NFL franchise owners are as gods, perched high above the field of play, ensconced in the pillowy cloud of luxury boxes, overseeing the sports world’s best metaphor for war — an on-field battle between hometown good and an invading horde of away-team evil.
Jerry Jones, in particular, wields even more power than most of these titans. Unlike other billionaire franchise frontmen, who prefer to delegate the vastly complicated business of roster building, salary caps, and trade negotiations, Jones fully holds the reins of Cowboys operations as General Manager. His vice grip on the team was responsible for the Cowboys’ incredible glory days in the 1990s, but also, as his critics point out, a two-and-a-half decades-long championship drought that has fans and media alike questioning the judgment of the big man upstairs.
Jones grew up middle class in Little Rock, Ark., son of an owner of two small grocery stores. He later followed his father into the insurance business and eventually struck it rich in oil, according to Forbes. With his sudden wealth, he bought the Dallas Cowboys for $140 million in 1989, per The Dallas Morning News, and turned the boys in blue into the most valuable franchise on earth, now worth nearly $6 billion, says Forbes. This charismatic and outspoken man also brought three Vince Lombardi trophies to town, but he didn’t do it all without controversy. This is the shady side of Jerry Jones.
Jerry Jones has a hot temper
The first thing to know about Jerry Jones is he’s always front and center. Win or lose, he faces the music, and the media, and that hasn’t always been to his benefit. In 2020, after a dismal 2-5 start, Fox Sports writer Paulina Dedaj noted how Jones had lost his cool: “It’s safe to say that every member of the Dallas Cowboys, from the players to the fan base, is fed up and you can now add owner Jerry Jones to that list.”
The team had just dropped a key divisional game to the perennially dismal Washington Football Team. Jones hopped on a call with 105.3 The Fan and seemed to blast his own players when asked if franchise leadership was the issue. “Where, in the offensive line?” Jones said, adding, “But seriously, where would you have a leadership void? Is it an experience void? Is it a talent void? … I’m not trying to be cute here.” The hosts try to interject and Jones lost it a bit. “Just shut up and let me answer — no. … I gave you the answer. When I go into the locker room, there’s no leadership void, in my eyes. Now that’s your answer. Let’s move on.”
It took mere minutes for Jones to acknowledge to his interviewers that his comments were “abrupt,” however there was no apology. Instead, he said, “This certainly isn’t my most tactful time … I’m disappointed for our fans. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am.”
Fans were mad at Jerry Jones over the Dak Prescott situation
The hardest question any NFL GM has to answer is this: is my quarterback actually good? After replacing Tony Romo, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott put up big numbers, but the team slipped from 13-3 in his rookie campaign to barely above .500 since. Nonetheless, Prescott has been a top ten quarterback twice, according to TeamRankings.
In 2020 the Cowboys offered Prescott $105 million guaranteed cash, according to The Dallas Morning News. But the QB wanted to be paid like Super Bowl champion Russel Wilson, who got a $107 million guarantee from the Seattle Seahawks, says the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The wrangling continued until Prescott suffered a serious leg injury in 2020. Fans were furious the star’s big payday seemed in jeopardy. ESPN‘s Stephen A. Smith forcefully argued Jerry Jones would’ve paid Tony Romo in the same situation. But in 2021, an on-the-mend Prescott signed a whopping deal with $126 in guaranteed money, according to CBS Sports.
Jones said during a presser (via NFL.com) he had no regrets signing Prescott for such huge money, comparing the signing to his purchase of the Cowboys franchise, which he said critics bashed as a waste of money at the time. “The truth is most anything that I’ve ever been involved in that ended up being special, I overpaid for, every time, to the end. Anytime I’ve tried to get a bargain, I got just that … not up to standard.”
Jerry Jones takes the Cowboys off a cliff
The Dallas Cowboys may still be branded American’s team, but how long can that last without another title? 25 years removed from championship glory, Texans are getting restless.
Critics say Jones has given himself so much responsibility there’s really no one else to blame. Even the GM’s golden-age golden-boy, Troy Aikman, pointed the finger at his former boss, telling The Ticket SPORTSRADIO that “everything begins at the top.” All the way back in 2012, while Tony Romo was under center, Bleacher Report had the same conclusion, “The blame lies solely, squarely, with Jerry Jones … This is evident by the lack of quality draft picks spent on offensive linemen. Romo is reduced to running for his life in many games, and the poor offensive line play caused a season-ending injury back in 2010.”
