The case against Jerry Jones is easy to make. Through admitted hubris, Jones destroyed the greatest Cowboys team of all time when he fired Jimmy Johnson after the 1993 season. He's meddled constantly, ruining drafts and playoff chances more times than one can count on two hands. Jones might have a sexual harassment problem and fired Tom Landry. He's not the best owner the Cowboys could have, and he's probably the worst of the five owners who control Dallas' big four sports franchises.
So, when it was announced last week that Jones was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it would've been easy to scoff at Jones' candidacy, to liken it to Nickelback being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But let's not do that, because, and it pains us to say it, Jones deserves to get in. Here's why.
1. Jones brought in Jimmy Johnson. — He may have fired him, a move he now admits was a mistake, but bringing in Jimmy Johnson, a previously untested college coach, from the University of Miami was pure genius. Working with Johnson, Jones built the core of teams that would win three Super Bowls in four years through the draft and the greatest trade in NFL history. Jones was at his best in the early '90s because he was new enough to the job to not think that he knew everything. He gave Johnson a lot of control and was rewarded with his only sustained success in nearly 30 years of owning the Cowboys.
2. Jones fought the NFL and won. — As of Forbes' 2016 rankings, the Cowboys are the most valuable sports franchise in the world, with an estimated value of $4 billion. In a league that sets itself up to create as much parity as possible in all areas, what Jones has done to build the Cowboys into a money making juggernaut is remarkable, but it wouldn't have happened had Jones lost his 1995 fight with the league.
Prior to 1995, NFL teams weren't permitted to enter into their own marketing agreements. They were all part of something called the NFL trust, which handles all licensing for the league. When the NFL entered into an exclusive soda contract with Coca-Cola, Jones balked and signed separate agreements for the Cowboys with Pepsi, Nike and American Express. The league sued Jones, but Jones counter-sued, claiming the NFL was violating federal anti-trust law. The parties settled, and Jones got to keep his sponsorships, paving the way for the modern Cowboys.
3. Jones gave North Texas modern stadiums. — When Jones wanted a new stadium for the Cowboys, he feinted toward rebuilding the Cotton Bowl in Fair Park to squeeze the most money possible out of the city of Arlington. He got the palatial, otherworldly stadium he always wanted without costing Dallas taxpayers a dime or paying for even half of the stadium himself.
Jones drew the blueprint that the Rangers are using now to finally, blessedly, give North Texas the air conditioned summer baseball it deserves.
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4. The Cowboys are finally getting rebuilt. — Thanks to Jones finally ceding some of the control he took from Johnson to Jones' son Stephen, the Cowboys are finally positioning themselves to become a perennial contender again. Resources are being allocated to the right places, chiefly the offensive line, and pragmatic decisions, like letting DeMarco Murray leave for the Eagles, are getting made.
The Cowboys still have problems — like what to do when Tony Romo can't play anymore — but the decision making process by Jones and his son is finally in a good place.
5. Jones helped bring pro football back to Los Angeles. — Over the half-decade, Jones has been instrumental in the push to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles, shepherding Rams owner Stan Kroenke's bid to move his team from St. Louis to the City of Angels through the league approval process. He's nominated for the Hall of Fame because of his influence on the game and there's not much that's more influential than getting the biggest sport of the U.S. back into its second biggest city.