Exclusive Interview with Legendary Coach Jimmy Johnson

Gene StrotherCorrespondent IIINovember 24, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24:  Former NFL coach and current Fox Sports football analyst Jimmy Johnson looks on as the New Orleans Saints play against the Minnesota Vikings during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 31-28 in overtime.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In an exclusive interview with SilverandBlueBlood.com, former Dallas Cowboys coach and two-time Super Bowl winner Jimmy Johnson opened up about Super Bowl XLV, the mess known as the Minnesota Vikings, the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett, Tony Romo, Brett Favre and more.

Who will make it to the Super Bowl? Are the Atlanta Falcons the real deal?

Which team is a bigger mess right now? The Vikings or the Cowboys?

Does Jason Garrett have a legitimate shot at being the permanent head coach of the Dallas Cowboys?

Is Jerry Jones a good general manager?

How would Jimmy Johnson go about turning the Dallas Cowboys around?

Any chance Jimmy Johnson returns to coach the Dallas Cowboys?

We got the answers right...here.

[You can hear the audio version of the interview here. My apologies that the audio cuts off the last three minutes of the interview due to a technical glitch. Still, Jimmy was greatness.]

Dateline: 10:45am Central Time, Tuesday, November 23, 2010

SBB: I understand we have this opportunity thanks to Crown Royal. In addition to Super Bowl XLV, we are getting ready for Jimmy Bowl I. Is that right?

Jimmy Johnson: That's it, and they can go to CrownRoyal.com, and they can see some videos that I've put together to give them some inspiration to put together a short video or a short essay to convince me that they should win the contest. If they win, it will mean an all-expenses paid for an adult and four friends to Dallas and Cowboys Stadium to be coached in the game by me. It will be quite a trip for somebody.

SBB: Oh, man. That sounds like a great time. So, you're the judge and jury. They have to tailor this thing to impress Jimmy Johnson.

JJ: Exactly right. If they will watch those videos on CrownRoyal.com, I think it will give them some inspiration.

SBB: Alright. We will pass that word along. Speaking of the Super Bowl, we're through week 11 now. Things are starting to shape up a little bit. Teams are starting to separate themselves. Right now, who are your favorites to represent the two conferences?

JJ: The way this season has gone, every week it's been new teams. Right now, I think the Green Bay Packers are playing extremely well. I like what they're doing. They have been able to overcome a lot of injuries. And the New England Patriots, even though they are really young on defense, they have shown they can go out and win the big game.

SBB: What about these Atlanta Falcons sitting at 8-2? Are you buying into this? Do you think they have the mettle to make a deep run?

JJ: Yeah, I think Atlanta, they have been very consistent. Their quarterback has played very well. They've got a good defense. Plus, they play extremely well at home. I think it would be very important for Atlanta, if they could get enough victories to where they could have home field advantage, then they could make a run at this thing.

SBB: What about a dark horse? Is there any team that is maybe flying under the radar that you have your eyes on?

JJ: Well, I don't know about under the radar. I think Philadelphia with Michael Vick, if he stays healthy, you know, he's going to be a factor. Who knows about the AFC? You've got San Diego that looked great last night. You've got Indianapolis, who know if they can get some of their people back and healthy? Then you've got the Pittsburgh Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger. So, it's a wide-open race, really in both conferences.

SBB: Obviously, there is a couple of teams that are bitterly disappointed in the way their season has gone thus far and both of them have made coaching changes. Minnesota and Dallas. Which of those two do you think is in the bigger mess right now?

JJ: I think Minnesota's in a huge mess. You know, they've got problems at the quarterback position. Brett Favre is turning the ball over and obviously his career is about done. You really don't know what (Tavaris) Jackson can do. He did take them to the playoffs a few years ago, but he's still not on the field. Then you've got the coaching change. And then you've got a lot of veterans that seem to be sniping at one another. You look at the broadcast last week and there's arguments with coaches, arguments among players. So, right now, I think that's a bigger problem.

With the Cowboys, I think Jason Garrett has gone in and turned some things around, he's added some discipline. He's a highly-intelligent, organized coach. I think he's going to do a nice job. Plus, they've got the players in place. Even though Romo is injured, you know, for the future, he's an outstanding quarterback.

SBB: I don't know how much you know about what we do here, but I am in the Dallas area and primarily write about the Dallas Cowboys, so our audience is really focused on the Cowboys.

JJ: Right.

SBB: What do you think Jason Garrett has to do to convince Jerry to name him the permanent head coach?

JJ: I think Jerry Jones really is a hundred percent behind Jason. I think he really would love for him to be the head coach. Obviously, Jason has to show that he can do it. I think the first couple of games have been a good start for him. I think if he can get a few more wins and establish that the team is going to play well for him, that they're going to be efficient, and they are going to give great effort, I think he has an excellent chance of winning that job.

