|As he turns 65, life is good - real good - for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 12 October 2007 09:01|
He draws a circle down here, then a circle up there, followed by a straight line connecting the dots. He does this so often that at the end of an hourlong interview there is hardly any white space left on his paper.
The finished product is a portrait of Jones himself: Busy, moving in a lot of directions and, shrewdly enough, done in pencil so he can go back and correct any mistakes.
The crowning achievement would be another Super Bowl title, which would give him four and the franchise six, meaning sole possession of the league's most cherished record. Although that must wait until at least February, he gets to enjoy the next best thing this weekend - a home game against fellow unbeaten New England that many consider to be a Super Bowl preview.
Wait, it gets better.
At halftime, Jones will give Michael Irvin his Hall of Fame ring. Expect a loud ovation for both. While fans are at it, they might as well sing ``Happy Birthday'' because Jerry turns 65 on Saturday.
Life is certainly good for Jerry Jones. Even though he's 12 seasons removed from hoisting a Super Bowl trophy, 11 since even savoring a playoff win, seeing the pieces fall back in place makes it worth the wait.
``There's a case to be made that the anticipation of success is a more pleasant time than after you've had success,'' Jones said. ``You create more energy without the total responsibility of having to live up to anything. That makes it a lot of fun.''
Jerral Wayne Jones was born Oct. 13, 1942, in Los Angeles, then moved at a young age to North Little Rock, Ark. His dad, Pat, started with a fruit stand, then built it to a supermarket and wound up with an insurance company.
As a kid, Jerry went door-to-door selling a ``kind of lubricant-type stuff that came in cans,'' and delivered circulars into the handles of screen doors.
He got a scholarship to play football for the Razorbacks. Alphabetical order made him roommates with a guy named Jimmy Johnson. His position coach was a recently graduated player named Barry Switzer.
After college, Jones made a fortune drilling for oil, often in places other considered dry holes. He always had an eye on pro football, even trying to buy the San Diego Chargers in the mid-1960s. When he was 23.
In February 1989, Jones sold practically everything he owned to buy the Cowboys for $140 million. It was a record price and considered foolish because the team was a mess. Then he made things worse, declaring himself in charge from ``the socks to the jocks,'' then proving it by firing iconic coach Tom Landry and hiring Johnson from the college ranks. He later added to his bumpkin image by saying quarterback Troy Aikman ``looked good in the shower.''
One whopping trade and some good drafts later, the Cowboys won a Super Bowl. Then two. When they won their third in four years, Switzer was the coach.
Coaches and quarterbacks came and went, but Jones remained owner and general manager. It wasn't working, so he hired Bill Parcells, a coach with an ego as big as his.
Dallas won 10 games the first year, but never won that many again. While Parcells healed Jones' reputation and his franchise, glory was still out there, waiting to be grasped again. Now, with Wade Phillips and Tony Romo filling the roles once held by Johnson and Aikman - and Landry and Roger Staubach before them - the Cowboys seem closer than ever.
Jones is known for being an optimistic, energetic leader. Here's a secret: It's not as easy as it looks.
A brief sleeper and an early riser, Jones gets into character every morning.
``I know it needs to be done if I'm going to be productive,'' he said. ``I often use the statement 'It's the mirror that is the challenge.'''
If he can't sell himself on something, it doesn't have a chance to work. But if he ``sees a positive endgame,'' then he'll take it to his wife, Gene, or his son, Stephen, his right-hand man running the Cowboys.
``When I can't get positive about something, I actually lose energy,'' he said. ``My body language fails me. The ring in my voice fails me.''
Jones listens to motivational tapes for help. The best motivation, though, is having always worked for himself.
``When things go wrong, there's not but one person responsible,'' he said. ``And there's not but one way to correct it - get it straight in the mirror.''
Jones learned to value quality time with his thoughts when he was a kid. He'd spend hours playing entire games of football and baseball all by himself.
``And I'd have a good time doing it,'' he said. ``You can say I was fantasizing or make-believing. Yes, yes. The point is, it's helped me imagine some things, like what it would be like to get that (Super Bowl) trophy. It maybe also helped me ignore some things that somebody else might not ignore.
``It's mind games.''
He played another in September 1995, after agreeing to give Deion Sanders a $13 million signing bonus.
Woozy about writing such a big check to someone he hardly knew, Jones gassed up his jet and flew to Arkansas for a reality check, roaming through his old neighborhood and even knocking on the door of the house where he'd grown up.
``I had to put those shoes back on to get some degree of, financially, where I was,'' he said.
Instead of being amazed at how far he'd come, Jones focused on how he'd done it. He decided the Sanders deal was a good one.
``You've got a grand opportunity here,'' he recalls telling himself. ``Don't pull back. Go for it.'''
Now Jones is going for it again with a stadium he expects to be ``the best sports venue that's ever been built.''
Scheduled to open in 2009 with a capacity of 100,000 seats, it will host the Super Bowl in 2011. Taxpayers in suburban Arlington are paying $325 million, and Jones is taking care of the rest. His chunk started at $325 million but has more than doubled.
``I had a course of action that would've just renovated Texas Stadium,'' Jones said. ``We also could've built a stadium for $250-300 million less and still had a great stadium. But we've gone for it.''
Nothing motivates Jones more than proving people wrong.
``It's more of a 'show 'em' than a 'stick it to 'em,''' he said, wanting the distinction to be clear.
When he took over the Cowboys, Jones was thrilled to finally be in the NFL. Determined to succeed or fail his way, he didn't give a hoot what anyone thought about his tactics.
He looks for football talent the same wildcat way he sought oil.
``We're a franchise of risk-taking,'' said Jones, who celebrated Friday the 18th anniversary of his best deal, the Herschel Walker heist with Minnesota.
``When we haven't had success is when those risks don't pay off. Quincy Carter is a perfect example. If you really pinpoint it, all of (the struggles this decade) started with the Quincy Carter business.''
Eager to make a quick transition from Aikman to a new era, Jones gambled that he could get first-round quality out of Carter's third-round talent. Splitting the difference, he drafted the quarterback in the second round.
The 2001-03 seasons revolved around Carter - and the other guys Jones signed to hedge his bets. The list includes baseball players Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson and monumental draft bust Ryan Leaf. Post-Carter, Dallas went with Parcells retreads Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe. Then the coach tried an undrafted kid from Eastern Illinois who'd spent 3 1/2 years on the payroll without throwing a pass.
The Romo experiment has turned out just fine. As thankful as Jones is to have lucked into an heir to Aikman, the whole mess was a reminder about his stance on risk vs. reward: ``I've had more success taking risks in quality areas than I have when bargain-hunting.''
The best example is buying the Cowboys.
Jones could have spent less for a team with less tradition and history. Maybe he would've turned them into winners, too, but it wouldn't have had the same impact.
Tampa Bay, Baltimore and St. Louis all have won a Super Bowl more recently than Dallas. Atlanta, Tennessee, Carolina and Seattle have all played in a Super Bowl more recently.
Yet it's the Cowboys that consistently draw boffo TV ratings. It's the Cowboys that Forbes economists and the Harris pollsters rank No. 1. And, Jones points out, los Vaqueros are No. 1 with Hispanics, the nation's fastest-growing demographic.
``Franchises that have a longtime fan interest, when they are down or not performing at a championship level, they don't ever dip as low as teams that haven't enjoyed that,'' Jones said. ``Then, when that success hits, it reaches higher peaks. Much higher.''
And with that, his pencil moves again.