CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thirty years after he coached the Dallas Cowboys, Jimmy Johnson is going into the team’s ring of honor.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones made the announcement prior to Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers after Johnson spent time in the locker room. The halftime induction will take place at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 30 against the Detroit Lions.
“It feels right,” Jones said. “It feels rewarded by what it represents, all of the times that we had. There were traumatic times. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, but nice little scars. Beautiful scars, 30 years ago during that particular time. So appropriate that Jimmy Johnson should be recognized in this manner by any definition you want to come up with.”
When Johnson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020, Jones said the Cowboys would honor Johnson, who directed the Cowboys to wins in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII, in the ring of honor.
As the years passed, Johnson’s exclusion became as big of a story as those who were put in, including DeMarcus Ware earlier this season.
“Let me just says this: how appreciative I am of Jerry and appreciative of the ring of honor, but more appreciative of him bringing me to the Cowboys in ’89,” Johnson said. “The two of us were working around the clock. People don’t realize the relationship. Back then, Jerry and I talked every day. Every single day, I would be in his office. And we talked right here just recently.
“We never really had a disagreement. And that’s surprising to a lot of people but we were always on the same page. And probably some of the tension happened there toward the end of my career as far as with the Cowboys because we were so busy going different directions that we didn’t talk as much. But my feeling of Jerry has never changed, and this may be strange, I love the guy. He is a big, big part — maybe the biggest part — in my entire career.”
While their breakup following the second Super Bowl win has been a lingering storyline, their ties run deep — having been teammates on a national championship team at Arkansas. When Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989, he immediately hired Johnson away from the University of Miami.
The Cowboys went 1-15 in Johnson’s first season but with the help of the Herschel Walker trade to the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas was able to form a team that became the first to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span.
After Johnson left, Jones hired Barry Switzer as head coach and, after making it to the 1994 NFC Championship Game, the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX the next season.
“I recognize completely sometimes the frailties that are involved sometimes in human emotions,” Jones said. “That shouldn’t in any way stand in place of the great, great working relationship and great relationship we had. We were boys together. We had a chance to literally climb on a rocket.”
Johnson went 44-36 as Cowboys head coach, but posted a 7-1 postseason record. In 1990, he was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year. He later would coach the Miami Dolphins from 1996 to 1999, posting a 36-28 record, but he never got back to a Super Bowl.
Earlier this season, Johnson attended the Cowboys’ game against the Los Angeles Chargers on “Monday Night Football,” spending time on the sideline speaking with Jones. On Sunday, they walked onto the field at Bank of America Stadium followed by cameras for a Netflix documentary being filmed about Jones.
“I really thought it was time and I wanted to do it this year,” Jones said. “As you know, we don’t have a set timeframe of when to do the ring of honor. And so, frankly, it just felt right. Certainly, there was [a] little awkwardness that was happening for not doing it [earlier] that I guess I anticipated, but I really didn’t anticipate it. So I wouldn’t have wanted that to linger any longer at all.
“We have a deal in the Hall of Fame that he knows … but when you’re in, you’re in. You know you’ve always been in, but it was just officially.”
Jones turned 81 last month; Johnson is 80.
“One reason for this year is I’m alive,” Johnson said. “He always told me I was going in.”