For NFL's final stories, only the titles remain Cowboys' Johnson has script, but 49ers are still going to play

January 23, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

IRVING, Texas -- Don't you just hate those people who blab the ending to a mystery movie?

Coach Jimmy Johnson of the Dallas Cowboys tried to spoil today's NFC title game for the country's sports fans last week.

Johnson called a Dallas radio talk show while coach Dan Reeves of the New York Giants was a guest and revealed how he thinks the plot for the game against the San Francisco 49ers will unfold.

"I think we're going to have a very, very tight ball game for about three quarters," Johnson told the listeners. "Then, before it's over, I think we're going to wear them out. I think we're going to beat their rear ends and we're going to the Super Bowl. That's my personal opinion."

Just in case you thought he was being too subtle, he also said, "You can put it in 3-inch headlines. We will win the ballgame."

Even though Johnson has revealed what he thinks the ending will be, the 49ers flew in from San Francisco on Friday and will show up at Texas Stadium today.

Johnson's comments, of course, have overshadowed the game. He's being compared to Joe Namath, the New York Jets quarterback who "guaranteed" the victory for his team in Super Bowl III over the Baltimore Colts a quarter of a century ago.

But Namath was a brash player and his team was the big underdog. Johnson is the coach, and his team is favored.

Riling up the opponent is the first no-no in the coaching manual. It goes all the way back to those "Stagg Fears Purdue" headlines.

So why did Johnson do it?

Nobody knows, and Johnson's not saying.

Give Johnson one thing. He's gotten himself in the spotlight, and must be up to something.

A psychology major in college, Johnson explained the importance of psychology in his book, "Turning The Things Around."

"My decision to major in psychology was also the decision that would eventually make the difference between a good, solid X's and O's college coach and a national championship coach; between a good, solid NFL coach and a Super Bowl coach," he wrote.

There's no doubt Johnson believes the Cowboys are going to win each week. Most coaches do. The difference with Johnson is that after a victory, he doesn't praise the losing team. He is quick to say he thought it was in the bag all along.

After the playoff victory over the Green Bay Packers last week, he said it had the feel of a regular-season game.

In his book, he said of the Super Bowl game against the Buffalo Bills, "I was 100 percent sure we were going to win that game."

He even said he had "no feeling of tension or suspense" because the Cowboys had all the cards.

"One billion people watching on television and another hundred thousand or so in the Rose Bowl weren't certain we held the rest of the cards. But we were," he wrote.

The difference this time is that Johnson said all of this before the game.

Johnson was peppered with questions at a news conference the next day about why he went public with his prediction.

"I knew my statement would cause a stir, but I didn't see anything earthshaking," he said. "I was just giving my opinion. Everybody around me knows I give my opinion. It's the NFC championship game, and you think I'm going to tiptoe around like I'm scared to death?"

When it was pointed out to Johnson that he'll look bad if his team doesn't back up his prediction, he said, "You've been around me long enough. You ever think I've been concerned about how I look?"

This is a man who divorced his wife after he was named the Cowboys coach because he said a wife isn't needed in pro football when there aren't all those college social functions to attend. He now lives alone, although he has a girlfriend who visits on occasion. Johnson is a man who doesn't care what anybody thinks of his lifestyle.

"Hey, we go out there to do one thing: that's win games," he said. "I don't ever look at the alternative."

Johnson apparently thinks his comments will motivate his team instead of firing up the 49ers. Or maybe he thinks his team is so good it doesn't matter if he riles up the 49ers. Or maybe he doesn't want the Cowboys to worry if it's close after three quarters because he predicted it would be.

NTC Whatever he was trying to do, the Dallas players have varying opinions about his comments.

"The man said we're going to go out and win," defensive back James Washington said. "If a coach doesn't know, who does? The man speaks the gospel."

Offensive lineman Nate Newton said, "He's put our butt in the frying pan."

Quarterback Troy Aikman said, "One of the things that makes Jimmy so successful is that unlike most head coaches, Jimmy is not afraid to come out and say what he thinks."

So what effect, if any, is all this going to have on the 49ers?

San Francisco coach George Seifert follows the traditional mode of always worrying about the opponent. He doesn't make guarantees.

"Even when I was at Cornell [his first head coaching job], I didn't guarantee," he said.

Seifert thinks it's a motivational tactic.

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