Jones bought the Cowboys 25 years ago today because he loved the NFL and he loved the team, even if it meant undertaking serious financial risk, and he believes his passion and excitement he experienced when first buying the team is still in full force.
“It’s actually there more,” Jones said. “I’m not as concerned as I was financially about the state of the franchise, about the NFL, about the game. The future is significantly brighter than it was in 1989 for the NFL, for Pro Football and, for that matter, pro sports today.”
Jones expressed the surreal moment of buying the team and the excitement and nervousness he experienced with the gigantic financial obligations, risk, and uncertainty he assumed. There was no guarantee the move would pay off at that point, when the team was leaking money.
“I knew (obstacles) were ahead of me and I didn't have all the answers as to how we were going to address them,” Jones said. “I knew there were a lot of pitfalls in just the buying of the Cowboys, not necessarily clean. I bought 13 percent of the Cowboys from the FDIC. They had been foreclosed on, and so it was not in a nice complete operational routine, the franchise was not, when I bought the team.”
He recalls how he had to put the money up for the pension fund and to guarantee Herschel Walker’s contract, since an owner had to back those contracts up with cash.
The moves he was forced to make immediately after the deal made Jones extremely nervous at the time.
“But had I not had the just sheer (positivity) of just getting to be involved in the NFL, knowing that when I got up in the morning I would be in the NFL, knowing that I would be part of the Cowboys, then those would have been issues in normal business that might have buckled my knees,” Jones said.
The excitement of being part of the Cowboys outweighed the risk for Jones 25 years ago, and it’s excitement that still exists for the owner and general manager. He knew if he didn’t make it work, the deal “had the potential to really knock (his) stuff in the dirt.”
He recalled how Lamar Hunt stood up at one of the NFL Owners Meetings more than a decade ago and told everyone, “The greatest risk I’ve ever seen taken in sports was the one that Jerry took when he bought the Cowboys.”
Jones knew the ramifications of the move and the risk involved, so much so that he said he developed arrhythmia at the time.
“I had never had an unhealthy day in my life,” Jones said. “Arrhythmia is called a 'good-time heart' by a lot of people and a lot of med students get it. It was from not resting and never sleeping and then getting up just after you lay your head down. So that kind of describes for me that period of time. It was a time that I felt very off balanced.”
Jones had given up his financial security by purchasing the Cowboys. The owner recalled receiving a call from his father two weeks into buying the team, and his father told him, “I don’t care whether you do it by mirrors, smoke or what, if you are not successful, you’ve got to make it look successful or you will be known as a loser and you won't be able to do anything else for the rest of your life in terms of getting people to go along with you.'”
Those were harsh words, even if true.
Once Jones got into that position, he knew he had his work cut out to change the organization and make it as successful as possible. Through that journey, Jones remembers the people the most, including media members and those closest associated with the game, from Rupert Murdoch to Pat Sumerall.
Jones said the people part of ownership, even more so than the multiple Super Bowls or the new stadium, is what he would have regretted missing the most when looking back at his 25 years had he not taken the leap of faith in the organization.
“To get to be a part with those guys, to get to be a part of the numbers of owners and the numbers of situations that have been involved in owning the franchises, to know those guys, to have spent hours and hours and hours with those guys, as it is evolved over the last 25 years, has just been absolutely beyond anything and pluses I could have thought about,” Jones said.