DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants will square off for the 11th time on Opening Day in series history Sunday at AT&T Stadium. While the on-field history between the two sides is always a draw, the off-field rivalry between the Jerry Jones and the Maras is equally as fascinating.
It can be argued the contention between Jerry Jones and the Maras began in 1989 when he bought the Cowboys and fired Tom Landry. If then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle was comparing it to Vince Lombardi's death, one can only imagine how Giants co-owner Wellington Mara viewed the dismissal of a family friend. Landry thanked Wellington in his Cowboys Ring of Honor induction, and some say Landry was a Giants fan more so than a Dallas fan in his post-coaching days.
The first true action between Jones and Mara was in the summer of 1989 when league owners were determining Rozelle's successor. The old guard liked New Orleans Saints general manager Jim Finks, a safe selection who would carry on business as usual. However, Jones wanted to get a lawyer named Paul Tagliabue a shot, and he helped spearhead the "Chicago 11," who managed to get Tagliabue voted in as NFL commissioner.
Just as the on-field rivalry has a playoff battle with the 2007 NFC divisional where New York edged Dallas en route to a Super Bowl victory, the off-field rivalry has a taste of postseason and championship implications as well.
In 1995, Jones was looking for new revenue streams for the Cowboys. He discovered that while the league did control the licensing of the Cowboys through NFL Properties, formed and ran by Mara, they did not control the licensing of Texas Stadium, home of the Cowboys.
Jones started making Pepsi and Dr. Pepper the official soft drinks of Texas Stadium. The NFL filed a $300 million lawsuit against Jones and the Cowboys in the 1995 preseason, and Jones filed a $700 million counter suit claiming NFL Properties violated antitrust laws. Ultimately, Jones settled out of court, and, now that's how you can have AT&T sponsoring the Cowboys while Verizon is the official wireless carrier of the NFL.
The most recent entry in the rivalry comes in the 2012 offseason when the NFL Management Council fined Dallas $10 million for violating the spirit of the salary cap in an uncapped season, 2010.
Even though it was an uncapped year as the collective bargaining agreement was expiring, even though there were no set rules as to how teams could sign contracts that offseason, even though all contracts have to be approved by the NFL before they can be deemed valid, the NFL Management Council in 2012 deemed receiver Miles Austin's six-year, $54 million contract a violation of the spirit of the salary cap. The chairman of the NFL Management Council in 2012 who handed down those penalties was John Mara, Giants co-owner and son of Wellington Mara.
For all off the off-field battles Jones and the Maras have had, Jones has always maintained a healthy perspective: keep it on the field. That's why, no matter how many times the NFL force feeds Giants-Cowboys in Week 1, it will be appointment viewing because of the all-encompassing nature of the rivalry on and off the field.
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