Spagnola: Jerry's Hall-Worthy Contributions Molded Today's NFL Landscape

FRISCO, Texas – Election Day 2017, Saturday, Houston, Texas.

         This, though, is a little different than the democratic process we live in these days. Not everyone gets to vote. Just 48 are eligible, and a simple majority doesn't rule. Either you get an 80-percent approval rating or you're out.

         Yes, entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is mighty selective. Ask a couple of the 15 Dallas Cowboys members with a bust in Canton, Ohio. They were voted out before they were voted in. And, in fact, this even occurred for Bob Hayes and Rayfield Wright in Houston, prior to Super Bowl XXXVIII, Jan. 31, 2004.

         Both advanced to the Final Six on that Super Bowl Eve. The committee had the right to induct all six finalists making the cut that morning from 15 to 10 then six. The voting members saw fit to include just four that year. Hayes and Wright did not have an 80-percent approval rating. Rayfield had to wait one more year to be selected. Bob another five, then a Seniors Committee nominee.

         So don't just assume Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is a slam-dunk Hall of Famer when the Class of 2017 is announced on NFL Honors, 7 p.m. Saturday on Fox. Let's see, if all 48 are present to vote, he'll need 39 "yes" votes for entry. Ten nays and he's out for this year.

Just hope all those voting have done their homework in advance, and have a working definition of the word contributor, as described on the PFHOF website as someone who contributed to the game in ways other than playing and coaching.

That's what becomes worrisome about Jerry's selection, that committee members will sit there and go, well, he has won three Super Bowls as the Cowboys owner since buying the team in 1989, but hasn't won a Super Bowl or appeared in an NFC title game since 1995. A very anal analysis of his 28 years in the NFL come Feb. 25.

In fact, here is his short career synopsis posted on NFL.com:

Owner, President & GM – 1989-present Dallas Cowboys: *Jones purchased the Cowboys in 1989 and immediately restored the franchise's winning tradition, winning three Super Bowls within his first seven seasons. Acting as Cowboys owner and GM, Jones remains a league power broker.*

Jerry's contribution to the NFL goes far beyond those three Super Bowls. Goes far beyond by his third season returning what had been a deteriorating storied franchise before his arrival in 1989 to not only prominence on the field after those initial two rebuilding years (1989-90), compiling non-losing seasons in 20 of the next 26 seasons, but also turning it into the richest sports franchise in the world.

His candidacy should be based on what he did for the league, how he shaped the landscape of the NFL over his 28 years. And believe me, this wasn't easy. Not at all.

Gosh, how I distinctly remember those early days of Jerry being described as an NFL maverick. How the old-guard of owners accused him of being selfish, of worrying more about himself than the league and its socialized economic process where all revenue was shared. He was considered an oilman, a wildcatter, certainly not one of the old-boy owners. You know, like the Browns, Maras, Hunts, Modells, Bidwells, Fords and Halas.

 Well, when you invest your modest fortune and sign bank notes to buy a financially-failing franchise and stadium rights for $140 million against the recommendations of the best financial advisers available, you're darn right your own bottom line is important. Why, Jerry just couldn't understand why he couldn't sell corporate sponsorships to companies outside the NFL umbrella's revenue-sharing agreements.

Heck, if the NFL was a Coke league, why couldn't he do side deals with Pepsi? Why couldn't he do side deals with Kroger? And for goodness sakes, why not get in bed financially with Phil Knight and Nike, as he did that fateful season-opening night, Sept. 5, 1995, at Giants Stadium when announcing the seven-year partnership with the burgeoning company previously locked out of apparel deals with the NFL?

The Chicago Tribune that night accused Jones of throwing another dart at the NFL.

The esteemed *New York Times *put what took place this way:

*THERE were many sad and stern faces at Giants Stadium on Monday night. For one thing, the hated Cowboys had waltzed and shimmied over the Giants, 35-0. Worse, there was a sense that Jerry Jones, the Cowboys' flamboyant owner, had upstaged the Giants on what was supposed to have been a special night. *

*The team held a halftime ceremony to retire Phil Simms's jersey. Jones, the master marketer, used the game to unveil a blockbuster deal between Nike and his Texas Stadium. *

*Jones came down to the field six minutes before halftime and stood with Phil Knight, founder and owner of Nike, who was wearing a Cowboys cap. *(Uh, they both, in power suits, were wearing white Nike sneakers, too.)

