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And this guy is the hero of millions of Dallas Cowboy fans? "Puh-leeze," says Johnson, who adds that Jones "needs this"—needs the constant media attention and banner-headline credit.
"I don't want this to sound like sour grapes," says Bob Ackles, the former director of player personnel whom Jones fired in June '92, "but what Jerry doesn't understand is that as G.M. he has to do everything in his power to make his coach successful. He's got a winner in Jimmy. But Jerry, because of his ego, thinks he can be [Los Angeles Raider owner] Al Davis, and he can't be. You can't buy 40 years of experience. You sit down behind a projector and earn it. This is one business you can't just walk in and do all the things you think you can do. Jerry thinks that if Jimmy were gone tomorrow, he could actually step on the field and [coach], and he can't. Jimmy and his staff are very, very bright—very good teachers. Only one thing will stop them. One man. One huge ego.
"I won't be surprised," Ackles adds, "if [Jimmy] just gets up and walks out. Jimmy's very loyal to his coaches, but I don't think that would stop him from quitting if Jerry pushes him too far. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts. Jimmy's very volatile."
Throughout the '92 season several assistant coaches tried to talk sense to Johnson about Jones. Their point: The coaching staff had many more pressing problems; why waste time and energy stewing over Jones's rampant ego? Yet Johnson kept letting Jones get to him.
Midway through the season offensive coordinator Norv Turner said, "Sure, we hear all the stories about their clashes. But what does it matter, really? Why should Jimmy really care about what Jerry is telling his friends about how much he had to do with a trade?"
It is difficult to know for sure how important a role Jones played in the two deals—for defensive end Charles Haley and safety Thomas Everett—that propelled the Cowboys toward the Super Bowl. Not surprisingly, Jones and Johnson offer different interpretations of the Everett deal.
The deal came together at an NFL owners' meeting in September when Pittsburgh Steeler president Dan Rooney told Jones that the Steelers were about to cut Everett, a five-year starter who had refused the team's last offer of three years at $1.75 million, was holding out and had joined a lawsuit against the NFL demanding unconditional free agency.
Jones says, "I first got the idea on Everett last summer in a conversation I had with [San Diego Charger general manager] Bobby Beathard. Beathard said, 'The best free safety on the market may be Thomas Everett.' I asked [Cowboy and former Pittsburgh scout] Walter Juliff, and he really liked Everett. But Jimmy was cool to the idea."
Two games into the season, the Everett deal was made, and what a deal it was: In exchange for a fifth-round draft choice, the Cowboys acquired the starting safety they needed and promptly signed him to a three-year contract.
Although he was happy to have Everett, Johnson was incensed over the credit Jones was taking for the trade. "We had three conversations total [about Everett, who] was just a name [to Jones]," said Johnson. "He'd never seen a tape of the guy in his life. That's what I'm dealing with...."