Robert Kraft, Jim Irsay, and Jerry Jones are the only three NFL franchise owners that actually played football in college. Of the three men, Jones was the most successful, winning the 1964 National Championship at the University of Arkansas as a All-Southwest Conference offensive lineman. Jimmy Johnson was also a member of that team.
After going undrafted in 1965, Jones decided to follow in his father's footsteps and begin his career as a successful businessman. However, in 1970, he decided to get his master's degree in business. Once he finished, he started buying up some pizza parlor's before selling them and using the profits to begin an oil and gas exploration business that would become known as Jones Oil and Land Lease. It was that business that would turn him into a billionaire.
Nineteen years after starting his company, Jones purchased the Dallas Cowboys for $140 million. As of today, they are valued at five-billion dollars and are one of the most valuable franchises in professional sports.
But, just like when he started out in business, not every venture is a success. In order to grow a business into a success, you have to fail multiple times and Jerry Jones knows this more than anyone else. He has made some terrible choices thru the years that may have cost the Cowboys more opportunities than fans want to think about.
Let's take a look at 10 moves Jerry Jones has made that has helped the Dallas Cowboys and 10 moves that hurt them.
20 Hurt: Hiring Barry Switzer
After hiring his former teammate at the University of Arkansas, Jimmy Johnson, and then abruptly firing him following the Dallas Cowboys second consecutive Super Bowl title due to their inability to work together, Jerry Jones decided he would go out and hire another former teammate, and friend, Barry Switzer, who was the Oklahoma head coach when he got the call.
There wasn't even an interview process, just a quick call and a hiring over the phone. It was a move that was made out of anger towards Jimmy Johnson to prove that Jerry Jones was the reason this team was a winner, not the other way around.
He brought in someone that was not the best, but that would enjoy the ride. Barry Switzer sat back and coached the Cowboys to a third Super Bowl in his second season after it was widely known how Jerry Jones felt about this group. He basically felt that anyone could coach this team to a Super Bowl and was later quoted by Barry Switzer regarding that particular statement.
19 Helped: Purchasing the Franchise in 1989
For all the bad things he has done, Jerry Jones is still a great owner. He might get in the way with his General Manager title, but he has done more for the NFL than any other owner in the past fifty years.
Think about the Dallas Cowboys franchise when he bought it for $150 million. They had some success in the past, winning a couple Super Bowls, and also battling for NFC titles on several occasions, winning a few. They even had a legendary head coach in Tom Landry for 29 years, leading the way.
But they were not the biggest, the most valuable, or even considered "America's Team" just yet. All of that happened after Jerry Jones bought them and built them into where they stand today.
He has turned them into a $5 billion franchise that Forbes has ranked as the world's most valuable pro sports franchise ever, and it is not even close. The second most valuable franchise is Manchester United, worth $4.2 billion.
Jerry Jones has turned the Dallas Cowboys into the runaway winners.
18 Hurt: Drafting David LaFleur
Long before Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, there was a kid from LSU that stood a whopping 6'7" and weighed 272 pounds. He was a monster of a tight end, but was still not being considered first round material by NFL scouts heading into the 1997 NFL Draft.
However, Jerry Jones wanted to make a splash and gamble on the future of the sport with his selection of this guy, making him a massive target for Troy Aikman and a tough target for any defender. But it failed miserably after the Cowboys failed to use him correctly. He was in the NFL the same time as Shannon Sharpe and Mike Shanahan's innovative TE sets on offense.
It was just a little too early for his arrival in the league and, combined with a bunch of injuries, it took him just four years before ending his career and disappointing fans.
17 Helped: Releasing DeMarcus Ware
Some moves that Jerry Jones make affects only the Dallas Cowboys, and he could care less if anyone else benefits from it. In other words, he was never going to release a great player just to give them a better shot at winning a Super Bowl.
That is, until DeMarcus Ware, the legendary Dallas Cowboys linebacker who played nine seasons in Dallas before finally being released to go to Denver where he was able to win his first, and only Super Bowl title.
It was a move that you might not ever see again, especially by Jerry Jones, but it was a respectful move made for a man that deserved to get his shot and Cowboy fans were happy to see him get a ring, even though it was not for them.
16 Hurt: Trading for Joey Galloway
It is never easy to trade away first round draft picks in the NFL. It is even tougher to trade away two first round picks for one player but that was exactly what Jerry Jones decided to do when he made an offer to the Seattle Seahawks for Joey Galloway.
Joey Galloway was in his fifth season and already had three 1,000 or more receiving yards seasons under his belt. He was fast, strong, and was a matchup nightmare. But the pick the Cowboys gave up for him turned out to become Shaun Alexander, the greatest Seahawk running back in franchise history, and a future Hall of Famer.
What made things even worse was how awful Joey Galloway played while in Dallas for four seasons, catching just 151 passes for 2,341 yards and 12 touchdowns. That is an average of 38 receptions, 585 yards, and 3 touchdowns per season, not close to the value they traded away for him.
