Skip to main content

Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift are strictly junior varsity compared to Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson when it comes to celebrity feuds. Whatever the origin of the recent beef between the entertainment-world divas, they didn’t wreck the Dallas Cowboys within months of fantastic success.

That takes a special brand of rage and hostility, and Jones and Johnson were up to the challenge.

Jerry Jones has never been afraid of controversial decisions

Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 for $140 million, an amount that equates to just under $300 million in current dollars. The fact that Forbes put a $5.5 billion valuation on the franchise last fall speaks to how savvy Jones and most of his fellow NFL owners are as businessmen.

Jones’ presence, however, has not been without controversy, particularly during a dry spell that has seen the Cowboys unable to reach the NFC Championship Game since winning their third Super Bowl in four years after the 1995 season. There have been only three Dallas Cowboys playoff appearances in the past decade.

Shortly after buying the Cowboys, Jones fired coach Tom Landry and general manager Tex Schramm, legendary figures locally and in the sport. In fairness to Jones, the Cowboys were coming off three straight losing seasons, including 3-13 in 1988.

Jones brought in former college teammate Jimmy Johnson, who had just gone 44-4 in his final four seasons at the University of Miami, a decision that launched immense success after a 1-15 season in which Jones and Johnson began their drastic overhaul.

The Dallas Cowboys’ leadership unraveled almost overnight

The now-famous trade of Hershel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings and some wise draft selections and free-agent signings quickly made the Dallas Cowboys contenders. Year 3 of the Jerry Jones-Jimmy Johnson era brought a playoff berth, then the Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills in back-to-back Super Bowls the following two seasons to return to the top of the NFL.

Friction between Jones and Johnson was simmering just below the surface by the time of the Super Bowl XXVIII triumph in January 1994. Both men were taking credit for the personnel moves that made the Dallas Cowboys the league’s strongest franchise; Jones held the title of general manager but Johnson insisted on final say in personnel decisions.

Two incidents ultimately severed the friendship. First, Johnson reportedly expressed interest in coaching the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars while the season was still in progress. Then, the owner caused irreparable damage in the early-morning hours in a hotel bar when he told two reporters that there were “500 coaches who could have won the Super Bowl with our team.”

On March 29, 1994, Jones and Johnson announced the break-up.

Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson seem to be friendly again

The feud between Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson continued for years. Johnson moved toward a broadcasting career and Jones hired Barry Switzer as his next coach. Having inherited a deep and talented roster, Switzer got the Dallas Cowboys to the NFC Championship Games in his first season and then defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX to cap his second season.

Switzer was gone two years later after a 6-10 season and the Cowboys have not been back to an NFC Championship Game with any of their five head coaches since while Jones remains firmly in control of football decisions.

The relationship may not be back to where it once was, but Jones and Johnson appeared to take a step toward reconciliation by appearing together to commemorate the silver anniversary of the Dallas Cowboys’ 1992 Super Bowl win.

Johnson tweeted out congratulations when Jones was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and owner reciprocated by thanking Johnson during his induction speech.

More recently, Jones made a point of asking the NFL to schedule the Cowboys for the Hall of Fame Game this summer, when Johnson is slated for enshrinement. Johnson revealed over the weekend that former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman will be his presenter at the ceremony and Terry Bradshaw will assist with the jacket ceremony.