IRVING, Texas -- Standing out on the practice field one August day, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones could not help but think of the first time he was in Oxnard, Calif.
It was the summer of 1989 and his Cowboys were practicing against Al Davis’ Raiders. Davis made sure things were done in secret with a giant tarp around the fences so nobody could see what his team was doing.
Jones had been the owner for only six months but had nothing but optimism for a team that would finish 1-15.
As he enters his 25th year as the Cowboys’ owner, Jones’ optimism remains despite a team that has missed the playoffs for three straight years and has won two playoff games since Super Bowl XXX.
“What keeps me going is the fact that I see the guys that are winning the championships and I see how they’re getting there,” Jones said in Oxnard. “I know the talent level they’ve got to get there. I’m talking about the Giants and Baltimore and I’m seeing guys that at the key positions, starting with the quarterback. I think we can compete. I think we have something equal to the guys who are getting it done and are going deep in the playoffs. Other than starting to count the number of times I’m going to get to do this looking ahead, this is a very optimistic time for me. In its own way I’m as optimistic as I was when I first walked out here on this field in 1989.”
Jones turns 71 on Oct. 13. He is as involved with the Cowboys today as he was in 1989. He oversaw the building of the $1.2 billion stadium in Arlington. He headed up the naming rights deal with AT&T. He was in on the talks with moving the team’s headquarters to Frisco. On the football side he delegated much to Stephen Jones but no decisions are made without him.
“I don’t think the guy ever quits thinking and ever quits moving,” said Stephen, the Cowboys’ executive vice president. “So I think his energy level is good if not better than I’ve ever seen him. He’s more motivated, more pushing buttons than I when I’ve ever seen him. Obviously when getting the Cowboys back to a situation where we can get in the playoffs, win playoff games and compete for championships is very important to him. He wants to hold everyone accountable including himself.”
The Cowboys have won three Super Bowls in Jones’ first 24 years but have compiled a .500 record since 1997. Every year Jones is asked about when he will give up the general manager’s title and every year he says the same thing: he won’t.
Many see it as stubbornness. Jones sees it as a belief in himself.
“Our ownership wants to win and will do anything to win,” coach Jason Garrett said.
Jones has been among the candidates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the past few years. One day he will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, for how he changed the way the NFL conducted its business and the championships the Cowboys won with him as owner and GM.
He desperately wants a fourth, if not more than that.
“Bill Parcells said it right away,” Stephen Jones said. “He said, ‘I can tell right away Jerry’s just like me. He’s a 10-toes-high guy. He’s not going to quit working out here and making this place better, making the Cowboys better until unfortunately he’s 10 toes high.’ I don’t imagine that. I’m not concerned about that. We’re just concerned about trying to make the Cowboys better and ultimately winning championships.”