What Jerry Jones’ Father Told Him After Buying the Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones has owned the Dallas Cowboys for 30 years now, and he shows no sign of slowing down. His $150M investment in 1989 was a hefty one, but Jones had a vision that he still sees today and refused to allow the naysayers to dictate what he should and should not do.

The naysayers came from his circle of friends, his colleagues, and even within his family, with one particularly scathing review coming from someone very close to him.

Jerry Jones walks on the field before the game.
Owner Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys | Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Jerry Jones’s acquisition of the Cowboys

Jerry Jones made his money by investing in oil companies, and when he bought the team in 1989, it wasn’t a vanity project that he could afford to splurge on like the Clippers are with Steve Ballmer, the Cowboys were going to be his cash cow, whether anybody believed it or not.

The $150M was not much less than Jones’s wealth, and if he did not turn the team’s $1M a month losses into gains, the move could have ruined him financially. 

To top this off, the state of Texas was in an economic depression that made profiting off of such an endeavor all the more difficult. This did not stop Jones, however, who acknowledged the irresponsibility of his financial decision at the time in an interview with 60 minutes. 

“I think you would not be impressed with my business judgment if you saw those financial statements, and if you saw the time,” Jones said. The Cowboys were my devil, and I just couldn’t resist it. I wanted to be a part of the NFL, and I wanted to be a part of the future of the Cowboys.”

This meant drowning out the dissent being thrown out from all around him, but one particularly tough critic was especially critical, and that was Jones’s father. 

Father/son moment

Jerry Jones said that the dissent only motivated him to further pursue the team, and a call from his father was one of the biggest motivations.

“My father called me right after I had bought the team, and said, ‘Son, you’re a young guy, and I don’t care if you have to do it by mirrors, smoke screens, or baling wire,'” Jones said. “‘You’ve got to make this be a success or look like a success, or you’ll never be able to do anything for the rest of your life. There’s too much visibility here.'”

Jones said that he sarcastically thanked his dad, but he still followed through. The rest, to fans who follow the team’s history since Jones took over, is a success. 

Did the gamble pay off?

Jones might have developed a reputation that still sticks to this day. He isn’t a casual owner who pays the bills and lets others do the work, the Cowboys are his greatest asset and he will not let anyone into the room that doesn’t acknowledge he and he alone is the boss. There is, perhaps, no owner whose public persona is so tied into his team, and he wouldn’t have it anyway. 

This isn’t to say, however, that Jones’s unique ways didn’t pay off. Although the latter half of the Jones era has been largely fueled by mediocrity and disappointment, the years following the acquisition were some of the best in franchise history.

The team, with its core of Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin, won three Super Bowls in four years from 1992-95, and the team is still lauded by many as “America’s Team.” 

The team is now worth over $5 billion, they play in the biggest stadium in the NFL, and even in the team’s most mediocre seasons, they are one of the most popular teams in the league. Jones may not be a perfect owner, but he did things his way and his gamble paid off more than anyone could imagine.