Time flies when you’re having fun. And, apparently, when you’re winning none.
Well, almost none.
Over the weekend was the 20th anniversary of the strangest, most surreal sporting “event” I’ve ever covered. The press conference at Valley Ranch on March 29, 1994 in which the Cowboys announced that head coach Jimmy Johnson – in the wake of the team’s second consecutive Super Bowl victory – was leaving the organization.
Couldn’t wrap my tiny brain around it then and still can’t today. Why would two men who were so successful together not find a way to keep their relationship together? The easiest answer, of course, is ego.
Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys, hired Johnson and was convinced the dynasty was his creation. Johnson orchestrated trades, coached players and was convinced he was the head of the back-to-back champion snake.
“Mutually decided” was the buzz phrase of the press conference, but all I can remember were the mouths agape by assorted media members.
“Personally, I think I needed to pull back some,” Johnson said that day. “Anybody who knows me knows I have to be 100 percent totally focused or else I’m not going to be as good. I felt like I was beginning to lose that focus, and because of that I’m no longer coach of the Dallas Cowboys.”
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As a beat writer who covered the team on a daily basis for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, it was stunning. Sure seemed like enough credit to go around. But obviously we were wrong.
Jerry grabbed more and more of the spotlight. Jimmy began flirting with other jobs (the Jaguars) during the season. And ultimately the Couple of the Year got a nasty divorce.
“It’s so funny,” Jones told reporters at last week’s NFL owners meetings. “I’ll show you guys one of these days, the agreement, and show you guys the dynamics behind the agreement, ya’ll need to see that. When somebody starts saying that in the NFL that the ultimate decision maker is not the owner, they need to come read the rules of the NFL. If it so happens, the GM is the owner, and then you got the coach, then the ultimate decision maker is obvious and that’s by the bylaws of the NFL.”
In other words, Jerry still thinks he’s right. But by now most fans – having seen the franchise decline starkly since Johnson left – is convinced Jimmy was right.
All I know is – like in every divorce – us kids are the ones who’ve suffered the most.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.