At 10-year intervals, first-time NFL coaches Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh and Jimmy Johnson took over moribund teams in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Dallas, respectively. After their first 28 games, they were on the same career track, a trend that Johnson obviously hopes will continue, because Noll and Walsh went on to win a combined seven Super Bowls.
The first sign of Cowboy progress—Dallas's record has improved from 1-15 in 1989 to 6-7 this season—has boosted Johnson's optimism, which was already boundless. "We could be back in the playoffs sooner than anyone imagined," he says. "The way it looks now, that could be next year."
Oh, yeah, in 1959, another rookie coach took over a foundering team. But Vince Lombardi went 18-10 in his first 28 games with the Green Bay Packers.