Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson love nothing more than to try to one-up each other over who deserves more credit for the success of the Cowboys in the 1990s, so as the 25th anniversary of the Cowboys’ blockbuster trade of Herschel Walker to the Vikings approaches, it’s not surprising that Johnson is taking the opportunity to say he’s the one who pulled off the trade, and that Jones urged him not to do it.
In a new “30 for 30” short film, The Great Trade Robbery, Johnson says Jones couldn’t believe Johnson was considering trading Walker, the star running back who had been chosen to two consecutive Pro Bowls.
“When I told Jerry that we were gonna trade Herschel Walker he was kind of astonished. He said, ‘Really? You can’t get rid of Herschel Walker. We won’t score a point if we don’t have Herschel Walker!'” Johnson says.
The trade turned out to be a gold mine for Dallas: The Cowboys used the bounty of picks they got from the Vikings to select players including Emmitt Smith, Alvin Harper and Darren Woodson, who would help them go on to win three Super Bowls in the 1990s.
And the trade was a huge disappointment for the Vikings, not because Walker was a disappointment (he played well for the rest of the 1989 season in Minnesota and then led the NFL in all-purpose yards in 1990) but because they simply gave up far too many future draft picks.
Acquiring draft picks from other teams was the centerpiece of Johnson’s strategy in building the 1990s Cowboys.
“I knew that the only way we were going to turn the Cowboys around was with draft picks,” Johnson said.
In fact, Johnson was so intent on acquiring draft picks that he even considered trading future Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin.
“I considered trading every player on our roster — everybody, even a player that I loved, Michael Irvin, who played for me at Miami,” Johnson said. “My attitude was, we were 53 players away from the Super Bowl.”
As it turned out, Irvin would be one of those 53 players to get the Cowboys to the Super Bowl. Walker would not. Johnson says he recognized that reality before Jones did.