         Yes, Jerry tweaked the NFL's old-guard owner noses that night. But over the next 20 years Jones also tweaked the NFL's business models. Suddenly, stadium naming-rights deals were being cut with huge corporations. Individual teams started cutting their own sponsorship deals, aside from those of the NFL's – some in direct competition. Teams with like a two-man marketing department got off their rumps.

         And now these days we head into M&T Bank Stadium, Bank of America Stadium, Ford Field, University of Phoenix Stadium, MetLife Stadium, Century Link Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field and, oh, AT&T Stadium, along with NRG Stadium, site of Sunday's Super Bowl LI.[embeddedad0]

         Teams have sponsorships with all these different phone companies and television providers. Insurance companies. Pizza makers. Car dealerships. You name it, if it can be sold, it's being sold, including naming rights for practice facilities and side deals with apparel companies for practice jerseys.

         Then there was his influence on the NFL's TV partnerships. When a failing economy dictated the then 28 NFL teams start refunding money to TV network partners CBS and NBC, at the tune of $1 million a team, Jones basically said hold your horses. He then courted upstart Fox to enter into the TV right negotiations, and by the end of 1993, Fox outbid CBS by $100 million a season, with the NFL's television rights contract then reaching $1.1 billion. Oh, and by 1998, with CBS wanting back in the game, it outbid NBC for the AFC broadcast rights, offering $500 million for eight seasons.

         And as we know today, not only did NBC want back in, but ABC and its ESPN entity wanted to keep a piece of the pie, too.

         Ha, give back money my you know what.

         And let's not forget Jerry's influence on the NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, especially in 2006 and 2011. Or he, along with the newer owners back in 1989, basically filibustering the naming of Jim Finks NFL commissioner before settling on Paul Tagliabue, also under Hall of Fame consideration as a contributor on Saturday.

         Yes, the NFL looks like it does today thanks to Jerry's influence.

         "It would be terrific," Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman said this week in Houston when asked his thoughts on Jerry Jones potentially being elected into the Hall of Fame. "He's meant a lot to our game. In the last 25 years I think the prosperity of our league, in large part, if you had to single out one person, I think you'd have to single out Jerry Jones as the guy who is responsible."

         And even Cowboys former head coach and Jones' first hire, Jimmy Johnson, had to admit, "I think his vision, his marketing, sometimes his persistence on some of the things, the TV contracts, etc., I think without question he deserves to be in there."

         See, if those 48 voters look at his candidacy in this light, any bias aside, and as a room full of professional journalists that is their job, you'd think he'd at least get, oh, say, 47 votes. That would mean the Dallas Cowboys' only two presidents and general managers in their 57-year history, Jones and the late Tex Schramm, would be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as contributors.

         And if further referendum is needed to support Jerry's Hall selection, then let's see what TV analyst and former Baltimore Super Bowl-winning head coach Brian Billick had to say about the Cowboys owner, president and GM Thursday afternoon from Houston on NFL Network when asked about his Hall worthiness:

         "From the business side of it, I think if you got to visit with league owners or administrators, the impact he's had over the last 20-odd-some years, whether it's the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the TV contracts, just the shear marketing of the National Football League, and this game is as good as it's ever been, it's as profitable as it's ever been, and Jerry Jones has had an impact on that in terms of the business side of this business."

          My, oh, my. Maverick has come a long way, riding his amazing foresight, this uncanny ability to foreshadow the future with forward thinking. If nothing else, think about what Jerry said that memorable night at Giants Stadium 21 years ago when parring away those incoming verbal jabs:

         "After the dust settles a lot of people will see the merits of letting clubs control their own destinies."

         Talk about contributions.

         And the main reason why Jerry Jones rests on the precipice of all that dust settling on a bust in Canton.

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