It’s hard sometimes to accurately frame the relationship of Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones that began three decades ago in Dallas, or six decades ago in Arkansas – and maybe re-started yet again on that L.A. field.
“We’ve got to get together,’’ Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in their quick, pre-game chat.
“Fine, let’s do it,’’ former coach Jimmy Johnson said.
With that simple exchange, one of the bigger and odder NFL soap operas moved toward a resolution in a manner that went public on “Fox NFL Sunday,” with Jerry announcing Jimmy will go in the Dallas Ring of Honor on Dec. 30.
“I wanted to do it this year,’’ Jones said Sunday before the Cowboys game in Charlotte. “I feel like the time is now.”
“It’s also the time because I’m still alive!” Johnson said.
By Monday morning, back home in Islamorada, Johnson reflected on this decision by talking about his talk with Jerry after that L.A meeting. It came in Jones’s office before a weekend reunion of the 1982 Arkansas team that Johnson coached and Jones supported as a big alum.
“He couldn’t have been nicer,’’ Jimmy said. “We rehashed some things, talked about great memories and stuff for about four hours. We both said the biggest problem we ever had was we just stopped communicating. We said, ‘We should’ve had this talk 20 years ago.’
“Obviously, there were things over the past 30 years I said he was very sensitive about and things he said — back and forth. We kind of hashed through those things. Then he brought a camera crew in there and said, ‘I want to put you in the Ring of Honor.”
But you don’t have to be his fan to understand why Sunday’s announcement was such a national story. In part it was because Jimmy and Jerry formed one of the great partnerships at one of sports’ iconic brands.
The other part, the one that heightened Sunday’s surprise, is their public divorce has lingered in the air for decades, with Jones’s odd Ring of Honor snub of Johnson symbolizing it. Johnson was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame — but kept out of Dallas’s version of it.
Just in July, Jones was asked when Jimmy would go in the Ring of Honor, as he regularly has been. “I’ve got a couple of coaches, in addition to Jimmy, that ought to be in that Ring of Honor.”
None put Super Bowl rings on his finger. Jones changed finances in the NFL. That’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame. But winning? He hasn’t won anything important since Jimmy’s team left, approaching three decades ago.
“I think everybody’s happy about it,’’ Johnson said of Sunday’s announcement. “Jerry’s happy. His family is happy. They said he’s so happy to do this and get it behind him – it’s been a thorn in their side for years.”
Same for Jimmy. He was happy seeing his Fox studio crew celebrate the announcement. But, like Jerry, there seems an equal measure of relief to all this after all these years.
“I got tired of people saying you ought to be in the Ring of Honor, they should’ve done it years ago or answering the question, ‘Hey, why aren’t you in it?’ ‘’ he said.
“It’s like (Fox’s Howie Long said), ‘You can’t tell the story of the NFL or the Cowboys without telling the story of Jimmy and Jerry in Dallas. He said, ‘This had to be done.’ ‘’
It’s been a busy stretch for Johnson, 80. Lightning knocked out his two boats — and only one is repaired. His name was put on the Hurricanes’ Ring of Honor. There are his weekly Fox duties that take him to New York for this Thanksgiving weekend.
Then, on Dec. 30, his Dallas days get more closure. He was asked if he has one more, “How ’bout them Cowboys!” in him.
“I’m sure I do,” he said.
Finally, fittingly, an odd story in an odd, public relationship reaches a good ending.