Visitors upon their entrance to the Richard Nixon Museum and Library in nearby Yorba Linda are greeted by a large quote from former President Bill Clinton that he delivered at Nixon’s eulogy in 1994.
Clinton said: “May the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career come to a close.”
Clinton was referring to Nixon’s Watergate scandal, which has been used by many to define his entire life.
What Clinton said about judging a person on anything less than their entire life could be applied to any one of us, but especially those in power and leadership whose résumé is on perpetual public display.
Since Jerry Jones arrived to North Texas in 1989 after he bought the Dallas Cowboys, there has been no one any more judged, evaluated, second-guessed, criticized and reluctantly praised on our local scene. He may not be a born Texan, but there has been no Texan any more visible outside of the Bushes than our Jerry over what is approaching three decades.
Jerry will be 73 in October, and he recently underwent a hip replacement surgery, which is the first thing that has ever succeeded in visibly slowing this man down. For the first time, maybe ever, Jerry actually looks a little bit older.
His tenure as the face of this team is far from over, and as such his legacy is unfinished, but how he is handling the unofficial transition of control to his son, Stephen, should be commended. Stephen just faces the impossible task of following in some of the largest and most unique footprints ever created.
Stephen said on Wednesday that he has taken on no more responsibility or level of involvement in the last year or so than ever before.
“I said to somebody, Jerry may trust me a little more than he did five or six years ago. Just from experience,” Stephen said. “The level of our interaction and the decisions we make around here, nothing has changed.”
I asked Jerry if that was true — if he trusted Stephen any more today than in previous years.
“He’s lyin’,” Jerry quipped. “It’s always been so unfair to him and frankly others because so much of the positive things that have happened to the Cowboys over the last 25 years have happened because they have been his ideas and his execution.”
In the past, Jerry would have to try to create or enhance the perception that Stephen’s presence was of equal value to his. Every time there was a team-oriented news conference, Jerry would often try to deflect questions so Stephen would answer them — he was trying to put him out front, and to make him relevant as a power broker on the team.
Jerry has always gone out of his way to give Stephen credit for anything this team has done. Now, he doesn’t have to make such a grand effort or make any effort to enumerate his impact.
In the past few years, especially this most recent off-season, Stephen has taken on a far more visible role.
In regards to the hard-line stance the Cowboys took on the Dez Bryant contract, it was widely assumed Stephen was driving the boat on that position. That had it been Jerry doing the dealing, the contract would have been done much earlier than the last second before the deadline.
It was widely believed Stephen was the one who pushed for the hard-line stance on running back DeMarco Murray, and ultimately the decision not to keep him.
Stephen’s personality and his presence may not equal that of his father’s, but his voice has weight. To talk to Stephen is to talk to Jerry, or close to it. Stephen is his own man, and he is not his father. There is no Jerry twin.
This transitioning counts as part of Jerry’s legacy. Unlike the man whom he has often be compared to, the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, Jerry is handling this part of his career and his life with far more grace. Nothing about this phase has the look of a bitter man.
As much as Jerry has been ripped for his no-win handling of the firing of Tom Landry, and the ignorant arrogance in replacing Jimmy Johnson with Barry Switzer, there are good things on this résumé. There are Super Bowls. There is that stadium.
Despite the appearance of a slower Jerry, he has no intention of quitting his day job anytime soon. He wants that Super Bowl to complete a loaded and complicated professional and personal legacy.
Until he finally does step away, we will gleefully continue to judge him, rip him, evaluate him and reluctantly praise him.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697
Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog