Photo Credits: KATHERINE FRANKS / AGGIE
Money over might
When Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 for $141 million, the franchise was in disarray. After appearing in five Super Bowls throughout the 1970s, the Cowboys were in the midst of a 10-year title drought and had just suffered through their third-straight losing season. But Jones was set on revitalizing America’s team, and although it took a couple of years, the Cowboys reached the mountaintop by winning Super Bowl XXVII in 1993 — the first of three titles in a four-year span.
“How ‘bout them Cowboys!” exclaimed then-Head Coach Jimmy Johnson after a 1992 NFC Championship game win over the 49ers. That statement would become the staple of the Dallas Cowboys in a new golden era of football.
But shortly following the Cowboys’ Super Bowl title repeat in 1994, Johnson “mutually parted ways” with Jones and the team, mainly because of an inability to work together.
Jones believed that his team could still win with any coach, and after Johnson split, it seemed as if Jones was right. The Cowboys won one more Super Bowl two seasons later under Head Coach Barry Switzer. Jones looked like a genius and was the star of the show — which was exactly what he wanted.
Since the 1995-96 season, the Cowboys have not played a single NFC Championship, let alone a Super Bowl. They have, however, been the NFL’s most valuable team for 13 years in a row and the most valuable team in all of professional sports since 2016, according to Forbes.
Jerry Jones revolutionized the position of an NFL owner. It is estimated that the Cowboys made a record $365 million in profits before taxes in 2017. They generate $340 million in sponsorship and seating revenue at their home venue, AT&T Stadium, which is about twice as much as any other team. Jones has built the brand of the Cowboys up and it continues to grow year after year, but the product on the field continues to come up short.
So why then do the Cowboys constantly receive worldwide attention? Why are they constantly the topic of discussion on seemingly every sports show if they are not winning? The answer is simple: the Cowboys sell. They held the highest-rated game of the week eight slate this season and a top-two rating in 14 of their 16 games. The Cowboys are a team that attracts excitement and necessitates engagement, which can only make one wonder where the focus of the team really is.
The New York Yankees are the second-most valuable professional franchise at $4.6 billion, which makes sense due to their rich history of 27 championships and sustained success. Although they have not won a title in 11 years, the Bronx Bombers are constantly in the hunt and do not shy away from spending to get the best players available. The focus on winning is always there and it is noticeable in their front office’s approach.
The third-most valuable team is Real Madrid, the world-renowned Spanish soccer club with a lengthy, competitive history in their league in Spain, as well as across all of Europe. Like the Yankees, the club knows how to win and doesn’t back down from spending as much as possible to get the world’s top players, which is why they are worth $4.24 billion.
Alongside these sporting giants is a list of newly-emerging franchises that have enjoyed more recent success. These include the likes of FC Barcelona, the New England Patriots, the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Dodgers, which have all been able to cash in on a new generation of stars to crack the top 10 most valuable.
Then there are teams like the New York Knicks and the New York Giants. Although they have not won much over the past several years, they benefit from being positioned in one of the biggest sports markets in the world, allowing them to remain near the top financially.
How Jerry Jones has made the Cowboys the most valuable is still shocking to some people, especially due to the fact that they are located in a market in Dallas that pales in comparison to cities like New York or L.A. Yet, they sell out every game and are on every outlet in the country. It begs the question of whether Jones has prioritized the team’s image more than actual success on the field, and if his ego is now keeping the Cowboys from returning to their past glory.
Jones has made a multitude of questionable decisions during his tenure as owner. His ego and stubbornness when it comes to coaching decisions in particular has held the team back. Jones was irritated that he was not getting enough credit for the Cowboys’ success under Johnson back in the early 1990s. Now on Jan. 5, 2020, Jones finally ended the mediocre, nine-year head coaching tenure of Jason Garrett, a move that many fans had been clamoring for for several years.
Choosing personal relationships over team priorities, valuing flashy roster moves over smart ones and an ability to put pride aside are all contributing factors as to why this team has failed to reach its maximum potential. For Jones and many other owners of losing-but-valuable franchises, the main thing is attention, and it can eventually turn sour.
For these franchises that struggle to become valuable in more ways than just money, a serious time of reflection must occur before the success comes. Egos in sports are common, where sometimes a team’s value overtakes the priority of winning. This is why it is important to separate the business from the game. It becomes very difficult, however, when both are intertwined. There must come a balance, but for now, those valuable teams seem to be pushing more one way than the other.
Written by: Omar Navarro — firstname.lastname@example.org