Not even close.
15 Helped: Building an Offensive Line Through Draft
The one thing that Jerry Jones has never really gotten credit for is his understanding of the offensive line. As a former all-conference offensive lineman himself, Jerry Jones has a knack for finding future stars in the draft and has built an unreal offensive line thru the draft, two different times.
Jerry Jones helped the Dallas Cowboys find superstars on the offensive line going back to 1989 when he drafted Steve Wisniewski. He was also responsible for Larry Allen, Flozell Adams, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Mark Stepnoski, Andre Gurode, and Erik Williams.
It is not easy to find superstar offensive lineman outside of the first round and he has done is so many times it is unfair.
14 Hurt: Drafting Shante Carver
Charles Haley has five Super Bowl rings and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It does not matter how talented the prospects on the draft board are, there is never going to be a rookie that will be able to replace those shoes. If he had some time to transition into the NFL, then maybe. But drafting Shante Carver to replace Charles Haley was a failure on Jerry Jones from day one.
The idea was that he was so dynamic and so talented that he would eventually replace the whole left by Haley on the defensive line. Sadly, however, all it did was put so much pressure on Shante Carver to perform at a high level all the time that he eventually could not handle it and ended up becoming a bust.
13 Helped: Starting Tony Romo
The rumors started long before Tony Romo ever even stepped foot onto the football field in Dallas. News cameras and reporters were all over the place trying to hype up Tony Romo as the savior of the Dallas Cowboys because he was a baseball player turned NFL QB that was the most talented QB since Troy Aikman.
That decision was all on Jerry Jones who signed him in 2003 as an undrafted free agent. For two years he learned the game and waited for his chance to play and in his third season, he was handed the reigns and the rest is history.
12 Hurt: Trading for Roy Williams
Roy Williams was an exceptional athlete, plain and simple. He was a monster of a wide receiver at 6'4", 212 pounds but could also fly. He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash, which is unheard of for a player that size. It is almost unfair for a wideout to be so tall and so fast, that is Hall of Fame type numbers.
But he never reached that potential because of a string of off-the-field issues that would destroy his NFL career.
He showed signs of greatness in 2006 but then fell apart the next two seasons in Detroit which made it even more confusing as to why the Dallas Cowboys would send a 1st, 3rd, and 6th round pick for him. It almost made no sense because that first round pick would become the 7th overall in 2009.
11 Helped: Drafting Larry Allen
As we already mentioned, Jerry Jones is the king of drafting offensive lineman. He is the best owner in the history of the NFL to find some of the greatest offensive lineman we have ever seen, including Larry Allen, the Hall of Fame guard that anchored the Dallas Cowboys line for 12 years before heading to San Francisco for his final two seasons.
Larry Allen was not the biggest or the best option in 1994 but he was exactly what Jerry Jones wanted for his offensive line. He was a gritty, tough-nosed, blocker that played at Sonoma State and was barely known around the league.
He is the reason Emmitt Smith rushed for all those yards. He was always the league's highest rated offensive lineman, year after year. And he was spotted in the second round by Jerry Jones.
10 Hurt: Hiring Jason Garrett
Jerry Jones is the only NFL owner who also acts as his own general manager. So when he makes a decision, it is because he is the GM, not just the owner. That is part of the trouble that Jimmy Johnson had with him which led to his eventual departure from the Cowboys. They would always butt heads because they were always getting in each other's way.
So Jerry Jones decided he would no longer go for that type of head coach and instead, find someone that would keep his mouth shut and be a good boy. Jason Garrett is exactly what he wanted and is almost like a son to him. He does as he is told and never pushes back.
It lets Jerry Jones make all the decisions but has not done much to help the Dallas Cowboys become a champion, has it?
9 Helped: Signing Deion Sanders in 1995
The San Francisco 49ers won Super Bowl XXIX, making it the first ring in Deion Sanders' career. It came in his final year with the team and the following season, he would sign with the Dallas Cowboys, virtually locking up their secondary for one more title run.
That move paid off right away and the Dallas Cowboys went on to win the Super Bowl XXVIII thanks to a tough defense, led by superstar playmaker Deion Sanders. The larger-than-life superstar was the biggest trash talker in the league and was able to back it up with his blazing speed and incredible ability to lockdown a receiver.
Jerry Jones knew that signing him would be the right move for his team and fans loved every second of it.
8 Hurt: Signing Terrell Owens
We all know that this was a terrible move now, don't we?
Back when Jerry Jones was going after Terrell Owens, he never seemed to consider what his head coach, Bill Parcells, had to think about the decision. It was very apparent that Bill Parcells did not want him on the team and would never even call him by his name. He simply referred to him as the receiver.
But that did not seem to matter because Jerry Jones made up his mind and signed Terrell Owens, which eventually led to Bill Parcells departure from the organization. Jerry Jones cared more about T.O. than he did for a head coach. That should tell you something about this move.
