What Would Have Happened If…Jimmy Johnson Had Stayed?


Welcome to the third article in a series of six hypothetical articles I’ll be writing until training camp. After all, there is no Cowboys news right now. So what are we, the fans, to do? I know some people kvetch about this practice saying that what’s in the past is done, but I’d rather speculate on alternate realities than find other things to do waiting for July 31st. Reading this article beats chewing on the dead skin off the bottom of your foot — I can guarantee it.

Let’s not get crazy with the premise of if Jimmy Johnson staying as our head coach. I know some fans think to this day he should leave the comedic FOX NFL Sunday set and use his extensive knowledge to naturally enhance the Cowboys’ performance as coach. So I’m not going to go there. The parameters of this article are that Jimmy Johnson finishes out his original ten-year contract Jerry Jones gave him in 1989. So we’re only going to speculate on what occurred from 1994 to 1998.

Jimmy Johnson was a radical departure from Tom Landry. He didn’t dress the same as Landry. He had more hair than Landry. Jimmy put football above family, as evidenced by his divorce when he took the Cowboys’ job in 1989. He was outspoken and flamboyant. His success was immediate and temporary. His tenure was only a sixth of what Landry had put into the organization, yet he equal Landry in the number of Super Bowls. Just about the only similarity that Jimmy Johnson and Tom Landry shared was their state of birth. Other than that, they were as opposite as Liberace and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Cowboys fans will never forget where they were when Jimmy Johnson dubiously resigned from the Dallas Cowboys in a “mutual decision.” I think I was trying to beat Jurassic Park for the Sega Genesis or avoiding the outdoors due to my fear of monarch butterflies. Like any tragic event, it always leads people to wonder what the path might have been had the unfortunate happenings not occurred. But I want to change it up especially for this article and talk about what would have transpired the same nonetheless


1. The Cowboys Don’t Win 3 or 4 Super Bowls in a Row — That’s a favorite amongst fans with a casual knowledge of the team. They think if only we would have had Jimmy Johnson in the 1994 NFC Championship game, why, his impenetrable hair would have propelled us to victory and somehow prevented Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Kevin Williams’ fark-ups from putting 21 points on the board for the 49ers. That’s number one. Second off, very few fans are aware of how burned out Jimmy Johnson was by 1994, and it had nothing to do with Jerry Jones, Big Oil, the military-industrial complex, Nixon, aliens, fluoridated water, or any other hot button issue on Coast to Coast AM. It had to do with the media. When Jimmy Johnson won a Super Bowl, the question immediately became whether or not he could win two in a row. You ever noticed how Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy, and Jon Gruden never had those questions asked of them? Even Landry didn’t have that question asked of him after he led the Cowboys to a Super Bowl VI victory. Jimmy Johnson never had that honeymoon, and Jay Novacek and Mark Stepnoski attested to how tense and cranky Jimmy Johnson was under the pressure. Cutting a Curvin Richards was commonplace in 1993. 1994 would have been a burnout year for Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys.

2. Michael Irvin Still Gets Busted for Cocaine — “The White House” may have been at its height under Barry Switzer, but Michael Irvin was not there for his arrest; he was at a Dallas hotel celebrating his birthday. Yes, Michael Irvin was indubitably the vocal leader and held players accountable, but he was a party animal off the field ever since arriving with the Dallas Cowboys, who have sex appeal like you can’t imagine. It wouldn’t have mattered who the coach was. Eventually, Irvin was going to get caught. It took ’til 1996 for it to happen. There was nothing Jimmy Johnson or anybody could do to stop it.

3. Free Agency Still Threatens the Cowboys’ Unity — One of the big challenges facing the Dallas Cowboys in the mid-’90s was free agency. And it didn’t matter which one of 500 coaches Jerry Jones hired; this was going to be the new reality for America’s Team and the rest of the NFL. The whole question would come down to how Jimmy Johnson would handle it. But it would still be a significant enough part of the league that he would have to deal with it.


1. More Super Bowls — Just because I said we wouldn’t win 3 out of 4 Super Bowls doesn’t mean the Cowboys couldn’t have added more under Jimmy Johnson’s tenure. He would have had the team competitive and still preached accountability and had a system in place that no business decision-making cornerback could have disrupted. A good comparison would have been the ’70s Steelers. In the years they weren’t winning the most Super Bowls thanks to poor officiating, the ’70s Steelers were still at least achieving a divisional playoff berth. I think the ’94-’98 Cowboys would have done the same under Jimmy Johnson. And it’s all about being in the dance. As long as you’re in the playoffs, you always have a chance to win the Super Bowl.

2. Mike Woicik Stays — Remember when Barry Switzer sent Chris Boniol out to kick a meaningless field goal against the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football in a Week 12 contest in 1996 just so Boniol could have the league record for most field goals in a game? Remember how Reggie White protested the kick and Michael Irvin quarreled with him over it? Well, Mike Woicik, our past and current strength and conditioning coach that many credit with being instrumental in those three Super Bowls in the ’90s, was incensed by that incident. It was the last straw for him; he couldn’t work with Barry Switzer anymore. And this was already after Switzer told Woicik Deion Sanders was exempt from doing his workout routines because he was Deion Sanders. The relationship between Switzer and Woicik became acrimonious. It wouldn’t have under Jimmy because Jimmy made the players respect their coaches.

3. The Drafting Would Have Been Significantly Better — From 1994 to 1998, all Jerry Jones has to show for his drafts are Larry Allen and Dexter Coakley, which is like winning 10-grand at blackjack after losing your life savings, your house, and one of your children to being indentured after coming up short the previous seventy-times-seven hands. How would you have liked to have had Jason Taylor instead of Shante Carver? Or how about Sam Madison replacing Larry Brown and Kevin Smith? It’s highly unlikely Jimmy Johnson would have been swayed by the Jones/Lacewell philosophy at the time to draft backups and special teamers because their stars were already so great. Jimmy Johnson would have been churning that roster.

Come back to The Landry Hat next week when I’ll explore what would have happened if the Cowboys won the 2007 NFC Divisional playoffs against the Giants.