Jimmy Johnson is an icon of one of the NFL’s glamour franchises, a two-time Super Bowl champion who swiftly turned around the Dallas Cowboys from their darkest days to arguably their finest as the team’s architect and head coach.
But is he a Hall of Famer?
The answer right now is a resounding no.
Johnson still waiting to be Hall of Fame finalist
Finalists for the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions were announced on Thursday, and Johnson didn’t make the cut. Thursday’s list was whittled down to 15 from the 25 semifinalists announced in November that Johnson was a part of.
This was the sixth year that Johnson has made the cut as a semifinalist. But he’s still waiting to make the next step from which Hall of Famers are eventually chosen.
Two coaches ahead of Johnson right now
Among the finalists chosen are seemingly sure first-ballot inductees Tony Gonzalez, Ed Reed and Champ Bailey. A pair of coaches also made the cut ahead of Johnson — former Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders and Seattle Seahawks head coach Tom Flores and former St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers head coach Don Coryell.
Flores retired with an 97-87 record over 12 years that included two Super Bowl wins with the Raiders.
Coryell tallied a 111-83-1 record over 14 seasons. He never won a Super Bowl as head coach, but his offensive innovations with the “Air Coryell” Chargers changed the way the game was played and influenced other coaching legends like Joe Gibbs and John Madden.
Both are currently favored by Hall of Fame voters over Johnson.
By comparison, Johnson compiled an 80-64 record over five seasons with the Cowboys and four with the Miami Dolphins. He won two Super Bowls in Dallas after inheriting a team in shambles that went 1-15 in his inaugural season. Three years later, he had built a champion.
He also compiled an 81-34-3 record over 10 college seasons with Oklahoma State and Miami. He oversaw the iconic 80s Miami teams that truly became “The U” under his stead and won the 1987 national championship.
But those college accolades don’t count for consideration to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Had he spent more time in the NFL, this debate may not be happening.
Dolphins days dragging him down?
Johnson didn’t see the same kind of success with the Dolphins as he did with the Cowboys, which appears to be hurting his case. But his teams still made the playoffs in three out of four years despite not winning a division title.
He left the Cowboys in their prime in 1994 when tensions between him and owner Jerry Jones got too high. The team he built went on to win another Super Bowl with Barry Switzer on the sidlines.
Perhaps the most compelling case for Johnson is that Jones is a Hall of Famer despite his Cowboys teams achieving nothing of consequence over decades since Johnson’s fingerprints were removed from the franchise.
But until the Hall makes a decision on Coryell and Flores, Johnson might remain on the outside looking in.
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