Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones top/bottom moments

Jerry Jones' bottom five moments

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of Jerry Jones' purchase of the Dallas Cowboys. Over the course of Jones' reign, he has won three Super Bowl titles, increased the value of the franchise to $2.3 billion and inked a 25-year naming rights deal for his stadium that should bring in roughly $500 million. In the process, he's changed the way the NFL does business off the field. But there also have been some lowlights.

1. The handling of Tom Landry's firing

There was no easy way to do it, but Cowboys owner Bum Bright wanted legendary coach Tom Landry fired after a 3-13 1988 season. He was going to do it, but after Jones bought the team in 1989 for a then-NFL record $140 million, he decided to handle it himself. Landry, upset at not knowing about the ownership change, packed up his office at the crack of dawn on a Friday and bolted for his vacation home near Austin, Texas. Jones, after getting advice from some public relations firms, took a private plane to Austin to give Landry the news face to face. Landry didn't want the visit and told Jones he wasted jet fuel by coming to Austin. Jones said years later he made a mistake in how he handled the firing and should have given Landry at least one more season.

[+] EnlargeTroy Aikman
Mitchell Reibel/Getty ImagesIt took years before the Cowboys found a suitable replacement for Troy Aikman.
2. The Jimmy Johnson feud

Jones wanted input with everything from the marketing of the team to picking the players. Jones, of course, was the owner/general manager. At first, it didn't bother Jimmy Johnson, who received a 10-year contract to replace Landry. But during the Cowboys' two Super Bowl runs in the 1990s, the relationship went sour. The pair were friends, but not necessarily best friends. But Jones knew Johnson was an excellent coach, and that's why he hired him. Instead of sharing the credit for the Cowboys' success, each tried to take it for themselves. Jones' comment to reporters at an NFL owners meeting that any one of 500 coaches could succeed with the Cowboys rubbed Johnson the wrong way. Johnson resigned, and while new coach Barry Switzer, an old friend of Jones, did win a title, things were never the same. Johnson went to Miami and in four seasons went 36-28 with no Super Bowl appearances. Jones, after he let Switzer go, is still searching for a championship with his franchise mired in a 136-136 mark since 1997.

3. Not drafting Randy Moss

It seemed like a perfect fit: Randy Moss, a talented wide receiver, with Jones marketing him. It didn't happen. Instead the Cowboys used a first-round (No. 8) pick on Greg Ellis, while Moss, whose character issues raised concerns among NFL teams, fell to 21st. Moss never forgave the Cowboys. Moss finished his career with 10 1,000-yard seasons and ranks 10th all time in catches, third in yards and fourth in touchdowns. In seven career games against the Cowboys, Moss never lost a game. In his rookie season with Minnesota, Moss caught three passes, all for touchdowns, for 163 yards, in a 46-36 win over the Cowboys. While Ellis was a good defensive end, he wasn't close to being considered among the best at his position like Moss.

4. Trading for Roy Williams and Joey Galloway

In 2000, the Cowboys traded two first-round picks to Seattle to acquire wide receiver Joey Galloway. In Galloway's first game with the Cowboys, he tore his ACL. In three seasons after that, Galloway caught just 11 touchdown passes and was eventually traded to Tampa Bay in 2003. In a trade just before the deadline in 2008, Jones dealt away three draft picks -- including a 2009 first-rounder -- to Detroit for Roy Williams. And after the trade, Jones signed Williams to a five-year, $45 million deal. Williams never developed, catching 13 touchdowns in 40 games.

5. Failure to replace Troy Aikman

The legendary quarterback led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles, but his health (mainly his back) forced the team to release him. His replacement? Among the notables: Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Bledsoe and Vinny Testaverde. We're not going to mention the Drew Hensons of the world here. But until the Cowboys eventually replaced Bledsoe with Tony Romo, the quarterback position was a mess. Jones tried to find one in the draft and free agency but never could. Romo solved the Cowboys' problems and he was an undrafted free agent who sat a few years learning before turning into a franchise quarterback. Before Romo took over in 2006, the Cowboys finished below .500 in three of the previous five seasons.

Jerry Jones' top five moments

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
IRVING, Texas -- Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of Jerry Jones’ purchase of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Stadium for $140 million.

The highs have been high, but the lows have been low, especially since the Cowboys last won a Super Bowl in the 1995 season.

Here we will look at Jones’ top five moments as the Cowboys' owner and general manager while realizing that a large segment of the fandom will not give him any credit for what happened in the early years when Jimmy Johnson was around.

1. How do you like those Super Bowls?

[+] EnlargeJerry Jones
AP Photo/Charles KrupaOwner Jerry Jones and coach Jimmy Johnson celebrate their 30-13 win over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVIII on Jan. 30, 1994, in Atlanta.
The Cowboys won three titles in Jones’ first seven years as owner. They became the first team to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span, becoming the team of the 1990s with the Triplets -- Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith -- becoming household names. The Cowboys beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII by a combined score of 82-30. They claimed Super Bowl XXX with Barry Switzer as coach by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17, exacting some revenge for the ‘70s Cowboys who could not beat Terry Bradshaw & Co.

2. Hiring Jimmy Johnson

Jones expressed regret Sunday about the rushed nature of firing legendary coach Tom Landry, but there is no doubt he made the right decision in bringing his former college teammate Johnson with him to the Cowboys. Johnson was the best coach in college football at the time at the University of Miami and brought a brashness that took the NFL by storm. The Cowboys suffered greatly in 1989 by going 1-15, but by Johnson’s second year they were competing for a playoff spot in the final week of the season and winning a playoff game by the third year. By Year No. 4, Johnson had his first of two straight Super Bowl wins. It ended badly between Jones and Johnson, wrecking what could have been a history-making era because of the egos of the owner and the coach.

3. The trade of all trades

This is where the Jimmy and Jerry camps will always be divided. If you were a Jimmy guy, he engineered the trade of Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings. If you were a Jerry guy, he had the final say. Regardless of who you want to credit, the moment is in Jones’ era as owner and is among his biggest moments. The Walker trade brought about the formation of the Super Bowl teams. The Cowboys received five players and eight picks, turning those picks into Smith, Alvin Harper, Dixon Edwards and Darren Woodson. It might be the best trade in NFL history.

4. A new home

At $2.1 billion, there is no stadium like AT&T Stadium. This will be the monument Jones leaves whenever he is no longer the owner and general manager of the team. To get the stadium built, Jones acquiesced to a degree by bringing in Bill Parcells as coach in 2003 after three straight 5-11 finishes. With Parcells and the coach’s two Super Bowl wins, Jones could show people he was serious about winning and changing his ways. The stadium is unmatched in the NFL, if not the world, with its nightclub-type feel, center-hung digital board, retractable roof and sliding doors. The Cowboys might not have the same home-field advantage they had at Texas Stadium, but the stadium has delivered a Super Bowl, an NBA All-Star Game, numerous concerts and the upcoming Final Four.

5. Trading for Charles Haley

Again, this will divide the Jimmy and Jerry camps, but Haley was the piece to the puzzle who got the Cowboys over the top. It weakened the Cowboys’ biggest rival at the time, the San Francisco 49ers, and brought the Dallas defense an attitude it lacked. The signing of Deion Sanders in 1995 also weakened the Niners, but Haley brought two titles -- if not the third, as well. The drafting of Smith, No. 17 overall, was another top moment with him becoming the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. But Haley’s arrival brought to Dallas what the fans want most: Super Bowls.