Get used to the dallas Cowboys, folks, because they're going to be with us for a long time. Here comes that dread word—dynasty. Oh, my, yes. Everything points to it after the Cowboys ran the Buffalo Bills out of the Rose Bowl on Sunday by a score of 52-17. Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin and Ken Norton Jr. and Charles Haley—all those implements of destruction that embarrassed and humiliated a proud, battle-tested team are just starting to feel their oats. Coach Jimmy Johnson and his hair spray; Jerry Jones, the owner who hungers for the limelight. You say you're tired of them already? Gee, that's tough, because the whole gang's going to be with us for a while.
Dynasty. How we love that word. Seems that every time a new team wins a championship, in any sport, that word dynasty follows in lockstep. Only this time it makes sense, historical sense.
Chuck Noll was 1-13 in 1969, his first year as coach in Pittsburgh, and five years later his young Steelers had their first of four Super Bowl titles. The San Francisco 49ers were 2-14 under rookie coach Bill Walsh in '79, but in another two seasons they held the championship trophy, with three more Super Bowl victories to follow (the last one under George Seifert) Johnson and his Cowboys are right on course, a 1-15 record in his initial year, 1989, and now, three seasons later, a Super Bowl championship. And why does it look like only the beginning? Because youth defines this team.
You say that free agency could change everything, that the rules of the game are different now, that the NFL is on the verge of becoming one big round of draw poker? Well, this is a game that Johnson, with his 46 trades in four seasons, and Jones, a guy who's ready to spend the bucks needed to bring in talent, seem to have been born for.
"We don't know a specific way we'll be dealing with free agency," Jones said Sunday night. "But we'll figure it out. We'll sharpen our pencils. Don't think we can't figure it out. Somebody the other day told me I'd go through withdrawal this year because we don't have a lot of high draft choices. 1 told him, 'We don't have high picks yet, but wait until draft day.' "
Jones and Johnson—or, rather, Jerry and Jimmy—there's not another management team like it in the league. Two men make all the football decisions in Dallas; there's no vice-president for pro personnel or director of player personnel to get in the way. Jones believes that if you make a mistake, make it going full speed. "I've got a nice legal pad of failures in the business world," he said. "But I think whatever you do, you have to do it aggressively and tirelessly."
The first thing Jones did after he bought the team was hire Johnson, perhaps the only coach who could have matched him stride for stride. Now Johnson takes his place beside the 14 other coaches whose teams have won Super Bowls. His achievement this season—in fact, over four seasons—has been remarkable, but as he went through the week-long round of press conferences before the Super Bowl, you could sense a slight hesitancy by the press to treat him with the dignity that a Lombardi or a Tom Landry or even a Noll or a Joe Gibbs received.
It starts with the "Jimmy." The roster of victorious Super Bowl coaches included no Jimmies or Vinnies or Tommies. "I can't help it, to mc he's still Jumpin' Jimmy who tried to recruit me at Arkansas," said former Minnesota Viking guard Dave Huffman, who was in Pasadena as a radio commentator. "He was the defensive line coach, and he and the linebackers' coach, Harold Horton, were a team—Jumpin' Jimmy and Screamin' Harold."
During a press conference early in the week, Johnson was asked about the hair spray he uses. "I like to be neat," he said without batting an eye. "I'll admit to a little spray. I'm not a closet sprayer." Did anyone ever ask Don Shula about his jaw or Landry about his hat or Lombardi about the way he puffed out his chest when he walked?
In one remarkable session with the media, on Jan. 27, Johnson stood on the rostrum and opened a slight window into the way he looks at his life by talking about a book that had influenced him, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Then, as if he were reluctant to end the give-and-take, he sat at a table and kept talking with a handful of reporters, for 20, 30, 45 minutes, until the room started to empty. The reporters wanted to know how Johnson had come into the NFL without any experience in pro football and put together, with such clarity, exactly the type of team he wanted.