During his Hall of Fame speech, Jerry Jones tried to heal some old wounds with almost apologetic words to Tom Landry, Gil Brandt and Jimmy Johnson. But some players on the Cowboys’ three Super Bowl teams of the 1990s still haven’t gotten over Jimmy and Jerry’s breakup.
“I think both of them understand one thing: They didn’t live in the moment back then, because if they had lived in the moment, we would probably have four or five rings instead of the two we had with Jimmy,” former safety Darren Woodson said on Matt Mosley and Ed Werder’s Doomsday Podcast. “I think it’s pride got in the way. Both of them realize that. Would they go back and change things? Probably not. Their pride would probably still be big in those situations. But time has healed a lot of those wounds, and Jimmy is a different guy. You see Jimmy now from what he was in ’92 and ’93 and back to ’89. He was intense, felt like this was his team and for the right reasons, Jerry felt like, ‘Hey, I pay you, and I pay all the rest of these coaches at the same, so it’s my team.’ So I can understand there being some issues, but again, I should probably have four or five rings on my fingers if those two would have just gotten along.”
Jones made the unpopular decision to fire the legend, Landry, and hire his old college roommate as his first move after purchasing the Cowboys in 1989. Jones and Johnson won back-to-back Super Bowls together before they couldn’t co-exist anymore.
The last straw came when Jones said any one of 500 coaches could have won those championships.
The Cowboys lost to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game in the 1994 season before winning another title in 1995. They went 10-6 in 1996, losing in the divisional round.
Jones and Johnson have fought for credit — and blame for their breakup — since, but both seem to have mellowed in recent years. Johnson congratulated Jones on his Hall induction, and Jones gushed about his former coach during his speech, mentioning him several times.
Both recently have termed their relationship as “good.”
“I’m sure that they’ve had conversations before, in the past, and tried to get over that situation, but I thought it meant a lot for what Jerry said,” Woodson said. “Listen, we can take whatever we want from Jerry Jones and his history — good and bad of what he’s brought — but the one thing you will get out of him is you’ll get some honestly. He’s going to tell you what’s on his heart. I think that’s been weighing on his heart for a lot of years. There are a lot of repercussions that came out of that. . . . We had just won a Super Bowl. I was in Phoenix, and when I found out Jimmy got fired, I was as pissed off as anyone. Michael Irvin, we saw what he did. He was throwing garbage cans in the locker room. People were pissed, because we knew we could have made history back then and those two blew it. Flat out. Plain and simple. They blew it.”
Woodson said he always will wonder “what if.”
“I should have four or five rings,” Woodson said. “I honestly felt like we were that dominant as a football team. There was only another team, which was the San Francisco 49ers, in the NFC that could really deal with us, and we had beaten them two straight years, and I know they loaded up that third one, but I think if Jimmy would have been there, we would have whooped them again in those couple of years. We saw Green Bay was the next team that stepped up, but we owned Green Bay in those years.
“When you have a good thing, man, it’s hard to see it go.”