OUT OF SITE
Jerry Jones looks at the Internet and sees more profits for his
This is an article from the Oct. 25, 1999 issue
En route to what was for them a so-so year on the field in 1998,
the Cowboys may have set a record for single-season profits by
an American sports franchise. A source close to the club's
ownership told SI last week that the Cowboys netted $57 million
on revenue approaching $180 million.
So much for the last vestiges of the Arkansas hillbilly image
Jones brought with him when he bought the Cowboys in 1989. Even
fellow owners who still dislike him have to admit that Jones has
raised the value of their franchises with his aggressive
marketing tactics. One longtime executive with another NFL club
who has quietly talked about the evils of Jones's rebellion
against the NFL's revenue-sharing plan nevertheless calls Jones
a genius for his marketing acumen.
There are 12 Cowboys merchandise shops in the Dallas area. The
Dallas Cowboys Golf Course, on the site of a major conference
center near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, is in
the planning stages. The team will soon become a player in auto
racing, sponsoring a total of five cars on the stock car, Indy
and drag racing circuits. To boost the team's burgeoning fan
base in Mexico, Jones is about to close a deal to move his Texas
training camp just north of the Mexican border, in McAllen.
Looking long term, the Dallas owner is fascinated with the idea
of turning his Texas Stadium site into a theme park of sorts,
with a Cowboys Hall of Fame, an interactive play area and rides
on the grounds. "Disney replicates the Alamo on a back lot of a
movie studio," Jones said last week. "We don't have to replicate
the Alamo. We are the Alamo. We're authentic, and we're where
the battles are being fought. I want to bring our fans more of
what our product is all about."
As the next century dawns, the best way to do that might be
through the Internet. Thirty-eight years ago NFL owners agreed
to pool all network TV money and split it equally among the
teams. This form of socialism helped make the league a
capitalist triumph, rich and powerful. (The league is in the
middle of an eight-year TV contract that pays each of its 31
teams an average of about $70 million annually.) Now, in
addition to the NFL's official Web site, every team has its own
site. Down the road the league sees a tremendous opportunity to
generate revenue that would most likely come in the form of
subscriber fees and advertising dollars. "The Internet will be
as critical to the future of the NFL as television was in the
1960s," commissioner Paul Tagliabue wrote in an NFL newsletter
Jones, of course, would prefer that each franchise fight
for--and keep--its Internet dollars. "Each team should have the
incentive to make the most it can out of the Internet," he says.
Jones follows pay sites like jennicam.com, in which a
twentysomething woman in Washington, D.C., has put cameras all
over her apartment, including one focused on her ferret. She
gets up to 5 million hits a day while charging $15 a year for
Jones sees a day not far off when he has cameras in his office,
in the coaches' offices, in the locker room, in meeting rooms,
in the cheerleaders' studios (and maybe inside a cheerleader's
house) and on the practice fields. "It's one thing to hear about
a major team decision after it's been made," Jones says. "But
can you imagine watching the steps that led to a decision? Some
of this, and we'd have to be careful about it, could be like a
soap opera. Some of it's going to be controversial. But it'd be
Jones would be on the cutting edge of fan involvement if he ever
goes ahead with this plan to offer live peeks into the Cowboys'
world. He could also run into revenue-sharing roadblocks from
other owners on this issue and on his intention to opt out of
the NFL Properties revenue-sharing plan when the league's
agreement with the teams expires in March 2004. "We've put
everyone in the league on notice that we will be controlling our
own logos starting in 2004," Jones says. A league spokesman says
that if three quarters of the teams vote to continue splitting
proceeds, the Cowboys will have to go along with the crowd.
Lawsuits would probably not be too far behind.
The Patriots' Web-savvy owner, Bob Kraft, favors funneling all
Internet pay sites through one NFL portal and splitting the
revenue, with teams that generate the most traffic getting a
proportionately larger number of dollars. "A camera in Jerry's
place might be more valuable as part of an aggregation of
sites," Kraft said on Monday. "In the short run the Cowboys and
the Patriots might make less money, but in the long run it will
be better for all of us."
So expect some wrangling over what revenue goes where. "If I
owned a team," says Jonathan Weber, editor of the Internet
magazine The Industry Standard, "I'd be very reluctant to cede
control of the Internet. Appealing to rabid sports fans, in
theory, would be the kind of thing that could work as a paid
model on the Internet."
Adds David Fiedler, editor of WebDeveloper.com, "If I were
[Jones], I'd get ready for a lot of traffic on a lot of servers.
He could have a hot site."
Most traditional family owners who are in the game primarily to
win football games don't like to see Jones continuing to build
his financial empire, figuring he has an unfair advantage when
it comes to pursuing marquee free agents. "The thing I fear, for
football and the league, is that the money keeps influencing
everything," says Steelers owner Dan Rooney.
But consider this: Since the Steelers and the Cowboys met in the
Super Bowl in January 1996, Pittsburgh is 31-23 with two playoff
appearances. Dallas is 29-24 with two playoff appearances.
