Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was as candid as he has ever been as the team kicked off training camp in Oxnard, California. During a period of reflection, Jones admitted that he made a mistake with former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson which prompted him to leave following the 1993 season.
“Well, I just think of those great times and Jimmy’s a great coach, great coach,” Jones told reporters at the team’s opening training camp press conference. “Ridiculous, that my role here was my job [was] to keep it together, it was my job, should have had deference to something that was working good. So, those are the things that come to my mind. We had a great run of it. He’s a great coach, and I’m proud to have him as a friend and proud to have the times that we had. We just had a great experience.”
Pressed on the issue, Jones admitted he could not figure out why he “f*****” up the good thing the franchise had going with Johnson. It has been more than two decades since the fallout, and Jones has taken more of the blame as the years have passed.
“I’ve never been able to know why I f***** it up,” Jones added. “Not just that, but anything else. No, I can’t answer those questions.”
Switzer Cornered Jones on His Fractured Relationship With Johnson
Jones’ comments came following an anecdote the Cowboys owner shared about another former coach Barry Switzer. Johnson abruptly left just months after the Cowboys defeated the Bills 52-17 in the Super Bowl. Switzer had a hard time understanding why Jones and Johnson were unable to put their differences aside.
“So, when I look back at the time that we got to enjoy and what happened to us during that time I go back to what Barry Switzer said,” Jones recalled going into storyteller mode. “Barry Switzer came in the office and Jimmy had just left, and so Barry came down from Norman, Oklahoma to talk about getting the job. And he comes in, and he said, ‘Where’s Jimmy?’ Now, Barry had coached us both. He said, ‘Where’s Jimmy?’ and I said Jimmy’s gone. He said, ‘Well, that’s not right, get him in here. Where’s Jimmy?’ I said, Barry, Jimmy’s gone. We’re sitting here talking about you being the coach.
“I said, what in the world are you so anxious to talk to Jimmy about? He said, ‘I just wanted to get both of you little a****** on this couch, and ask you both how could you f*** this up?’ That was Switzer.”
Jones Wanted to Look Like a ‘Big Player’ Who Was Making the Cowboys Moves
During a lengthy 1994 Sports Illustrated feature, Peter King shared some of the behind-the-scenes details just months after the breakup. King revealed internal tension over a trade with the Browns and shared a now-famous story of Jones’ desire to be on camera during the draft.
“Johnson’s story was this: The day before the 1992 NFL draft, the Dallas brain-trust—Johnson, Jones and Ackles—formulated a trade to offer the Cleveland Browns,” King explained. “Late that day, after Jones had left the office, Cleveland coach Bill Belichick called back to say he would do the deal, and the Cowboys announced it.
“On draft day Jones came to the office upset that he hadn’t been called when the deal was confirmed, and he asked to see Johnson. Their meeting droned on until, with only five minutes left before the start of the draft, Jones told Johnson, ‘You know the ESPN camera is in the draft room today. So whenever we’re about to make a pick, you look at me, like we’re talking about it.’ In other words, Make me look as if I’m a big player here, even though we all know I’m not making the picks.”