As far back as 2008, Bleacher Report was echoing angry fans and blaming Jones for that particular “Cowboys’ decade of mediocrity.” Jones is lambasted as too visible, and too egotistical, often stalking the sideline, yelling at players and coaches alike. “The problem is, Jerry Jones firmly believes that he was the one who built it. Cowboys fans have spent the last decade suffering because of this delusion.” Despite the losing streak, Jones shows no signs of loosening his vice grip on every aspect of team operations. “He bought the franchise to be GM,” points out ESPN‘s Ed Werder, and that’s not going to change.
The curious evolution of Jerry Jones' stance on player protests
In the wake of player/activist Colin Kaepernick starting a trend of players kneeling before NFL games, Jerry Jones was put in a tricky situation. On the one hand, his franchise is patriotically branded. On the other hand, Jones has always had a deep affection for his players and their concerns.
Upset after a loss in 2017, Jones came out strongly against the protests. “We cannot in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag,” the GM said via reporter Brandon George. “We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues, but there is no question in my mind, that the [NFL] and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag.”
In 2020, Jones went an unusual “109 days without addressing the media,” according to Yahoo!. The outlet surmised he was “calibrating his compass on what he undoubtedly sees as a complicated spot for himself.” Ultimately Jones softened, “That was then, two years ago. This is now … These are very sensitive times. I have nothing to prove as far as where I’m standing with the flag and where the Cowboys stand. I have nothing to prove regarding my players and my support of our players. What I do want to show and want us all to be a part of is a word called grace … in our actions but grace in our understanding of where they’re coming from.”
Jerry Jones' odd statement about killing someone
Who hasn’t tossed out the occasional hypothetical murder? “OMG I could kill you!” you say in jovial exasperation to some friend who just pranked you. But rhetorical exaggeration doesn’t always land, especially in a room full of reporters when the comments turn to talk of actually shooting someone.
In 2021, just hours after singing quarterback Dak Prescott to his monstrous new $129 million guaranteed deal, (out of a possible $164 million overall) Jerry Jones held a press conference that devolved into “various tangents” according to Sportscasting, including “bizarrely” mentioning a murder.
Perhaps in a moment of overcompensating for the widespread perception he held out on Prescott’s contract too long, Jones lashed out at Dak’s doubters. “I’d kill somebody if they put me through what guys go through in the draft when they look at their backgrounds and check every neighbor, every friend they ever had,” Jones said, according to Cowboys beat writer Jon Machota via Twitter. “I’d shoot somebody if they did that to me. Dak gets that kind of scrutiny.”
Did Jerry Jones downplay COVID-19's effect on the NFL?
The fact that the NFL suffered zero cancelations in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic and no mortal calamity befell any of the league’s many 300 pound athletes, is a stunning success. Leaving aside live gate revenue, it was business as usual thanks to strict safety protocols, all enforced by hefty fines.
That doesn’t mean nothing bad happened. Cleveland Browns superstar Miles Garret contracted the dreaded disease and was never quite the same after. “I am just getting over a coughing fit from the locker room earlier,” the star said after his return, according to USA Today. “Taking those deep big breaths is tough right now with the shortness of breath and that turning into a cough or getting choked up. You just have to find a way.” Patriots quarterback Cam Newton’s play also crumbled and the teams’ season unraveled after his positive diagnosis. “Ever since coming back from Corona, to be honest with you, I felt stagnant in my thought process,” Newton said (via NFL.com).
In the same meandering press conference where Jones mentioned shooting someone, he also seemed to forget COVID had a big impact on players, via Sportscasting. “The NFL was a huge success. Very few COVID cases, very few. Nobody got sick. Some got COVID but they took their Tylenol and went on. It was a huge success.” A success for sure, but as of January 2021, 262 players and 460 “other personnel” were confirmed cases, according to NFL.com.
Jerry Jones paid the NFL millions over his feud with Roger Goodell
Jerry Jones has a net worth of nearly $9 billion according to Forbes. Most of that cash is tied up in a football team we might’ve mentioned, some $5.5 billion. But that still leaves him liquid the odd few billion. And that’s probably a good thing because the NFL hit the outspoken owner/GM with the biggest fine in league history in 2017.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell levied against Jones a penalty for a record-breaking $2 million. The previous record was $1 million, says CBS News, held by who else, the New England Patriots, regarding the “deflategate” pseudo scandal, which has been roundly debunked. But Jones’ fine wasn’t even really a fine, so says The New York Times. Rather, it was a reimbursement for legal fees resulting from an awkward tug of war between Jones and the league that boggles the mind with arcane complexity.