SBB: Obviously, you know Jerry really well. So, do you think in his heart of hearts, he's really pulling for Garrett to win this thing, or is he wanting to go out and make one of those Jerry Jones splashes in the offseason and grab a Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden or someone else, and kind of jerk the attention back to the Cowboys?

JJ: In my personal opinion, and this is an opinion, I just think he's a hundred percent for Jason Garrett. He would love for Jason Garrett to prove that he should be the guy.

SBB: I have always been a Cowboys fan and you certainly brought a lot of excitement to this area when you were here. I remember how excited I was to get my hands on your book, "Turning the Thing Around," which you wrote, I think, after you won the first Super Bowl.

JJ: After the first Super Bowl, right.

SBB: Let's say this responsibility was yours again, to turn this organization around, which obviously it would be a different job this time, because, as you indicated, they have talent in place which you really didn't have then. Let's say you are in Jerry's shoes or Jason's shoes: What is the top priority to get this thing on the right track?

JJ: The number one thing is making sure everyone in the organization—the players and everybody working there—believes that they're going to get it done. And then they work at it. You've got to make sure that every body's putting in the work and you've got to have the discipline to go out there and get the job done.

I think the Cowboys got soft. They got soft physically and they got soft mentally. And you just can't go out there and execute and make mistakes. They were a sloppy football team the last two or three years. You can't be a sloppy football team and be successful in the NFL.

SBB: Obviously, coming into the season, a lot of people were picking the Cowboys as a favorite to at least be in the hunt for playing the Super Bowl that they host. Did we overestimate the talent or did we just underestimate the importance of having strong leadership?

JJ: I still believe—I don't think anybody disagrees with me—that they're a talented football team. The talent's there, but the talent was not performing.

SBB: Jerry Jones has been the General Manager as well as the owner for 22 years. For about 16 of those years, it probably started the day you walked out, there's been a raging debate about whether Jerry Jones is a good general manager. Obviously, he has the three Super Bowl rings and a lot of success early on. And then we had the struggles through three 5-11 seasons, and then the Bill Parcells era...is Jerry Jones a good general manager in your opinion?

JJ: First of all, when I was there, it was in my contract that I had complete control over personnel and football operations: personnel, players and coaches. That caused a little bit of a conflict there at the end. So, once I left, Jerry wanted to make sure it was a group decision. It would be Jerry and his family, Stephen in particular, along with the personnel director Tom Ciskowksi, and then also the head coach.

People have a misconception about Jerry meddling and making sure that he's making all the decisions. He's part of the decision-making just like the whole group. But Jerry does not meddle as much as people think. I don't think he's ever going to change that structure of the decision-making. Like I said, after I left he changed that.

Now, having said that, as long as he has a strong personality as the head coach, like when he had Parcells, Jerry's going to listen to the strong personality. So, really, the strong personality as a head coach is going to get done what he wants done. So, I don't see it being a conflict.

SBB: Well, Garrett seems to have that type of personality, from what we see. Of course, we don't know him the way you do and the way Jerry does. Do you think he has the type personality to be able to manage Jerry? I don't know if that's really the right way to put it. The right personality to manage to work with Jerry and have the kind of success he wants to have?

JJ: I really think so. Of course, it's hard to predict how an assistant coach is going to fare as a head coach, because it is a different role. But I think he's got the qualities to be successful.

SBB: I'm glad you brought that up, because that segues into my next thing. I am not a big Survivor fan, but my wife watches every episode since day one. But when I learned you were going to be on it, obviously, I was in. So, I watched every episode until they voted you off...

JJ: (laughter)

SBB: I wasn't entirely sure you didn't orchestrate that, too. I told my wife, "Look, he knows how to get things done. He'll leave when he's ready to leave.

JJ: (more laughter)

SBB: It would have been obvious to anyone watching that you are a leader, whether they knew who you were or not. There's no question, leaders lead. In my opinion, leadership skills are at least as important, if not more important than X's and O's skills in being a successful head coach. Do you agree with that?

JJ: Without question. In fact, one of the conversations I had with Jason Garrett, you know, sometimes X's and O's get so complicated, and a coach gets so into that that he forgets the most important thing is players win ballgames. Make sure that the players are properly equipped and motivated to do their jobs. A head coach has to be able to oversee all facets of the team and of the game.

SBB: One final question every Cowboys fan wants me to ask. Is there any chance Jerry Jones makes the biggest splash of his football life and announces that Jimmy Johnson is returning to coach the Dallas Cowboys?

JJ: (laughter) Well, I am happy with my life and my lifestyle. I'm happy doing the work I do for Fox Network. So, no. Probably not.


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