Jimmy Johnson 'A Football Life': Film Gives Insight into Man Behind the Legend

Richard LangfordCorrespondent INovember 7, 2012

31 Jan 1993:  Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson celebrates after Super Bowl XXVII against the Buffalo Bills at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  The Cowboys won the game, 52-17. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport
Mike Powell/Getty Images

Jimmy Johnson succeeded through determination, intelligence and the stubbornness to stick to a plan he believed would work. This point is pounded home during the NFL Network's revealing A Football Life: Jimmy Johnson.

The documentary is splashed with cuts from his life, interviews with those that have known him and plenty of new interview footage from Johnson.

The coaching legend seems completely at ease with his life and where he is. He also seems comfortable with what he has accomplished—and he has accomplished a lot.

It started in college as he worked his way up to the head coaching job with the University of Miami. Not a lot of time was devoted to the college years. This is the NFL Network, after all.

As we bounced to his transition to the NFL, Jimmy drops this gem. The NFL Network provided the quote with this tweet.

"I'm not too sure my Miami teams couldn't have beaten [my first] Cowboys team." -JJ #AFootballLife

— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) November 8, 2012

Those Cowboys teams were bad. Johnson has a decent argument.

The film spends time pointing out the struggles and failures of Johnson's early days with the Cowboys, which led to the controversial Herschel Walker trade. 

It offers great perspective to look back on the fact that many were saying this trade would doom the Cowboys. Of course, it did anything but. With the draft picks acquired from this trade, the Cowboys drafted the nucleus of their dynasty.

As they went into clips of the glory days, they cut it with Johnson talking to players, in a shot that seemed like it was taken recently, at the University of Miami.

He was driving home the importance of being conditioned and how fatigue leads to mistakes. This was also backed by some dramatic music. And by the time Johnson was done giving his speech, I was ready to run through a wall.

This guy is still a great motivator. Of course, he didn't rely on speeches alone to motivate his players. 

Jetsconfidentials.com's Dan Leberfeld passed along this quote and tweet about a different kind of motivation:

"The No. 1 motivator is fear. Fear of maybe letting down your teammates or being chastised or fear of losing your job." - Jimmy Johnson.

— Dan Leberfeld (@jetswhispers) November 7, 2012

The film also gets into Jimmy's end with the Dallas Cowboys. It details the building animosity between Johnson and owner Jerry Jones. However, if there is any ill will left between the two, you couldn't tell from Johnson's remarks.

He placed no blame on Jones for his departure and simply said it wasn't fun anymore. Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman were both interviewed in this episode and they know the team was not as good without him. Irvin goes as far as to say they could have won five Super Bowls.

In one of the great scenes this outstanding series has produced, Johnson and Bill Belichick were cruising the open season while fishing. Although, a lot more talking than fishing was going on, which works out good for the viewers.

Johnson brings up the fact that he made up his mind he was not going to take unintelligent players. He used Charles Haley as an example of his player selection.

Others told Jimmy he did not want Haley because he was trouble, but people also told him he was intelligent, and Johnson knew if he was intelligent he could reason with him. 

Belichick was in complete agreement and admitted that was something he learned from Johnson.

They get briefly into his tenure with the Dolphins, but not a lot of time is spent. Instead, they switch to his transition away from coaching. Johnson lost his mother, and he made a point of spending more time with his family and friends and he is succeeding at that just like he did in coaching. 

He is a man surrounded by people he cares for and who care about him. He is into quality of life, and he is doing it well.