Essentially, Jones hired a lawyer to fight other owners who were trying to extend Goodell’s contract. Jones may have had a bee in his bonnet over the fact that Goodell had just suspended Cowboys’ star Ezekiel Elliot for six games, stemming from domestic assault allegations. Jones had also tried to meddle in the investigation, according to ESPN, and publicly argued Elliot didn’t deserve suspension because the alleged incident predated the running back’s career. But in the end, since Jones went after Goodell’s wallet, Goodell wielded his power to strike back in kind.
When The Dallas Cowboys play outside the rules
All NFL teams look for every competitive advantage. Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys are hardly alone in pushing the limits of league edicts. Performance-enhancing drug violations are one common infraction, and Cowboys players get caught like everyone else. Special teams player Luke Gifford was suspended two games in 2020 for ingesting a banned stimulant, according to Cowboys Wire. The weirdest substance saga, however, was the story of former Cowboys receiver Sam Hurd, who was allegedly running “his own massive drug organization in between daily practices and film studies,” according to Sportscasting. Hurd eventually went to prison.
More reflective of leadership though was a slick financial move Jones made in 2010 to bend salary cap rules, allotting him more cash than allowed to spend on his roster. After complaints of unfairness from other teams, the NFL hit Jones with somewhere between a $5 and 10 million cap penalty in 2012, says ESPN — a tough blow for a club desperate to recapture glory.
Jones has also personally accrued many fines. He was docked “at least $100,000” in 2009 for speaking out against revenue sharing, during CBA negotiations, saying it was “on its way out,” according to ESPN. Squashing revenue splits makes sense for big market teams like the Cowboys, whose owner is likely loath to spread the wealth, thereby evening out the playing field. But in violating a gag order during the negotiations to speak out, Jones only managed to lighten his own wallet.
Jerry Jones was accused of assaulting a dancer
Sometimes NFL owners get caught in compromising situations you wouldn’t expect of a billionaire jet-setter. The most famous has to be New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft who was charged with soliciting prostitution at a seedy New England-area massage parlor in 2019, according to The South Florida Sun Sentinel. The charges were eventually dropped and a judge ordered a video that purportedly showed the 79-year-old paying for lower extremity relief, destroyed.
Jerry Jones was caught in a somewhat analogous situation in 2009 when an adult dancer named Jana Weckerly, 27 at the time, sued the Cowboy magnate for more than $1 million, claiming the GM sexually assaulted her, according to the Daily News. The outlet also ran compromising photos of Jones and Weckerly. Other outlets published even more photos, depicting what appears to be a lap dance in progress.
Jerry Jones is 78, as of this writing, and married his college sweetheart Eugene Jones in 1963. The suit (via the Chicago Tribune) alleged Jones’ “sexual predations constitutes extreme and outrageous conduct,” and that the owner “intentionally caused severe emotional distress.” Weckerly further alleged that she was paid bribes by Jones to keep quiet for years. Jones’ lawyer steadfastly denied it all and in 2014 a judge threw out the case, citing “the five-year statute of limitations for civil sexual assault cases,” according to The New York Times.
Jerry Jones' team parties at the 'white house'
The 1990s just hit different. And maybe before social media and cell phone cameras, players were a bit freer to debauch outside the lines. During the Cowboys’ Super Bowl heyday, the team maintained a “notorious … brick fortress with giant picture windows and a two-car garage at the bottom” known as the “white house,” according to Yahoo! News.
But of course, the house wasn’t even white. We’ll leave it to your imagination as to what that moniker refers. Yahoo summed it up when the property went up for sale in 2011, “Cowboys players … made it a second home … using the five bedrooms and 3.1 bathrooms for acts far less pure than the ‘play football’ amenity the listing suggests.” The team’s star receiver, Michael Irvin, has been described as “president’ of this “white house.” He personally organized the whole thing, according to Sportscasting.
Jerry Jones may have looked the other way, or perhaps, didn’t know. Either way, he let slide an unchecked bacchanalia Irvin has since admitted. And it came at a price when the star receiver was indicted for cocaine and marijuana possession in 1996. At the time, Irvin denied it all, claiming, “I don’t know anything about it.” However, he later pleaded no contest to the drug charges and was eventually enrolled by the league in a substance abuse program, according to The New York Times.
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