Jerry Jones' wildcatter approach to running the Dallas Cowboys has often drawn comparisons to another NFL maverick owner: the late Al Davis.
Back in the early '90s, when Jones was still wet behind the ears as Cowboys owner and general manager, Davis talked him out of trading a player who went on to produce a Hall of Fame career.
Jones told Barry Horn of The Dallas Morning News that he and then-head coach Jimmy Johnson believed they could get top value for Irvin in another Herschel Walker-type deal. The Cowboys believed Kelvin Martin could become the team's possession receiver, while Irvin could bring a high draft pick or two that might even be used on a speedy receiver. When Davis got word that the Cowboys were shopping Irvin, the then-Raiders owner told Jones he should reconsider.
Jones and Johnson were exploring the possibilities when a voice from the West Coast with a heavy New York accent asked them to reconsider.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” Al Davis asked from the mountaintop.
“I’d be happy to trade for him, but you need to keep Michael Irvin,” Davis told Jones and Johnson. “He can smell the end zone.”
The Cowboys' brash brain trust, perhaps feeling the weight of Davis’ three Super Bowl rings, reconsidered and held on to Irvin. Their decision paid off. Irvin amassed 750 receptions for 11,904 yards and 65 TDs, while also maintaining an invaluable leadership role -- along with quarterback Troy Aikman and running back Emmitt Smith -- as one of the Cowboys' "Triplets."
As Horn points out, the Cowboys might have won without Irvin, but the "speed" receivers they inevitably drafted -- Alexander Wright (1990); Alvin Harper (1991); and Jimmy Smith (1992) -- didn't pan out well in a Cowboys uniform. Meanwhile, Irvin, Aikman and Smith matured into the catalysts for the Cowboys' three Super Bowl titles in four years.
“Al was a blessing to me,” Jerry Jones was saying last week with the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving date against the Raiders looming. “Of all the people I’ve met in the NFL he was among the most special in guiding me.”
The Cowboys-Raiders Thanksgiving Day game is the first time the teams have have met since Davis died in 2011 at age 82.
“I certainly miss seeing him,” Jones said. “I miss him tremendously. Our relationship was unique.”