THE PARTY'S OVER
While Reba McEntire and her band entertained the 2,500 guests at
the Cowboys' victory party on Sunday night, Dallas vice
president Stephen Jones took time from the celebrating to ponder
the Cowboys' future. As Dallas's salary capologist, Jones is the
guy responsible for having signed all but two of the Cowboys'
stars--Super Bowl MVP cornerback Larry Brown and safety Darren
Woodson--to long-term deals.
But Jones, 31, is also the son of Dallas owner Jerry Jones, and
sometimes that's the hardest part of his job. One night last
September when Stephen and Jerry were negotiating with Deion
Sanders's agent, Eugene Parker, Stephen wanted to pop his father
in the jaw. Stephen had carefully planned the Cowboys' salary
structure to ensure long-term success, and Jerry wanted to give
Sanders a potentially cap-wrecking $13 million bonus. The
Joneses were in one room of a suite in the Mansion at Turtle
Creek in Dallas, heatedly discussing their options, while Parker
was on the phone with his client in another room. When Jerry
decided to pay Sanders the enormous bonus, he started walking
toward Parker's room. Stephen, however, blocked his path and
balled up his fists.
"Stephen," Jerry said incredulously, "what are you going to do,
"I'm thinking about it!" Stephen said.
"Get out of the way," Jerry said. "I'm going to make the deal."
The rest is history: Sanders signed a seven-year, $35 million
contract (including that $13 million up front), the Cowboys went
on to win their third Super Bowl in four years, and Stephen
laughed about the incident on Sunday night. "Hey, it paid off,"
he said. "We won. When you're in position to win, you have to do
everything you can to try to get there, which is what we did."
The party won't last for the Joneses and the Cowboys, because
numbers don't lie. In 1996 Dallas has 36 players under contract
at a total outlay of $40 million, roughly $2 million under the
estimate for next season's salary cap. Every offensive starter
is signed, though the Cowboys will likely reward running back
Emmitt Smith and quarterback Troy Aikman by extending their
contracts. Look for Dallas to offer Smith and Aikman big signing
bonuses, which would give the Cowboys some cap relief in the
short run because bonuses are prorated over the life of the
contract. However, giving so many players large signing bonuses
will eventually wreak havoc on the Cowboys' salary cap in future
In fact, the defense could be razed soon. Doubtful to return
next season because Dallas won't have room under the cap to
re-sign them to handsome raises are Brown, Woodson, linebackers
Dixon Edwards and Robert Jones, safety Brock Marion and
defensive tackle Russell Maryland. And Brown's price tag jumped
even higher with his two-interception performance against the
When the Cowboys were running out the clock on Sunday, Steelers
linebacker Kevin Greene ticked off the Dallas offense by
screaming, "Hey, you couldn't run the ball on us! We shut down
that great running game!"
"Look at the scoreboard, Hulk!" Cowboys guard Nate Newton said
to Greene, referring to Greene's friendship with wrestler Hulk
Hogan. "Last time I checked, the team with the most points wins."
Pittsburgh held the Cowboys to only 56 yards on the ground. The
Steelers' defense did its job very well, but Greene picked a
strange time to brag.
THE WALSH FACTOR
On Jan. 23, the day after the 49ers rehired Bill Walsh as an
offensive consultant, he opened the door to his Menlo Park,
Calif., office and greeted a visitor with a wry smile and these
words: "What have I done?"
Walsh came out of retirement to help 49ers offensive coordinator
Marc Trestman, who took some of the heat for San Francisco's
early exit from the playoffs last month. The Niners were knocked
out largely because they had lost running back Ricky Watters to
free agency and fullback William Floyd to injury, and because
the offensive line was beaten up. But during the season they
also suffered at times from questionable coaching. Some players
thought Trestman was indecisive, and they wondered why he didn't
stand up to coach George Seifert, who began calling some
Walsh will take the 49ers back to their future: the West Coast
offense of 1989, the year he thinks the San Francisco attack hit
its peak. He feels it's imperative the Niners get a multipurpose
back, along with a blocking tight end. Those are tough
assignments, especially because the Niners don't have much room
under the salary cap. And Walsh didn't even mention plugging the
leaks on the offensive line so that quarterback Steve Young, who
was pounded during the season, remains in one piece. Throw in
the possibility that Walsh's presence will intimidate Trestman,
and you see what a difficult task Walsh faces.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Ardent 49ers fan Oliver Stone is exploring making a movie on
life in the NFL, based on a screenplay written by former tight
end Jamie Williams and freelance sportswriter Richard Weiner....
Classy gesture of the week: Jets president Steve Gutman was so
moved by Boomer Esiason's True Value NFL Man of the Year Award
acceptance speech last Thursday that he gave Esiason's Heroes
Foundation four 50-yard-line tickets to the Super Bowl. The
foundation then auctioned the tickets for $125,000.... It's
mind-boggling that the best center in NFL history, former
Dolphins All-Pro Dwight Stephenson, got shut out of the Pro
Football Hall of Fame for the third time.... Raiders assistant
Joe Bugel wanted to join Jimmy Johnson's Miami staff as
offensive line coach, but Oakland owner Al Davis made Bugel one
of the highest-paid assistant coaches in NFL history--at $700,000
per year--and a source says Davis also inserted a clause in the
contract assuring Bugel he would be the successor to coach Mike
White.... "We're more polarized than ever," Jerry Jones says
about the dueling lawsuits between him and the NFL over the
Cowboys' independent marketing deals. "I don't see a settlement
THE END ZONE
The weirdest Super Bowl XXX memorabilia request ever came early
last week when NFL turf supervisor George Toma gave Cowboy
running back Emmitt Smith a patch of Sun Devil Stadium grass--and
Smith asked Toma to sign it. Toma autographed the sod in white
spray paint. "Sweet!" Smith said. "I want you to take care of my
"You're second in line," Toma said. "Bo Jackson keeps bugging me
to do his."