SportsPulse: NFL insider Jarrett Bell on the ongoing public feud between Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over Goodell’s contract. USA TODAY Sports
Being the NFL’s most powerful owner doesn’t go as far as it once did.
Or so it seems, what with Arthur Blank freezing Jerry Jones out and other owners telling Jones they’ve had it with his meddling. Instead of having NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell under his thumb as he planned, the Dallas Cowboys owner was given a cease-and-desist warning Monday, according to the New York Times, citing several people with knowledge of the situation.
Keep up his rabble rousing, the Times said Jones was told, and he could be fined, docked draft picks, even suspended. Pro Football Talk reported Sunday night that some owners have gone so far as to explore penalties that could trigger a forfeiture of the Cowboys.
The nuclear option, or anything close to it, is unlikely to happen. Still, it’s a stunning rebuke for a man who not long ago seemed to have the whole NFL in his back pocket, right alongside his fattening wallet. But Jones badly overplayed his hand with his efforts to upend Goodell’s contract extension as payback for Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension.
His fellow owners are happy to follow Jones’ lead when it’s going to add a few more zeroes to their bottom lines. But you don’t gain entry into the Billionaire Boys’ Club through blind loyalty, and Jones was naïve to think his threats and petulance would do anything but infuriate a group that’s more used to making demands than bowing to them.
Rather than impede Goodell’s contract extension, Jones has all but ensured it’s going to get done.
“The committee is continuing its work towards finalizing a contract extension with the commissioner,” Blank, owner of the Falcons and chair of the compensation committee tasked with determining Goodell’s worth, said in a statement Monday.
“The negotiations are progressing and we will keep ownership apprised of the negotiations as they move forward. We do not intend to publicly comment on our discussions.”
Blank has mastered the art of speaking volumes by saying nothing. On Sunday, as he and Jones stood on their teams’ respective sidelines before the game, Blank made no effort to welcome Jones to the swanky new stadium that Jones all but designed.
See, it was “Jerry World” that made owners realize their stadiums could be more than simply places to play games. Revenue from these sporting Taj Mahals has helped push the average value of NFL franchises to $2.5 billion this season, according to Forbes, an 8% increase from last year.
But rather than paying his respects to Jones, Blank treated him more like an uninvited guest.
“That’s rare,” Jones acknowledged, when asked about the lack of pleasantries. “I’ve had games where I didn’t visit for whatever reasons, but it’s rare.”
That’s what happens when you lob grenades in close quarters. Eventually, one’s going to blow up at your feet.
Jones might have a very good point about Goodell and his contract, but the time to make it was back in May. Instead, Jones joined the other 31 owners in unanimously agreeing to extend Goodell’s deal and authorizing the compensation committee to work out the details.
Only after Goodell suspended Elliott, the charismatic running back who’s the workhorse of the Cowboys’ offense, for six games did Jones begin expressing reservations. When those didn’t get the desired result, he resorted to threats, saying he would sue the league if Goodell’s contract was extended.
Oh, he also essentially called Blank a liar, saying the others owners were misled on the negotiation process.
Jones prizes his standing too much to be a modern Al Davis, and the league has changed since the last time Jones sued the NFL. Teams are no longer family businesses, precious heirlooms passed from one generation to the next. They’re businesses, period, pieces in larger portfolios.
That’s where Jones erred. Business is never personal, and no one owner is bigger than the NFL.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.