For those wondering whether Jerry Jones would mention Jimmy Johnson on Saturday, they didn’t have long to wait. It was only four minutes into the Cowboys owner’s rousing 36-minute Hall of Fame speech that he brought up Johnson’s name.
Jones then talked about Johnson twice more – mentioning Johnson’s hiring and then his departure from the Cowboys after five seasons.
In 1989, when he bought the team, Jones recalled the unpopular decision he made to fire Tom Landry and hire his old college roommate.
“I wanted someone I knew well. I wanted someone that could get it done to be our coach. I wanted Jimmy Johnson,” Jones said. “I said he’d be worth five first-round draft choices or five Heisman Trophy winners. Of course, I sure did get laughed out of town when I said it. It was my first experience as an owner and a general manager – a difficult and very unpopular decision. Jimmy, it was a great decision. You were a great teammate. You were a great partner. Contrary to popular belief, we worked so well together for five years and restored the Cowboys’ credibility with our fans. We were back-to-back; we were driven; we had thick skin; we took all the criticism they could dish out. I thank you.”
Johnson, on stage as Jason Taylor’s presenter, gave Jones a thumbs-up before clapping his hands together in thanks.
Jones and Johnson ended their relationship before the 1994 season, after back-to-back Super Bowls, when Jones said any one of 500 coaches could have won those championships. The Cowboys had a chance to do something special by winning three consecutive Super Bowls, but Johnson left and Jones replaced him with Barry Switzer. The 1994 Cowboys lost to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, although they did win a third title in four years in 1995.
“After Jimmy screwed up and we parted ways – and Kenny Easley there will be no confessions here tonight – I come home and, of course, [wife] Gene has been watching the news and finds out about it and I lay down,” Jones said. “It’s as silent as anything you can imagine. After I laid there a minute, she just looks over and says, ‘You can’t stand it, can you? You just absolutely, when it gets going, you’ve just got to get in it and mess it up.’ I was asked what I said, and I just shut up and went to sleep.”
It left even Johnson laughing.
But Jones also said he appreciated working with Bill Parcells more than any of his other coaches.
“Thank you, Bill, for all you gave,” Jones said. “I never enjoyed working with someone more than you.”