Jerry Jones has owned the Cowboys for 24 seasons. This is Dan Snyder’s 14th season in command of the Redskins.
Jones, 70, was co-captain of Arkansas’ 1964 national champions. Snyder, 47, was a passionate Redskins fans growing up in Bethesda.
Jones earned his fortune in oil and gas. Snyder made his in marketing.
Washington and Dallas have a fierce rivalry that dates to the latter’s entry into the NFL in 1960 as an expansion franchise. That event was aided by Cowboys founder Clint Murchison’s purchase of the rights to “Hail To The Redskins” which helped persuade Redskins founder George Preston Marshall not to block the incursion into his vast broadcast territory.
However, the shy yet brusque Snyder and media-loving publicity hound Jones are more pals than warring chieftains. Both challenged NFL group think on local advertising and stadium signage and have often been iconoclasts on league issues.
However, when Snyder expanded Redskins Stadium (now FedEx Field) into the league’s largest, it was only a matter of time before Jones built an even bigger and much more plush palace for the Cowboys. And of course, Snyder responded by installing two video boards that he claimed were even better than Jones’ massive one.
Oddly, the Cowboys’ fall from their 1990s dominance – after going 1-15 in Jones’ debut, they won three Super Bowls from 1992-95 and reached postseason in seven of eight year from 1991-98 – coincided with Snyder taking over the Redskins.
Jones exulted after his ‘Boys rallied from a 35-14 fourth quarter deficit to stun Snyder’s ‘Skins in overtime in the latter’s debut game, but it was Washington that ended a six-year playoff drought and won the NFC East that December while Dallas limped into postseason at 8-8
The Cowboys didn’t get back to the playoffs until 2003 and then again in 2006. The Redskins only played into January in two of the first dozen seasons of the millennium, 2005 and 2007, joining Dallas in being bounced in their first games the latter year.
Dallas finally recorded its first playoff victory in 11 years in 2009, but despite Washington’s serious struggles under Snyder, the Redskins still have two postseason triumphs to the Cowboys’ lone one during his tenure. That trumps any crowing Jones might do about Dallas’ 19-8 dominance of their teams’ head-to-head matchups, a series in which Washington has won seven of the past 15 including a 38-31 victory five weeks ago for the Redskins’ first success on Thanksgiving in Big D.
All of this brings us to Sunday’s game in Landover which will, head-to-head, determine the division winner for the first time since 1983 when Snyder had just become old enough to drink legally and Jones was still focused on drilling for dollars.
More than a few of the games between the Redskins and Cowboys since Snyder joined Jones in the exclusive fraternity of NFL owners have ended dramatically: that 1999 opener in Landover; the pair of late bombs from Mark Brunell to Santana Moss that shocked host Dallas in 2005; Troy Vincent’s block of Mike Vanderjagt’s field goal attempt that Sean Taylor picked up to set Nick Novak’s game-winner for host Washington in 2006; and Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant beating DeAngelo Hall for big plays to beat the Redskins both times last season.
However, none of those games had anything close to the importance of Sunday’s showdown with the winner getting a home playoff contest next weekend while the loser is likely done for the year. After all these seasons of friendly competition between two of the biggest egos in owner’s boxes, it’s about time that their teams met for something really worth bragging about, not just bragging rights.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin