Jerry, Jimmy not exactly toast of town

March 24, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ORLANDO, FLA — ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Jerry and Jimmy Show may do more than the two-point conversion to enliven the NFL.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his head coach, Jimmy Johnson, upstaged the annual NFL owners meeting this week with their latest and perhaps most public tiff.

Most owners are content with coaches who've won back-to-back Super Bowls. But Jones has shown he's not like most owners.

What began with a toast to the team's success ended with the suggestion that Johnson might be fired and the thrusting of Jones back into the spotlight. Not that he seemed to mind.

"It's kind of fun for me," Jones said. "It's humorous to me."

During an NFL executives party Monday night at Pleasure Island in Disney World, Jones went to a table where Johnson was socializing with a few ex-Cowboys employees and toasted the team's success. Jones apparently felt snubbed and left in a huff.

Later that evening at a hotel bar, Jones spent several hours talking with four reporters, including two from Dallas. During what Jones said was an off-the-record conversation, the owner said he was going to fire Johnson and hire former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer.

On Tuesday morning, Johnson found out about Jones' comments and confronted the owner.

"It concerns me when he says to a group of reporters that he's not only going to fire me, but even says who the replacement is going to be," Johnson told a Dallas reporter. "This wasn't a statement to one person behind closed doors. This was a statement made in a bar with a lot of people around."

Johnson said he was reassessing his position as head coach and then left the meetings for Miami, even though the coaches' breakfast with members of the media was scheduled yesterday morning.

The flap was Page 1 news in Dallas, and the city's TV stations flew in camera crews to Orlando to get Jones' reaction.

But he brushed off the incident. "This is just another day in the life of the Dallas Cowboys," he said and added that Johnson is still the Dallas coach and he's content with him.

"We are in agreement that he's still coach of the Dallas Cowboys," Jones said.

Jones was asked why Switzer was mentioned.

"I often throw out concepts for the future off-the-record," he said.

Although Jones stressed the remarks in the hotel bar were supposed to be off the record, he didn't deny them or apologize for them.

"There's nothing to apologize about. Fundamentally, this is the way our relationship works," Jones said.

He said he wasn't happy the way his toast was received.

"I just wasn't satisfied with the toast and decided to toast someplace else. I guess when it comes to our success, I probably expect too much joy," Jones said.

Johnson was at the table with two of his former assistants -- Washington Redskins head coach Norv Turner and Chicago Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt -- Phoenix Cardinals director of college scouting Bob Ackles and a former team administrator.

Ackles had been fired by Jones, so the owner's toast created an awkward situation and he apparently was not warmly received by the group.

Turner, who worked for Jones and Johnson the past three years before taking the Redskins job, didn't seem to think the incident would hamper the Cowboys.

"They're both very competitive, and they seem to overcome things like this," Turner said.

Jones and Johnson have clashed in the past over Jones' statement that he could coach in the NFL, Johnson's apparent interest in exploring a move to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Jones' handling of negotiations with running back Emmitt Smith that led to his early-season holdout.

Johnson wasn't available for comment yesterday, but a team spokesman said that after Johnson's meeting with Jones: "Everything is status quo. They have a very unique relationship that works very well on a professional level."

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