Jerry Jones was speechless Saturday night, perhaps for the first time in his 74 years.
Oh, he talked when he was ushered into a side room with his fellow newly elected members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But it was Jerry at his rambling, emotional best — a run-on sentence that talked about family and business and what a thrill a simple knock on the door had been.
That’s how they get the news. David Baker, the executive director of the Hall of Fame and a bear of a man, comes to each finalist’s hotel room and raps his broad knuckles upon the door.
To a man Saturday night, Jones and TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson included, they all said that tears followed.
“To get to be a part of sitting here with these guys and to be recognized is a bit more than I could have expected,” Jerry said, in a voice that seemed to quiver with emotion and humility at the same time.
Twenty-two men have preceded Jones into the Pro Football Hall of Fame under the category of “contributors.”
So don’t do what I did. Do your homework. Peruse the names of the men, none chosen for their playing ability, who nevertheless made their mark on the NFL.
There are two Jerry Joneses, followers of the Dallas Cowboys will attest. And therein was what I thought would be Jerry’s problem.
Because Jones, the owner, refused to separate his identity from Jones, the general manager, it was reasonable to think that some Hall of Fame voters might dock Jerry for his lack of playoff success over the past two decades.
After all, Bill Polian, who is in the Hall as a contributor, was the architect of a combined six Super Bowl teams in Buffalo and Indianapolis. Ron Wolf, inducted in 2015, was the personnel genius behind Al Davis’ Raiders teams, then moved to Green Bay and traded for Brett Favre and hired Mike Holmgren.
And GM Jerry? He drafted Quincy Carter, gave Marion Barber a $45 million contract and traded two No. 1 draft picks for Joey Galloway.
Not quite a Canton resume there, though ancient scrolls claim that Jones did win three Super Bowls.
To fully consider the Hall of Fame credentials of Jerral Wayne Jones, however, you have to view Jerry through the golden prism of today’s NFL.
Jones taught the NFL how to make money – really make money. He is given credit for introducing the Fox network to the NFL, boosting the league’s TV contracts to a combined $4.4 billion. He convinced the league — through a lawsuit — that franchises should be allowed to sign sponsorship deals on their own behalf. And he reportedly opened the eyes of his fellow owners and persuaded them that Stan Kroenke, not the Raiders or Chargers, should get first crack at Los Angeles.
Jerry Jones has been an NFL contributor in the truest sense of the word.
He has lacked as a general manager for many of the seasons since Jimmy Johnson left. But there is room on future Hall of Fame contributor ballots for team molders such as George Young and Gil Brandt.
In the grand panorama that pro football has become, indeed, Owner Jones’ name belongs with the Mara and Rooney families and others such as Ralph Wilson and original Rams owner the late Dan Reeves.
When 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was elected last year, it unfurled the red carpet for Jones’ election.
His words shook and his sentences added way too many prepositions Saturday night. But Jerry Jones could be excused this time.
It was on a Saturday night, 28 Februarys ago, that Jones first introduced himself to Cowboys fans in another rambling monologue.
Who knew then that there would be a night like this?