This Day In Sports: A ‘be careful what you wish for’ moment

March 29, 1994, 30 years ago today: In a separation that he and Dallas owner Jerry Jones call a “mutual agreement”, Jimmy Johnson leaves the Cowboys as head coach. As Jones’ only coach since acquiring the team five years before, Johnson had taken a young squad that was 1-15 in his first year to two-time defending Super Bowl champions. Over the years, the friendship between the two had soured as they constantly bickered over personnel decisions and schemes. Nevertheless, Jones wanted the spotlight for the Cowboys’ amazing turnaround in such a short time, while Johnson knew who should get the credit.

Johnson had been a college head coach at Oklahoma State from 1979-83 and at Miami from 1984-88 and famously led the Hurricanes to the 1987 national championship. Jones, who had known Johnson since they were teammates at Arkansas, had parted ways with Tom Landry (the only coach the Dallas franchise had ever known) and eagerly hired his old friend as Landry’s successor. Johnson is one of only seven coaches in NFL history to win back-to-back Super Bowls (the others are Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Chuck Noll, Mike Shanahan and, most recently, Andy Reid).

Jones would hire Barry Switzer as his new coach, and for a time it looked like he would be vindicated for the Johnson fiasco. The Cowboys won their third straight Super Bowl following the 1994 season, but as you know, there hasn’t been an NFL championship since, leaving everyone to wonder how far the Dallas dynasty could have gone had Johnson stayed. Johnson—after a one-year hiatus—would become head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 1996 following the retirement of Don Shula. But it wasn’t quite the same. Johnson went 36-28 in four seasons and retired in 1999. He soon joined FOX Sports, where he remains today.

The relationship between Jones and Johnson now has the appearance of a patch-up. Johnson finally went into the Cowboys Ring of Honor on December 30 during the team’s 20-19 win over the Detroit Lions. He joined Landry as the only coaches in the franchise’s exclusive group in addition to 19 players and two executives. “You can say whatever you want to about my human reaction or frailties,” Jones said before the game. “I say this today, he’s there because it’s the right thing. He was always going in the Ring of Honor, whether I put him in or my kids put him in.”

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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