Down Without a Fight
CUNNINGHAM TAKES A SEAT
Vikings quarterback Randall Cunningham stood solemnly in front
of his locker following his team's 25-23 loss to the Lions on
Sunday, speaking in soft, even tones about the tactical wisdom
of Minnesota coach Dennis Green. In particular he lauded Green's
halftime decision to bench his starting quarterback--that would
be Cunningham--in favor of Jeff George. "I support the decision
100 percent," said Cunningham. "It's not my time anymore. It's
Jeff's time now." With that, Cunningham teased George, who was
dressing next to him, and, in relinquishing his job without so
much as a raised eyebrow, seemed but a shadow of the man who
just a year ago was a dynamic league MVP candidate.
Cunningham's ceding of the starting job so easily seemed a
strange way for a respected team leader to handle his demotion.
It also spoke volumes about why Green made the switch: to
provide a much-needed spark for a flat team that had lost its way.
"We needed somebody to step up in the first half, and nobody
did," said George, who completed 10 of 14 passes for 214 yards
and two touchdowns, leading the Vikings to 20 unanswered points
and the cusp of victory. "If Coach Green stays with me, I'm
going to do my part." Green quashed any possible controversy
when he tersely declared George his new starter.
For George to succeed, the Vikings will have to overcome their
puzzling ineffectiveness in the red zone. Last season, when
Minnesota scored an NFL-record 556 points en route to a 15-1
regular-season record and a berth in the NFC Championship Game,
Cunningham and Brad Johnson were highly productive inside their
opponents' 20-yard line, completing 45 passes in 89 attempts for
301 yards and 21 touchdowns (with just two interceptions). This
year, as defenses in the red zone have blitzed Cunningham less
and dropped more defenders into coverage, Cunningham's struggles
have been amplified--he has completed six passes in 22 attempts
for 45 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Translation: During their 2-4 start the Vikings have yet to
score 24 points in a game. Last season they never scored fewer
The more conservative game plans of first-year offensive
coordinator Ray Sherman have also frustrated Cunningham and may
do in George as well. Consider Minnesota's final drive on
Sunday: George took Minnesota to a first down at the Detroit 15
with 2:05 remaining, but Vikings coaches opted to keep the ball
on the ground for three plays and settle for a field goal.
Problem was, the Lions needed only a field goal to win and,
having used their timeouts wisely, had 1:40 with which to work.
Disgusted Minnesota wideout Randy Moss, who criticized Sherman's
play-calling earlier in the season, fell just short of doing so
again. "We've got a bunch of All-Pros, and they could've called
any pass play," said Moss, whose 10-catch, 125-yard,
one-touchdown day was wasted. "Now we might not even make the
playoffs." --Josh Elliott
Damon Huard's Heroics
IN MIAMI, A STAR IS BORN
After the Dolphins' 31-30 upset of the Patriots at Foxboro on
Sunday, Miami assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt wore a wide
smile and joshingly said, "Hey--quarterback controversy?"
Damon Huard or Dan Marino? That's a good one. With an eight-yard
completion to wideout Tony Martin in the first quarter Marino
became the first player in NFL history to reach 60,000 career
passing yards. Huard was undrafted out of Washington in 1996,
cut by the Bengals as a rookie free agent, employed for a year
as a lobbyist for the new stadium effort in Seattle and, before
Sunday, a player whose only extended pro experience had come
with the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe in 1998.
By the time Marino departed from Sunday's game midway through
the first quarter with neck spasms, he had already dug Miami a
7-0 hole on linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer's 57-yard interception
return for a touchdown. Huard then got off to an inauspicious
start when his first pass attempt was picked off by cornerback
Ty Law and returned 27 yards for a score.
Over the next 53 minutes Huard was sacked a Dolphins-record nine
times. The Foxboro crowd, at its obnoxious best, made it
difficult for his teammates to hear his signals. Yet Huard
pulled off something Marino has done only once at Foxboro: He
drove the Dolphins to the winning touchdown in the final two
minutes, throwing a five-yard scoring pass in the flat to
fullback Stanley Pritchett with 23 seconds left.
"Dan was with me the whole day," Huard said after the game,
while sipping a sports drink to combat dehydration. "He was
there looking over the pictures on the sideline, telling me
little things to keep in mind. He must have said a hundred
times, 'Keep your head in it,' and he told me, 'This game's
going to be decided in the fourth quarter. Be ready.' What a
first-class guy. I value our friendship so much. If I can do
anything to help him get his ring, I'll do it."
That would include going back to clipboard duty as soon as
Marino is ready to play; his availability for this Sunday's game
against the Eagles is in doubt. "No controversy," said Miami
coach Jimmy Johnson, who made headlines recently when he
criticized Marino's play in a loss to the Bills. "Dan's our
quarterback." But what Huard did on Sunday (24 completions in 42
attempts for 240 yards, two touchdowns and one interception) was
prove to Dolphins fans that the post-Marino era might not be so
hopeless after all. "If we played them tomorrow," Patriots
strong safety Lawyer Milloy said afterward, "we wouldn't change
our game plan. Damon just rose to the occasion."
