NFL

Michael Irvin’s Love of Winning Drove Him to Snitch on His Dallas Cowboys Teammates

In the world of sports, the locker room is a sacred place; what happens there is supposed to stay private. Michael Irvin, however, apparently had his own set of rules during his time with the Dallas Cowboys.

Even if the wide receiver wasn’t your favorite player, no one could argue with his will to win. That passion, however, motivated Michael Irvin to call head coach Jimmy Johnson and snitch on some of his Dallas Cowboys teammates.

Michael Irvin’s NFL career got off to a rough start

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When you hear the name Michael Irvin, you probably think of a talented receiver who won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. His NFL career, however, got off to a much tougher start.

Before reaching the pros, Irvin made a name for himself at the University of Miami. Working with Jimmy Johnson, the receiver became a star; he piled up 2,423 yards, scored 26 touchdowns, and barely lost a game. During his three seasons in South Florida, Irvin’s Hurricanes went 33-3 and claimed the 1988 national title.

While that was enough to make Irvin the 11th-overall pick of the 1988 NFL draft, it also came with a serious drawback. At the time, the Dallas Cowboys were terrible. During his first season in the pros, Irvin lost 13 games; the following year, he and his teammates went 1-15.

For a star player used to winning, those results wore on Michael Irvin. After each defeat, he would simply head back to the locker room and cry.

Snitching on his Dallas Cowboys teammates

In 1989, Jerry Jones took over the Dallas Cowboys; he immediately fired Tom Landry and replaced him with Jimmy Johnson. That move gave Michael Irvin a lifeline.

Irvin, of course, had worked with Johnson at the University of Miami. Once he heard his old college coach was taking over the Cowboys, the receiver reached out to give his new boss some insight into the locker room dynamic.

On Undeniable with Joe Buck, Irvin explained that there were several players on the Cowboys squad who told him to stop crying after losses and remember to pick up his paycheck; regardless of those player’s intentions, that gave the young receiver the perception that they cared more about money than winning football games. He made sure Jimmy Johnson knew who those men were.

“When Jerry bought the team, and we heard Jimmy was coming in, I went home and called Coach Johnson. And you know how, as brothers, we have this thing, ‘I don’t snitch’? Man, I was snitching,” Irvin explained, according to Pro Football Talk. “‘Hey, man, this dude’s gotta go. He’s gotta go. He’s not about winning.’ And it took Coach about the first few months, first year, but boy, he started getting rid of everybody. And we got people in like the people we had at Miami that wanted to win.”

Michael Irvin and the Dallas Cowboys ultimately got what they wanted

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As Michael Irvin said, the Dallas Cowboys didn’t turn into winners overnight. Once they turned things around, though, the club became a modern dynasty.

During Johnson’s first season in charge, the Cowboys went 1-15; the next campaign, they improved to 7-9. After making their playoff debut in 1991, the team then claimed back-to-back Super Bowl titles. While things wouldn’t end happily—Johnson famously fell out with Jerry Jones and, after another Super Bowl victory, things collapsed under Barry Switzer—but Michael Irvin got the wins that he desperately craved.

If you watched those Dallas Cowboys teams in action, you know that Michael Irvin was a key contributor at wide receiver. Based on his story, though, he may have played a role in Jimmy Johnson’s personnel decisions, too.

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference and Pro-Football-Reference