Jimmy Johnson will be tops in TV booth, too


Jimmy Johnson, from time to time, has made it next to impossible to be a fan of his.

There were the stories when he was at Oklahoma State (e.g. Dexter Manley and NCAA troubles). And at Miami, too, when schools were dropping the Hurricanes off their schedule because of the actions of Jimmy's fatigue-clad "dirty dozens."

He won football games and went to bowls, though, lots of 'em and he also constructed champions. Bottom line: The guy coaches very well.

At any level, too, because they laughed when he got the Dallas Cowboys' job and the old coaching heads of the NFL had to lapse into giggling fits after his Dallas team won just one of 16 games that first season. Hey, college boy, that stuff doesn't work here. You're in over your head.

Right. Two years later, the Pokes were Super Bowl champs, they repeated last year and now everyone's already calling the club "the team of the '90s," on its way to outdoing "the team of the '80s" 49ers and "the team of the '70s" Steelers.

The implacable manner on the sideline, everything in place underneath that hair apparently chiseled out of the hardest substance on earth. For some reason, disturbing. In Miami, there was all the publicity and the familiar arm-shooting-into-the-air shot as he is carried off the Orange Bowl field as leader of the national champions. Jimmy's show, not the team's.

Later, it would be "How 'bout those Cowboys!" over and over as Johnson's ability to get the team turned around became such a dominant theme in Big D that owner Jerry Jones began wondering if his tons of money and "help" meant anything in the success.

It's obvious that Jimmy Johnson can get people (named Jones) so incensed that they're willing to risk tampering with a budding dynasty at the same time paying him $2 million to clean out his desk.

Remember, however, the guy can coach -- perhaps as well as anyone who has ever drawn X's and O's on a blackboard, prepared a game plan or watched film until 3:30 a.m. five nights a week. Talk about a super motivator. And there his talents don't end.

Since Johnson left coaching, you'd think the greatest combination broadcaster-writer-analyst-racon- teur and personality of all time had just stepped off the train from the future. Home Box Office signed Jimmy in three days' time. Fox Network wasn't far behind. And Universal Press Syndicate has his nibs penciled in for a national weekly column. Is Dan Rather safe in his CBS anchor chair?

Busy schedule? Jimmy doesn't see it that way. He says he'll have time for his beloved fish, water sports and the rest of the things that go with life in the Florida Keys, "because, as a coach, I put seven days a week into the job, night and day. I got a little time now."

The question is, will Johnson be worth all the attention and the increased publicity that lie ahead when his words begin flying on network and cable television and in newspapers everywhere?

The guess here is yes. Discussing things with HBO "Inside the NFL" regulars Len Dawson and Nick Buoniconti touting the start of the show's 18th season Sept. 8, ol' Helmet Hair was the star of the show by a furlong.

Decisive, anecdotal, extremely well organized and thoughtful, it was as if Johnson had been in the business of broadcasting forever and Dawson and Buoniconti just showed up with their communications degrees from Skunk Hollow Broadcasting School.

"Inside" producer Dave Harmon said they'll start out with Johnson doing a four-minute segment in the middle of the hour-long show in which he'll discuss a variety of subjects, like what's hot, controversial or worth noting in the NFL.

It wasn't too much later and after listening to the talent, Harmon predicted, "This will be our strength, experts just talking football." Johnson, even though he'll be doing a majority of the shows from his home outside Miami, is the man likely to drive the conversation. Dawson and Buoniconti fell into the roles of second bananas almost immediately.

Repeatedly, Jimmy said, "I say what I think." That said, he added, "and I don't think I can be completely objective. Can anyone?"

As he was as a coach, the man's a non-stop worker. The league has introduced electronic gadgetry to help the teams in loud-crowd situations this year, and Johnson had talked to about a dozen people so far, including his former quarterback Troy Aikman.

"He told me he won't use it," Johnson said. "It's a huge distraction. The static's bad. On the other hand, [Redskins coach] Norv Turner is looking forward to being able to help his rookie quarterback Heath Shuler with this contraption."

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