July 13, 2016 | By McCathern Law
From Jerry Jones to Les Snead, the USA TODAY Sports NFL staff selects the biggest game changers in the league.
1. Jerry Jones
Here’s what can happen when a man risks his entire fortune to realize a dream of owning an NFL team: He instantly becomes the most despised man in Texas for firing legendary coach Tom Landry.
But then with the help of a former college roommate (Jimmy Johnson), his fortunes turn, and he finds Super Bowl gushers. He redefines the sports marketing game and transforms a money-sucking stadium into a profit center. Then he builds a new palace.
He generates a boatload of money with the most visible franchise in the NFL – and along the way becomes the ultimate game-changer at the heart of soaring league revenues.
He becomes the Jerry Jones of his wildest dreams.
The owner of the Dallas Cowboys has long maintained rank among the NFL elite – be it players, coaches or commissioner – and is USA TODAY Sports’ choice atop the list of the NFL’s 100 Most Important People.
This has very little to do with football results, given the Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl in more than 20 years and, well, multiple general managers would have been fired during that span if not for the fact that Jones serves as his own GM.
Still, the franchise that plays at sparkling AT&T Stadium – Jerry World, it is often called – is worth $3.2 billion, according to Forbes, second to soccer juggernaut Real Madrid ($3.26 billion) among sports franchises worldwide.
A sparkling new team headquarters – dubbed “The Star” – is set to open in August.
Yet Jones’ impact goes far beyond being a look-at-how-I’ve-done-it model.
No owner was more influential in pushing others to sign off on the Los Angeles Rams’ stadium deal in Inglewood, Calif. – rather than a Carson deal for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders that was backed by a lot of “old school” owners. Jones was sold on Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s grand plan for solving the NFL’s conundrum in the nation’s second-largest market.
It was the same type of big-picture thinking Jones employed during the 1990s, when he spearheaded a new philosophy for the broadcast committee in selling the NFL’s network TV package – which is shared by all 32 teams – that bucked the traditional bidding process and resulted in then-fledgling Fox entering the game … and providing the impetus to blow the lid off the previous deal.
And you can bet that Jones will be in the middle of the next big NFL deal. He’s already sent signals that he’ll back a potential move to Las Vegas by the Oakland Raiders.
Jones never rests in seeking ideas to up the ante – which is why he’s so important to the NFL.