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Football

Jimmy Johnson Is (Finally) in the Cowboys Ring of Honor

For Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson, the love hasn’t come easy. Neither has Johnson's latest award.
| |Illustration by Lesley Busby
Jerry jones and Jimmy Johnson
Jones and Johnson’s partnership produced two Super Bowl titles and a cold war. RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports; Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it finally happened. Thirty years after their stunning divorce, after digs and snipes and a two-year waiting period, Jerry Jones inducted Jimmy Johnson into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor during Dallas’ home game against Detroit on December 30. 

This is a big deal. Only the very best of the very best that America’s Team has to offer make the cut. Nineteen of the 23 enshrined members are Pro Football Hall of Famers, and two more have been finalists. For Johnson, joining Tom Landry in the club codifies his legacy as one of the two signature coaches in franchise history.

This induction carries extra weight because this is Jerry and Jimmy, the old Arkansas Razorback teammates who reunited to conquer the football world together and fell out just as spectacularly. In the time since Johnson and Jones parted ways, following Dallas’ second consecutive Super Bowl victory, the Cowboys owner called his former head coach disloyal and declared that 500 other coaches could have won a Super Bowl with Dallas’ talent-rich rosters. And he deflected talk about the delay in scheduling Johnson’s Ring of Honor induction by declaring, “It isn’t, at the end of the day, all tailored around whether Jimmy is sniveling or not.”

Both men have accepted blame for the demise of their partnership.

Johnson in turn accused Jones of hogging the spotlight when they started winning and later developing a fondness for celebrating anniversaries to make up for the noticeable lack of Super Bowls. (The team has infamously won only one of them, and made it to just two NFC Championship games, since Johnson’s 1994 departure.)  

But in different interviews over the past two years, both men have accepted blame for the demise of their partnership. Johnson said, “I take fault in a lot of it.” Jones said, “I fucked it up.” So it is understandable why, in an interview with WFAA Channel 8 last year, Johnson said that while he considers Jones a friend, “I never know how the relationship is one day to the next.” And it is also understandable why, despite Jones going on national television in August 2021 to announce that Johnson would someday be inducted into the Ring of Honor, plenty hesitated to take the news seriously until a date was set. That included Johnson, whose immediate reaction to Jones’ big news was to quip, “While I’m alive?”

But here they are. According to Jones, the pivot point came during defensive end DeMarcus Ware’s Ring induction earlier in the season, when he “saw a little of the edge that was there” among the Cowboys fan base for making Johnson wait yet again. Now they no longer have to. Maybe, just maybe, January will mark the end of nearly three decades of Cowboys playoff futility, too.  


This story originally appeared in the January issue of D Magazine with the headline “Ring of Fire. Write to [email protected].

Author

Mike Piellucci

Mike Piellucci

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Mike Piellucci is D Magazine's sports editor. He is a former staffer at The Athletic and VICE, and his freelance…
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