There are two famous people in U.S. football
named Jimmy Johnson:
1. Jimmy Johnson the Hall-of-Fame cornerback
Johnson played for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers from 1961-1976. He intercepted 47 passes over his career, which was then a 49er record. He also played at wide receiver in his first few seasons. But mainly he was a cornerback, and a very good one -- Johnson was selected to five Pro Bowls, and he earned induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Jokingly, Johnson was called "the lonesome cornerback," because opponents would rarely try to complete a pass to the receiver he was covering, and he never needed help from his teammates in coverage.
Johnson's hallmark was rarely making mistakes. Other cornerbacks were big and tough and would smash into receivers to throw them off their routes -- the bump-and-run coverage was legal back then -- but this was a dangerous strategy. Miss the receiver, and he blows by you for a touchdown.
Johnson, in contrast, would play conservatively; he wouldn't batter the person he was covering, but they wouldn't catch any passes, either.
2. Jimmy Johnson the NCAA and NFL coach
One of the greatest coaches in football history. Johnson won two Super Bowls and one college football national championship, and his teams always did better than they were expected to.
Johnson got his first head coaching job at Oklahoma State University in 1979, where he went 29-25 over five seasons. That may not sound great, but in the old Big Eight Conference, where you had to play Nebraska and Oklahoma each year, that's pretty darn good. But Stillwater, Oklahoma, was too small a pond for Johnson.
Next stop was the University of Miami (Fla.), where he went 52-9 with a national title (1987) and a couple top-five finishes. During Johnson's stay there, the Hurricanes were undoubtedly the top program in the nation, putting Johnson on top of the NCAA world.
However, his old friend Jerry Jones called. Jones, with whom Johnson played college football at Arkansas with, had just bought the Dallas Cowboys -- Jones was and is pretty rich -- and he felt like firing coach Tom Landry, who was a legend but was getting senile. (Reportedly, Landry would stalk up and down the sidelines, searching for players who had been retired for a decade.) Anyhow, Johnson said yes and bolted from Miami, which took his team by surprise -- especially those players to whom he promised that he would stay for the long haul. Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly wrote that Johnson was so adept at talking out of both sides of his mouth that he could eat soup and play the trombone at the same time.
Johnson's first season in 1989 was miserable; the Cowboys went 1-15. But thanks to Johnson's superb choices in the NFL Draft -- and thanks to a trade that sent star running back Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for a truckload of draft picks -- the Cowboys got real good, real fast. Next year, the Cowboys made the playoffs; the next two seasons, they won Super Bowls.
But Johnson's friendship with Jones became strained, and Johnson quit after the second Super Bowl win in January of 1994. In a nutshell, Jones tried to take credit for the Cowboys' Super Bowl wins, which angered Johnson. In one celebrated incident, a slightly inebriated Jones said that with the talent the Cowboys had, "500 coaches could have won Super Bowls with our team."
It was also about this time that people started noticing how much hairspray Johnson must use. It's like he's wearing a helmet atop his head. There could be a tornado overhead, yet there wouldn't be a strand of hair out of place.
Anyway, Johnson quit and became a Fox television analyst. That didn't last too long, either; and in 1996, he replaced another legendary coach -- Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins. He lasted throughout the 1999 season, not winning any Super Bowls but also not catalyzing any tabloidish headlines like he did in Dallas. That said, the Dolphins were a consistent playoff team, and they weren't blessed with the large number of draft picks that Dallas did in the late 1980s. Though he couldn't get veteran quarterback Dan Marino his elusive Super Bowl ring, it would be incorrect to say that Johnson was a failure in Miami.
Johnson is now quite happily retired.
If you're interested in coincidental facts, Johnson coached for two teams nicknamed the Cowboys (Oklahoma State and Dallas) and two teams in the city of Miami.