7 Helped: Building AT&T Stadium
The Dallas Cowboys' latest home is more than just a state-of-the-art football stadium. It is a one-of-a-kind destination that would become known as "Jerry's World" and would invite more than just Dallas Cowboys fans to the stadium. It has become a sports arena that was built for major sporting events and concerts.
The entire building is massive and stands alone as the most iconic sports stadium for the most iconic sports franchise in the world. The Super Bowl is not the only thing that this stadium was built for. It houses the Cotton Bowl, major college football games, legendary concerts, and other events that make it worth every single penny he invested into building it.
6 Hurt: Not Drafting Randy Moss
"With the 21st pick of the 1998 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select Randy Moss, wide receiver from Marshall."
Those words still sting the hears of Dallas Cowboy fans from all over the world because back in 1998, there was one team that Randy Moss was adamant about playing for, the Dallas Cowboys. He was openly campaigning for them to select him in the first round or they would regret it.
When it was time for Jerry Jones to make the decision with the 8th overall pick, they went with Greg Ellis, a defensive end that turned out to give them some good seasons and a bunch of sacks. However, he was never the type of playmaker that Randy Moss would become and Dallas simply did not even give him a chance.
5 Helped: Drafting Emmitt Smith
A year after selecting Troy Aikman first overall, the Dallas Cowboys might have landed the greatest first round draft pick not taken first overall in history with Emmitt Smith. The former Florida Gators running back was the 17th overall pick and would end up becoming the NFL's all-time leading rusher with 18,355 yards when he retired in 2005.
In his first season, 1990, he rushed for 937 yards and 11 scores. But it was one year away from his 1,563 yards and 12 scores that he rushed for in his second season. He would then rush for no less than 1,204 in six of his first seven seasons while also running for 97 touchdowns in that same time frame.
Jerry Jones has made some terrible choices during the NFL draft but taking Smith in 1990 was definitely not one of them.
4 Hurt: The Handling of Firing Tom Landry
Tom Landry is not a legend in Dallas, he is an icon. He is a man that every single person in the state of Texas respects and would buy a free meal if given the chance. That is because, for 29 years, he was the head coach for the Dallas Cowboys. But his time was slowly coming to an end and everyone knew it by 1989 when the then General Manager Tex Schramm was interviewing replacements including Marty Schottenheimer.
But then Jerry Jones burst through the doors and bought the Cowboys following the 1988 season, just a few months into 1989. So the rumors started to go nuts with the firing of Tom Landry almost inevitable. However, within a day of buying the franchise, Jerry Jones was spotted having dinner with University of Miami's head coach Jimmy Johnson.
3 Helped: Drafting Troy Aikman
The first real move that Jerry Jones can consider to be the moment the Dallas Cowboys became "America's Team" was when he used the first overall pick to select former UCLA star QB, Troy Aikman.
At the time, however, it looked like a mistake because in his first season, he led the Dallas Cowboys to a 1-15 record. This was not long after firing Tom Landry and making some big changes within the organization for Jerry Jones. So fans began to question everything he did.
But without taking Troy Aikman, the Dallas Cowboys would have never been built into a Super Bowl champion. He was the superstar that ran the offense and led them to three titles.
2 Hurt: Firing Jimmy Johnson
In the history of the NFL, there has never been a head coach to lead his team to back-to-back Super Bowl wins and get fired. Most of the head coaches with multiple Super Bowl wins went on to retire, get promoted within the organization, or continued coaching for several seasons.
But Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones could not hide the fact that they did not like one another and that led to the two parting ways following Super Bowl XXVIII, the second straight Dallas Cowboys title.
Jerry Jones wanted to run the team and have the final say about all personnel decisions but Jimmy Johnson wanted the owner to worry about running the franchise and not interfering with his job as the team's head coach. That friction caused one of the most surprising moments in team history, a mutual firing/quitting from the team for Jimmy Johnson.
1 Helped: The Herschel Walker Trade
The Herschel Walker trade is so iconic that it has it's own Wikipedia page. And why not? It was the single greatest move in NFL history. The decision to trade away this one-of-a-kind running back to land multiple draft picks and players was something that Jimmy Johnson came up with after starting the 1989 season 0-4.
The idea belonged to Herschel Walker, but the details of the trade was all Jerry Jones. He found a suitor, the Minnesota Vikings, and he constructed the deal that gave the Cowboys eight draft picks over the next three years and five players. Jerry negotiated the trade and helped secure Minnesota's first and second round picks in 1990, 1991, and 1992 plus a sixth rounder in 1990 and a 3rd rounder in 1992.
They would use those picks to grab Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, and Darren Woodson, Stan Smagala, Alonzo Highsmith, Kevin Smith, and Clayton Holmes.
It remains one of the greatest one-sided trades in professional sports history. Or, as the Vikings would call it, the worst trade ever.