Gil LeBreton

Jones’ legacy has been validated by NFL

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks to the media during afternoon practice at Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, CA. Jones spoke about being named a NFL Hall of Fame finalist today.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks to the media during afternoon practice at Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, CA. Jones spoke about being named a NFL Hall of Fame finalist today. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

To some back in Texas, he will forever be Jethro Jones.

He fired Landry. He couldn’t get along with Jimmy. He wore down Parcells.

Jerry Jones’ football team – with him fancying himself as both owner and general manager – is in a 20-year funk. We hear him talk and taunt the paying customers.

"Did you enjoy those three Super Bowls? I hope you did," he once infamously said, lashing out at a caller on KTCK-The Ticket.

We watch Jones court trouble, signing the likes of Terrell Owens, Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain. We see Jones’ warts and we hear his rambling utterances.

But from most of the rest of the NFL, we only hear praise of Jerry Jones. He fills the national media’s notebooks and provides the TVs with sound bites.

For $1.2 billion, a lot of it coming from his own pockets, Jones built the most fabulous football stadium in the world. He turned a $95-million investment into a $4-billion franchise.

And for this, among other impactful NFL deeds, Owner Jones was rewarded Tuesday by being named one of two finalists in the contributors category of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The discussion on his candidacy could get lively when the Hall of Fame’s full, 46-member electorate meets in Houston on the day before Super Bowl LI. Someone may be asked to justify the 20-year gap in the Cowboys’ playoff ledger.

But unless I miss my guess, Jones is a shoo-in. We see him in Texas as part-meddler, part-cartoon character. The rest of the league finds him charming, a playful rogue, a modern day J.R. Ewing.

Late Tuesday afternoon, while his football team practiced, Jones stood in front of the media and, in his own disjointed style, thanked all the right people and said all the right things.

"I sometimes wonder -- and I don't want to get emotional -- but I really do wonder if when I was 45, I got hit by a car and I'm just sitting here in heaven and have been for the last 27 years, and this is what it’s like up there," he said.

Jones began his list of thank-yous disarmingly, by paying tribute to the franchise’s original president and general manager, the late Tex Schramm.

"I look at the work that Tex did," Jones said. "I had a great role model."

Earlier in the day, his son Jerry Jones Jr., had talked about the way his dad challenged NFL owners to think outside the norm.

"When you do things that are against the grain and are a little bit cutting edge," Jerry Jr., said, "you’re going to have your advocates of it and you are going to have people who might be skeptical of some of those things you pushed the envelope with.

"His track record has shown that those areas where he has pushed the envelope were the right decisions. But that’s what you think about when think someone is pioneering and changing what the NFL, and especially the Dallas Cowboys, are about. He’s never been afraid to go against the grain."

There is irony that the thing that has baffled Jones the most as general manager was one he helped to pioneer – the league’s salary cap. Jones and the owners wanted "cost certainty," and no doubt it’s created a prosperous and balanced NFL.

But imagine Jerry Jones without a salary cap for these past 20 years. He likely would have been the George Steinbrenner of the NFL, and the Cowboys could well have had a Yankee-sized stack of Lombardi trophies.

The legacy he has created, however, has been impactful enough. The Hall of Fame’s announcement Tuesday clearly confirmed that, in case we’ve been too angry at the 1989 Jones, Owner Jethro, to realize.

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