Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been lauded this summer for two huge acquisitions. Of course, neither will appear on the playing field.
First, Jones finally sold the naming rights to Cowboys Stadium. From now on, the one-of-a-kind facility will be known as AT&T Stadium, which will never, ever be confused with San Antonio’s AT&T Center or San Francisco’s AT&T Park.
Then Jones managed to get the Dallas suburb of Frisco and it’s school district to build him a practice facility and headquarters. It’s the same sweetheart deal he got from Arlington to build Cowboys, er, AT&T Stadium: the municipalities pay an upfront cost and the Cowboys take care of anything above that.
The elected officials of Frisco, no doubt with visions of a city luxury suite and VIP access swimming through their heads, pushed the deal through before taxpayers could have any input.
But it’s the Cowboys and, despite just one playoff win in the last 16 seasons, it’s a name that still opens doors — and more importantly, wallets — in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Both transactions, the naming rights and the practice facility, were hailed as good business deals for the Cowboys. Both should pay dividends for the team’s bottom line for years to come.
However, in the process of lauding the deals some pundits labeled Jones a “business genius” for pulling them off.
That’s like calling Barry Switzer a coaching genius for winning Super Bowl XXX with Jimmy Johnson’s players.
The Cowboys’ platinum brand was established well before Jones bought the team. The Cowboys’ good name was established by the likes of Landry, Schramm, Staubach, Lilly and Dorsett.
They were calling the Cowboys “America’s Team” long before an Arkansas gambler in the oil and gas industry took over.
Were the naming rights and practice facility deals smart moves? Of course. But it doesn’t take a genius to make money off of the Cowboys’ brand. The genius is in the details.
It’s hard to envision Jones designing in-stadium phone apps alongside AT&T engineers, or figuring out how to install proper irrigation for the new practice fields.
Yet these endeavors will take a chunk of Jones’ time, just as Jones was involved in overseeing the construction and funding of the new stadium. Who knows how much time Jones devoted to making the deals before they were announced the summer?
As Jones has said many times before, he didn’t buy the Cowboys to watch someone else handle his investment. His famous line at his introductory press conference was that he wanted to be involved in everything with the team, right down to “jocks and socks.”
So what about the team? In addition to owner and savvy businessman, Jones also wears the hat as the team’s general manager. He’s supposed to be involved in all personnel and hiring decisions for the on-field product.
Taken a look at the team lately? It’s no AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys have gone 8-8 the last two seasons and were 6-10 the year before that. The team needs personnel help, yet you have to wonder how much time Jones spends improving the team when he’s constantly working to improve the bottom line.
Where is the football version of a huge business deal to help the team? Obviously the salary cap limits things, but where is the present-day version of the Herschel Walker trade to vault the franchise to a new era of success?
When Jones tries to wheel and deal with the football team, he’s not dealing with corporate types and star-struck suburban politicians. His fellow GMs aren’t looking to become his BFF and the deals depend more on his personal acumen.
The team has been hobbled several times by bad drafts and bad trades, specifically for Roy Williams and Joey Galloway.
Presently, it’s the offensive line that threatens to derail the season. At a time when the offensive line should be gelling, the Cowboys are trying plug gaping holes at the guard position. The latest move this week is to try underachieving tackle Doug Free at right guard. That’s a sign of desperation.
It’s not that Jones is inattentive to the team’s needs, but there are only 24 hours in a day. An NFL GM usually spends every waking moment thinking of ways to improve the team. Jones can’t make that claim.
While a sparkling stadium and other amenities are impressive, ultimately the fans and media will judge Jones on what happens on the field. Having the nicest facilities and the most sponsorship dollars for an 8-8 team is not a boast anyone should aspire to.