"Don," Huizenga said, "I think I'm going to offer Jimmy Johnson the job."
"If you feel good about it, do it," Shula reportedly told him. "There's no question he can win, and he will win."
That was the confirmation Huizenga hoped for. Now he went back to the small group—Christin, Jones and Dolphin vice president Bryan Wiedmeier—and said, "Can I talk with Jimmy alone?"
After the others had left the room, Huizenga said, "Let me tell you how I see it. I'm willing to make you the highest-paid coach in football, but I don't want to embarrass Don. I can't feel like someone took me to the cleaners in a contract, or the relationship won't work."
He told Johnson that Shula made $1.85 million this season. He said he was willing to pay Johnson $8 million over four years, with the subtle assurance that he could make more money in other ways. "That isn't exactly the number we were thinking about," Johnson replied.
Huizenga said he explained the structure of Shula's contract and told Johnson how it would be possible for him to supplement the base salary. When all compensation is totalled—there's reportedly a house near the stadium in it for Johnson, too—the new Dolphin coach will probably make in excess of $3 million per year.
Done deal. "I've done hundreds of acquisitions and business deals," Huizenga said, "but I've never had one like this. I can't explain it. [Johnson] was charming, easy to be with. I felt I had to have him."
Johnson scheduled a team meeting for Friday. Thirty-two players showed, two of them tardily. "I forgive you this time, but there won't be a second time," he told the transgressors, whom he would not identify. "If you're 10 seconds late for a meeting, don't walk through that door."
Johnson felt it was important to talk with Marino. In a Thursday meeting, they discussed talent, the coaching staff, the offense and the attitude. Marino suggested that quarterback coach Gary Stevens be retained, which Johnson will likely do when he forms his staff this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. (Other likely hires: former Georgia Tech coach Bill Lewis; Dolphin defensive line coach Joe Greene; Raider assistant Joe Bugel; and former Oklahoma State coach Pat Jones.) And Johnson told Marino that one problem with having a great quarterback is that you sometimes fall into a trap of thinking he can bail you out of any mess.
"Dan was great," Johnson said. "He told me, 'Coach, I've broken all the records. I don't care if I throw 10 passes a game. I just want to win.' "