Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson: The Feud that Defined the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty

The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most successful and popular franchises in NFL history, with five Super Bowl titles and a loyal fan base. But behind the scenes, there has been a long-standing feud between the team’s owner Jerry Jones and the former head coach Jimmy Johnson, who led the Cowboys to two consecutive championships in 1992 and 1993. The rift between the two men has been widely documented and debated, but what is the real reason for their animosity? And how did it affect the Cowboys’ dynasty? The origins of the conflict can be traced back to 1989, when Jones bought the Cowboys from H.R. “Bum” Bright for $140 million. Jones, a former Arkansas teammate and friend of Johnson, hired him as the new head coach, replacing the legendary Tom Landry. Jones gave Johnson full control over personnel decisions, and together they embarked on a radical rebuilding process that involved trading star running back Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for a bounty of draft picks. The trade proved to be a masterstroke, as Johnson used the picks to acquire future Hall of Famers such as Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Darren Woodson. The Cowboys went from 1-15 in 1989 to 7-9 in 1990 to 11-5 in 1991, making the playoffs for the first time in six years. In 1992, they reached the pinnacle of success by defeating the Buffalo Bills 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII. Johnson became the first coach to win a college national championship (with Miami in 1987) and a Super Bowl. The following year, the Cowboys repeated as champions by beating the Bills again 30-13 in Super Bowl XXVIII. Johnson joined Vince Lombardi as the only coaches to win back-to-back Super Bowls in their first two appearances. The Cowboys seemed poised to dominate the league for years to come, with a young and talented core of players and a visionary coach. But behind the scenes, trouble was brewing. Jones and Johnson began to clash over who deserved more credit for the team’s success. Jones felt that he was not getting enough recognition for his role as the owner and general manager, while Johnson felt that he was not getting enough respect and autonomy for his role as the coach and personnel director. The tension escalated when Jones made a controversial remark at an awards banquet in March 1994, saying that “any one of 500 coaches could have won those Super Bowls” with his team. Johnson was furious and felt betrayed by his friend and boss. He demanded more power and control over the team, or else he would leave. Jones refused to give in and decided to fire Johnson instead. The shocking move stunned the NFL world and angered many Cowboys fans and players. Jones replaced Johnson with Barry Switzer, another former Arkansas teammate and friend who had won three college national championships with Oklahoma. The Cowboys managed to win one more Super Bowl under Switzer in 1995, but they never recaptured the magic of the Johnson era. They have not reached another Super Bowl since then, and have only won four playoff games in the past 25 years. Jones has remained as the owner and general manager of the team, but has faced criticism for his meddling and micromanaging style. Johnson has never coached again in the NFL, but has become a successful broadcaster and analyst for Fox Sports. The feud between Jones and Johnson has never been fully resolved, although they have occasionally expressed some regret and admiration for each other. They were both inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020 and 2021 respectively, but they did not share the stage or embrace each other. They have both acknowledged that they made mistakes and that they could have achieved more together if they had stayed on good terms. The beef between Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson is about who really made the Cowboys champions, but it is also about ego, pride, power and friendship. It is one of the most fascinating and tragic stories in sports history, and one that still haunts both men and their fans to this day. Final Thoughts In summary, the feud between Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson began over credit for the success of the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990s, culminating in Johnson’s firing after the team’s second consecutive Super Bowl victory. Jones wanted more recognition for his role as owner and general manager, while Johnson demanded more power and control over personnel decisions. The rift between the two men has never been fully resolved, and it ultimately cost the Cowboys a chance at sustained dominance in the NFL. Despite occasional expressions of regret and admiration, the beef between Jones and Johnson remains one of the most compelling and tragic stories in sports history.