The Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor includes Emmitt Smith, Larry Allen, Michael Irvin, and Troy Aikman. Curiously, it has not included Jimmy Johnson, the coach who oversaw the rise of the dynasty they all played for in the 1990s, presumably due to bad blood between him and franchise owner Jerry Jones.
That situation was rectified Sunday with the announcement that Johnson, a longtime NFL studio analyst with Fox, will finally be inducted into the Ring of Honor at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 30 when the Cowboys host the Detroit Lions.
Jones made the announcement before Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers alongside Johnson, who had been in the Cowboys locker room that morning. Jones told Johnson live on-air from the Fox broadcasting booth, though he initially told the former coach that he would be entering the Ring of Honor in “1923.”
The time has come ?
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) November 19, 2023
“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.”
After Jerry Jones took over as owner of the Cowboys in 1989, he wooed Johnson away from the University of Miami to become the franchise’s second-ever head coach, replacing Tom Landry. Together, they rebuilt the Cowboys from the ground up, drafting Aikman, Irvin, and Smith as the core of what would become a three-time Super Bowl championship dynasty. However, due to animosity between the two over who deserved credit for their success, Johnson left in 1994 after winning back-to-back Super Bowls. Jones hired Johnson’s college football rival Barry Switzer to replace him.
The relationship between the two ran hot and cold over the decades. In 2014, when asked why Johnson was not in the Ring of Honor yet, Jones said “Disloyalty … I couldn’t handle the disloyalty.” Johnson said he felt disrespected by Jones in the way he was treated. Johnson was eventually inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020 and, during the 2021 Hall of Fame Game broadcast on Fox, Jones said that Johnson would finally be inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor soon, though he seemed to backtrack soon after and even announced the inclusion of Demarcus Ware first while saying that he felt Johnson was “sniveling.” For whatever reason, Jones finally decided to let bygones be bygones.
Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson on why this was the right time to put Jimmy in the Cowboys Ring of Honor pic.twitter.com/Sp57xTyCox
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 19, 2023
Whatever may have transpired between them over the last 30 years, Johnson shared his appreciation for the long-overdue honor.
“Let me just say 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.”
Johnson spent two seasons as an NFL analyst for Fox before becoming head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 1995. After resigning from that role in 2000 he returned to Fox and has been part of their Fox NFL Sunday pregame show ever since.