When Jerry Jones was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in February, it seemed like the ultimate accolade for a job well done.
It was the victory lap of a journey that began with his NFL arrival in 1989 as a rebellious and seemingly unwelcome outsider who evolved into one of the league’s most important and powerful decision makers.
And with his son, executive vice president Stephen Jones, having a larger influence in the football operations — famously making the decision to cut Terrell Owens and bypassing Johnny Manziel in the NFL Draft, all against Jerry Jones’ wishes — the Hall of Fame appeared to be the final tip of the cap.
Jones was being honored for returning the Cowboys to their Super Bowl glory with three titles in the 1990s and making America’s Team the league’s most popular and most valuable franchise again.
As my grandma used to say, give me flowers now, bury me when I’m dead.
The family was so happy about Jones, 74, getting into the Hall of Fame now, the thinking went, because he was still around to enjoy it. It wasn’t an honor if given posthumously.
Not only should I be better in the draft room, but I should be better in almost any aspect.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
Well, a funny thing has happened while the outside world seemed to put Jones out to pasture. Not only has the old man regained his old fire, but Jones is stronger and more powerful than ever with the Cowboys and the NFL.
“I have just got a lot more to offer today than I did 25 years ago,” Jones said. “I’m not bragging. I am just saying it’s from sheer input. And I’m thankful I have got the health and thankful that I’ve got the enthusiasm. I should be better. Not only should I be better in the draft room, but I should be better in almost any aspect.”
So for all of you believing the Cowboys will continue to make good decisions in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday, as long they keep the elder Jones out of the way, just know Jones will be at the center of the “War Room.”
No decision will be made without his approval.
Even the Manziel decision of a few years ago came with Jones’ tacit approval, even if he would have preferred a different decision.
The decision regarding Tony Romo’s future, from the Cowboys’ perspective, was put solely in Jones’ hands.
That’s not evidence of a man whose control has been taken away.
“Along the way Stephen Jones and vice president Charlotte (Jones Anderson), they have gotten better,” Jones said. “They have always influenced my decisions so I can be more effective.”
There is no evidence of a man whose control of the Cowboys has been taken away.
The thing that’s most impressive as Jones has gotten his second wind is his growing influence with other teams and the league as a whole.
There is no question that Jones is the league’s most powerful owner.
He helped push through the Rams move from St. Louis to Los Angeles and the Raiders’ future move from Oakland to Las Vegas.
With the Chargers joining the Rams in 2019 at their new stadium in Los Angeles, Jones has influence with those two franchises and their operations though his concessions and hospitality company Legends, as he does with the Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers.
All those moves have made millions for the other owners, and they are appreciative.
It is with little wonder he is considered the league’s de facto commissioner with more sway than NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
It became apparent to me so quick that what was good for Oakland could be good for the Dallas Cowboys.
“Rather than getting tired or growing weary, it has created a high a day,” Jones said. “So the fact that the league has become as substantive as it is and has become as popular and the fact all of that happened has just inspired me to just, without getting tired, be a part of coming with ways to help and get involved.
“It became apparent to me so quick that what was good for Oakland could be good for the Dallas Cowboys. Or what was good for the Rams could be good for the Cowboys. Or what was good for Carolina could be good for the Cowboys.”
So if that meant leaving a Cowboys practice session and flying two hours to Las Vegas to help sway the Raiders deal, then Jones was off to his private jet and gone in a minute.
How does he do it all at his age and this stage in his life? He hangs with young people. He is inspired by young people, and he doesn’t look in mirrors.
“One of the things I don’t do is I don’t look in mirrors because I think I look like you do,” Jones said. “I think I can do the same thing you can do out there …What is amazing to me, I have never felt like I have worked a day in the last 28, 29 years. I’m not patronizing you guys, but I’m having fun right now.”
And still going.
Stronger and more powerful than before.
82nd NFL Draft
Thursday through Sunday
Museum of Art, Philadelphia
Selections: Round 1, 7 p.m. Thursday; Rounds 2-3, 6 p.m. Friday; Rounds 4-7, 11 a.m. Saturday
TV: ESPN/ESPN2 and NFL Network