- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
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.
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.