There is no doubt Jimmy Johnson was one of the greatest NFL coaches of his era. He resurrected a struggling Dallas Cowboys franchise, led them to back-to-back Super Bowl victories in the early 1990s after winning a college football national championship at Miami and finished his NFL career with a record 21 games above .500 despite a 1-15 debut year.
To get that feat, he had to know how to manage some elite players along the way. Amongst them are Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. How’d he do it? He claims it was by treating every player differently while still enforcing the same demands.
And that’s why he says he wouldn’t have felt comfortable if he were in Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress’ shoes. Childress allowed Brett Favre to finally make a decision to rejoin the Vikings just this week in the middle of preseason camp.
Jimmy Johnson joined ESPN 1080 in Orlando with Marc Daniels and Jerry Greene to discuss participating in the upcoming season of Survivor: Nicaragua, how his precious hair was able to survive the experience, whether he would have allowed a Favre-type situation on his teams, how he treated the elite players that he coached, his opinion of the hoopla surrounding Tim Tebow and when he knew that Emmitt Smith was going to be a special player.
On what his experience on Survivor: Nicaragua was like:
“Let me say that it was an adventure and I’m glad I did it, but it was so much more difficult than I ever imagined. I’m a big fan of the show and was from Day One. … They finally accepted me this year and I was all excited about it, but it was so difficult. No food, no sleep, had to boil our water, had to build our shelter and it was really, really hard. But I’m glad I did it.”
On how his highly regarded hair survived Survivor:
“We had no hair spray, had no combs, didn’t have a mirror so I have no idea what it’s going to look like. We didn’t even have a toothbrush. I cut off a little piece of palm frond to scrape the tartar off my teeth. We had nothing. I had the shirt on my back, a pair of shorts, a pair of shoes and that was it. I got a bathing suit my third day, so I couldn’t even change out of wet clothes and wet shoes.”
On whether he would have allowed a Favre-like scenario:
“I’m really uncomfortable with that. I’ve always been a team-oriented guy. Having said that, without question, Minnesota’s a better team with Brett Favre. But who’s to say if he’s going to have the magical season this year that he had last year? Who’s to say if that ankle is going to be 100 percent? I don’t think it is right now. And you sacrifice so much of the team concept when you make so many concessions for one player. It’s almost like he’s the savior and if he doesn’t carry us to the promise land, then the rest of them aren’t going to be able to do it. Some of the other players have to be saying, ‘What about me?'”
On how he treated Hall of Fame stars compared to everyone else:
“Well, I always said this, I said, ‘I’m going to be very consistent. I’m going to treat every single individual differently. The reason for that is because I still had the same demands of everybody. I had the same demands on Troy Aikman as I had on a backup offensive lineman. They all had to work the same, they all had to have the same rules and same demands. The only thing is, the top performers, I would volunteer, take off this practice, get out of this drill, so I treated them differently, but I had the same demands on them.”
On his impression of the publicity gained by Tim Tebow:
“I’m going to defer to a guy that I think knows quarterbacks and I can attest to he studies quarterbacks because we watch him ever single week. … That’s Terry Bradshaw. Terry, I was listening to him talk just the day before yesterday … and some people said, ‘I’m really concerned because Tebow reverted back to his old throwing motion in the last preseason game.’ Terry said, ‘Listen, this guy’s a winner, he’s got character. He’s got all the intangibles that you want. He’s physically fit. He’s going to be able to stand up to the physical beatings that the quarterback takes.’ And he said, ‘Yes, he doesn’t throw the ball the same way as everybody else, but no two quarterbacks throw the ball the same way.’ … I defer to Terry because I know for a fact that Terry studies every one of these quarterbacks.”