As good as the Dallas Cowboys were in the 1990s with their three Super Bowl championships, three NFL championships, four conference finals appearances, and five NFC East titles and a lot of playoff victories, they could’ve been so much better had Jerry Jones gotten out of Jimmy Johnson’s way and let him run the Cowboys’ football operations department concerned with who was on the team and so forth and let Jerry worry about what Jerry is good at, which is managing the finances.
Jerry Jones had and still has the title of General Manager of the Dallas Cowboys even though he is also the owner of the franchise. But everyone in and around the NFL, and the fans as well, knew who was calling the football personal shots in Dallas, which was Jimmy because Jimmy was making the personal decisions, which was part of his job and in his contract. Jerry handled the contract negotiations of players that Jimmy wanted to sign and bring back but the Cowboys of the 1990s were built by Jimmy Johnson.
Jerry Jones wasn’t an NFL man before purchasing the Cowboys in 1989. He was someone who learned very fast on the job, but Jimmy Johnson was his man to run the team and they had been childhood friends in Arkansas. Jerry knew Jimmy’s college football career very well at Miami Florida and in Oklahoma and had the guy he wanted all along, but he couldn’t handle Jimmy getting the credit for building the Cowboys and returning them to power in the 1990s. That is why they broke up.
In 1989 Jimmy Johnson inherited a 3-13 Cowboys team from 1988 with a huge deficit when it came to talent, especially young talent and young veteran talent, with most of their star players making their mark in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Jimmy saw this right away and decided that the best way to rebuild the Cowboys was to get worse before getting better and releasing or trading or asking veteran Cowboys to retire to make room for college draft picks and young talented free agents. The Cowboys went from 1-15 in 1989 to 13-3 by 1992, winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1992 and 1993 and doing it all through the draft and signing young talented free agents and trading for those players. That is how Jimmy Johnson rebuilt the Cowboys and he deserves most of the credit for this. Had Jerry Jones’ big fat ego not gotten in the way, Jimmy would be in Dallas probably 10 to 15 years and we are talking about perhaps the greatest NFL dynasty in history.