Tuesday, September 10, 1996
Jerry and Jimmy: Two Different "Coaches"
By DAVE GOLDBERG
AP Football Writer
(Sept. 10, 1996)
When Jimmy Johnson took over in Miami, he fired 24 of Don Shula's
high-priced Dolphins and added 24 of his own, many of them no-names.
Two games into the season, he's 2-0 and has outscored the opposition
OK, so the opposition was just the Patriots and the Cards.
Nonetheless, Johnson's success demonstrates one thing - if he
and Jerry Jones hadn't had the decade's loudest clash of egos,
the Cowboys already would have won four straight Super Bowls
and be heading for five.
The Cowboys have managed to stay on top because of their stars
- Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, the suspended Michael Irvin and
But their depth keeps dwindling, in part because they've lost
22 of their supporting cast to free agency over three years;
and in part because the three drafts since Johnson left have
produced one quality player, guard Larry Allen, and he was drafted
only at the insistence of Hudson Houck, the respected offensive
Jimmy's draft in Miami this year has produced a half-dozen instant
contributors - defensive lineman Daryl Gardener; running backs
Karim Abdul-Jabbar, Stanley Pritchett and Jerris McPhail; safety
Shawn Wooden and, most of all, linebacker Zach Thomas, a fifth-round
draft choice, who in two weeks has 30 tackles.
Only one shortfall to Thomas: "My middle linebacker always
leads my teams in tackles," he said in 1991 after letting
go of Jack Del Rio, the same guy he cut to give Thomas the job.
Although Jones took credit for some of Johnson's great low-round
Dallas picks (Leon Lett, Erik Williams, Dixon Edwards, Larry
Brown, Darrin Smith), he probably can't figure out a way to claim
the Miami group.
In other words, Jimmy knows personnel and Jerry knows business.
Personnel wins Super Bowls; Nike, Pepsi, American Express and
AT&T can make Jones a lot of money, but Jones can only spend
it within the limits of the salary cap. So he can sign a Sanders,
but the lack of cap room to sign others leaves the Cowboys with
what Switzer called before the season "less depth than anyone
in the NFL."
But Johnson doesn't complain about misfortune.
He lost Fred Barnett, who was supposed to be his premier receiver,
so he's filled in with Scott Miller, strictly a second-teamer
in six years under Shula and Lamar Thomas, another of his old
Miami players. Thomas was let go by Tampa Bay after being charged
with trying to choke his pregnant fiancee.
He cut Eric Green, his underachieving tight end, then Johnny
Mitchell, signed to replace him, "quit." Green asked
to come back, but Johnson adapted instead by shifting Keith Byars,
who was beaten out by Pritchett at fullback.
And he's managed to turn Terrell Buckley, a busted first-rounder
in Green Bay and a disappointment to Shula last year, into what
he was supposed to be - an excellent coverage cornerback.
Johnson also knows how to con people.
Two weeks ago, he suggested the Dolphins would struggle early
and come on late as he molded his disparate parts - the rookies
with Dan Marino, Byars, Richmond Webb, Keith Sims, O.J. McDuffie
and Louis Oliver.
Maybe he forgot he opened against the Patriots, Cardinals and,
next week, the Jets.
Or maybe he just wanted the world to know that the Dolphins wouldn't
really be ready until Oct. 27.
That's the day Jerry and the Cowboys come to town.
It's already a part of Johnson's sometimes self-made legend -
how he told his team late in the exhibition season that only
two players had clinched spots on the team, Dan Marino and a
rookie free-agent linebacker named Larry Izzo. "Call your
folks and tell 'em you made the Dolphins," he told Izzo.
Marino, of course, pays off every week.
Izzo paid off Sunday night, blocking a punt that set up Miami's
first touchdown in the 38-10 win in Arizona.
Jimmy loves those special teamers.
All content copyright 1996, AP, The Abilene
Reporter-News and Reporter OnLine