Huard looked particularly strong on the 14-play, 59-yard winning
drive in which one play stood out. Facing third-and-nine at the
New England 34 with 1:13 left and the crowd roaring, Huard took
a shotgun snap. To his left was his primary target, Martin,
working against a hard bump from Law. Martin cut across the
middle exactly 10 yards downfield with Law in close coverage.
Huard threw a strike to Martin for a first down and six plays
later connected with Pritchett.
"If you believe in yourself, all things are possible," said
Huard. "I've watched guys like me--Jon Kitna, Kurt Warner, Jeff
Garcia--win games this year in this league. It's pretty cool
that I did it."
REINFELDT MIGHT FIT IN HOUSTON
Though former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly has been
mentioned most often as the potential architect of the new
Houston franchise, Seattle senior vice president Mike Reinfeldt,
who started 102 consecutive games at safety for the Oilers from
the mid-1970s to early '80s, will get strong consideration.
Owner Bob McNair's plan is to find a football man to pair with
business associate Steve Patterson to run the franchise....
Ravens backup quarterback Tony Banks, acquired in an off-season
trade with the Rams, is still struggling to learn the offense.
Banks, who is eligible to become a free agent after this season,
has fallen out of favor with coach Brian Billick and will
probably be looking for a job in 2000....
The Titans, trying to build a statewide following, have come out
firing. At 5-1 they're tied with the Jaguars for the best record
in the AFC. Yet CBS affiliate WREG in Memphis, 210 miles west of
the team's Nashville base, has passed on Tennessee's last two
games, against the Ravens and the Saints, opting instead to
televise the Dolphins-Colts and Dolphins-Patriots games....
Falcons quarterback Chris Chandler, who missed most of the first
five weeks with a bad hamstring, left a 41-13 loss to the Rams
with the flu. "People go to work with stuff like that all the
time," Chandler admitted afterward....
Saints coach Mike Ditka gave fans at the Superdome the finger
as they booed at halftime of Sunday's game, then grabbed his
crotch upon hearing "Ditka sucks!" after a 24-21 loss to
Tennessee. "It was wrong," Ditka said a couple of hours later.
"I was wrong." On Monday the Saints slapped Iron Mike with a
Dating to his days as coach of the Eagles, Packers coach Ray
Rhodes has a 19-game road losing streak, including Sunday's
horrific 31-10 loss to the Broncos at Mile High Stadium. Rhodes
hasn't won away from home since a 21-20 victory over the Jets on
Dec. 14, 1996. The loss to Denver prompted Green Bay safety
LeRoy Butler to remark, "The word pathetic is a little bit too
nice. We're still tied for the division lead--does that say our
division is crappy or what?"
The End Zone
AMBITIOUS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, on his postfootball plans: "I want the
record for lying in bed. I want to know what the record is. I
want to get bedsores."
A Jaguars-Rams Super Bowl? Don't laugh. Through six weeks
Jacksonville and St. Louis arguably have been the best teams in
the AFC and NFC, respectively, and based on their opponents'
combined records through Sunday they've got the easiest
remaining schedules in the league. That gives them the inside
track for home field advantage throughout their conference
playoffs. The Rams have two games left against teams that have
winning records--on the road against the Titans (Oct. 31) and
the Lions (Nov. 7)--while the Jaguars have only one, a Dec. 26
game at Tennessee. Here are the teams with the easiest and
hardest schedules remaining this season.
TEAM OPP. W-L OPP. PCT.
1. Jaguars 18-39 .316
2. Rams 24-36 .400
3. 49ers 23-32 .418
TEAM OPP. W-L OPP. PCT.
1. Eagles 33-18 .647
2. Broncos 34-20 .630
3. Bears 31-20 .608
1. Hold Those Eulogies How about Broncos 31, Packers 10? Brian
Griese outpassed Brett Favre, 363 yards to 120. Olandis Gary
outrushed Dorsey Levens, 124 yards to 12 and had two more
carries (37) than Green Bay had plays from scrimmage. Denver's
finished? Not so fast.
2. Coming-Out Parties Redskins rookie cornerback Champ Bailey,
21, became the youngest NFL player ever to pick off three passes
in a game in Washington's 24-10 win at Arizona. He returned the
first interception 59 yards for a touchdown. Then there was the
debut of 72-year-old Bill Arnsparger as a Redskins defensive
coach. After watching his team give up 118 points in its first
four games, coach Norv Turner summoned Arnsparger out of
retirement. "There's nothing wrong with admitting to certain
things you've come up short on," defensive coordinator Mike
3. Double Trouble The Falcons geared up to stop the Rams'
vaunted passing attack, so all Marshall Faulk did was run for
181 yards in a 41-13 St. Louis victory. "It's a great feeling,"
said Rams free safety Keith Lyle. "Everything we're doing is