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Peter King
October 15, 1990
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October 15, 1990

The Nfl

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In March 1989, after he took the job as coach of the Cowboys, Jimmy Johnson asked veteran NFL coaches for advice. He wanted some tips. He wanted to do things right. Says Johnson, "Here's one thing they all told me: Make sure you get as much control as you can over the personnel side of the team."

So look at him now. Jimmy scouts, Jimmy drafts, Jimmy cuts, Jimmy coaches. No other coach in the league has as much power as the 3-18 Johnson. Although Cowboy owner Jerry Jones lists himself as president and general manager, he has such wide-ranging trust in Johnson that he allows his former college roommate to make almost all the football decisions—including trades—for the club.

When the season ends in December, Johnson will pack up reports prepared by team scouts and take his staff to six college all-star games. Beginning on Feb. 1, the coaches will analyze film of the Plan B players and sign the ones who might help the team. On Feb. 6, the coaches and scouts will meet at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, where the top 300 college seniors will be on display for five days. In March and April, Johnson & Co. will fan out to campuses across the country to interview and test prospects. By mid-April, Johnson and his scouts will have graded all the college players who will be entering the draft. Then he will grade them all over again with his coaches and merge the two lists. On draft day, April 21, all coaches and scouts will have input, but Johnson will have the final say.

In the next three or four years, it should be clear whether Johnson used his power wisely. "Actually, we ought to know by 1992," he says.

That's because Dallas has a total of 13 picks in the first three rounds of the '91 and '92 drafts. The Cowboys have four high choices coming from the megadeal that sent Herschel Walker to the Vikings a year ago this Friday, three from dealing quarterback Steve Walsh to the Saints three weeks ago, one from a swap of draft picks with the Chargers last April, plus five of their own. The 1991 draft should be particularly fruitful. Dallas has three first-round selections, and all of them could come fairly early, because in addition to their own, the Cowboys, who are 2-3, have the picks that belonged to the Vikings (1-4) and the Saints (1-3).

The Walker trade, Johnson says, "set us up to have the chance to get some impact players." Minnesota general manager Mike Lynn says he would still make the trade today, even though it cost him seven high picks and five players. He says that if the Vikings reach the Super Bowl with Walker, then the deal will have been a good one. But Minnesota is 8-9 since the trade and Walker has averaged only 56.8 yards rushing per game.

It'll be a good deal for Dallas if Johnson's all-encompassing job of rebuilding the Cowboys works. He thinks that's the only way to get the job done. "I want our coaches to scout players because I want them to be comfortable with the players they get," he says. "And I don't want to have a personnel guy sitting next to the owner on Sundays saying, 'Well, we drafted good players, but the coaches can't coach 'em.' "


If former Oklahoma running back Marcus Dupree succeeds in his comeback attempt, it will be a story for the ages. "It would be like The Natural, wouldn't it?" says Ram coach John Robinson. Last week the Rams signed Dupree and placed him on injured reserve, which means he won't play for at least another four weeks. "We feel he needs to be scrutinized under some pounding and some stress," says Robinson.

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