jerry Jones' very own Tom Landry?
He smiles at first, then tries to ignore the question by yelling something at wide receiver Macey Brooks, who's walking off the field.
No, honestly, Jerry--think about it. With the Denver Broncos, Gailey was a student of Dan Reeves, the very Dan Reeves who spent 15-plus years as a player and coach under Landry. Both Gailey and Landry use, as the cornerstones of their offenses, multiple formations and a lot of movement in the backfield. They're both notorious disciplinarians.
And Landry and Gailey both love Jesus and the shotgun formation.
Seriously, Jerry. Seriously.
"What I see is a coaching style that pays attention to detail," he begins, tentatively. "There are similarities in that Landry and Chan have coached both sides of the ball. The other thing is...Well, I don't know how much Coach Landry called the plays. I know he did for several years, and Chan will be calling the plays. In a lot of ways, he has some of the same types of attributes Landry has."
"The key thing is that he's a guy who's fundamentally sound. He believes in the running game and has that imaginative streak. In the sense that Coach Landry has that legacy, I appreciate that. Certainly I do. Coach Reeves was a Super Bowl coach, Coach Landry is obviously Coach Landry, and those are impressive credentials."
And with that, he smiles, then turns his attention full-on toward the waiting, sweating faithful who want the signature of the most famous owner in all of professional sports.
The notion that Chan Gailey is Tom Landry stuffed into the body of a Georgia peach is, of course, ridiculous: Gailey, who was essentially fired by Reeves after the Broncos failed to win the Super Bowl in 1990, has yet to win even a scrimmage as the Cowboys' fourth head coach. He is only one week into his first training camp, and the season will be long and unforgiving; no amount of preseason hype will mean squat come September 6.
But Gailey is as close as Jones has gotten to Landry in the decade he has owned this team. Long gone is the arrogant fascism of Jimmy Johnson, who is still convinced he won those Super Bowls. Barry Switzer's wacky, mental-breakdown puppet show is back in Oklahoma, never again allowed to cross the Red River.
Gailey's the boss now, running training camp like some bastard hybrid between pee-wee football and Marine boot camp. He's hands-on and born-again, giving players Sunday mornings off for church and then running them through hellacious drills on Sunday afternoon, scolding and encouraging all at once.
He's thoughtful during afternoon press conferences and quick to point out when someone's being un-Christian: During one, he took issue with an Oklahoma reporter who suggested that a season-ending injury to cornerback Wendell Davis wasn't so bad, because ol' Wendell was just a longshot backup anyway. Gailey's Jimmy without the chip on his shoulder; he's the anti-Barry.
If nothing else, Gailey is the last step on the Cowboys' road to recovery--if not from a 6-10 season, then from a tarnished image of bad boys running amok and crybaby millionaires insisting their failure was the coach's fault.
Former Cowboys fullback Robert Newhouse--best known during the 1970s as the guy who couldn't be tackled because of his compact size and thick legs--says that Gailey's training camp resembles much of what he recalls during his days playing for Tom Landry. Newhouse, now the Cowboys' director of players assistance and development, watches players run their penalty laps after practice, and the memories of Landry's own punishing camps come flooding back.