Will Eagles owner lure Johnson?

April 16, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

Rich Kotite, the Philadelphia Eagles coach, could be looking over his shoulder this fall.

That's because Jimmy Johnson, who quit as the Dallas Cowboys coach last month, plans to return to the NFL coaching ranks for the 1995-96 season, and he said yesterday that he's met the new Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie.

Johnson, who was in Baltimore to film one of those pop-out-of-the-suitcase commercials for a hotel chain, didn't say when he met Lurie or whether they've talked about the Eagles' job. But he said three teams have contacted him, and two of them wanted him to replace their coaches for the coming season.

"One particular team wanted me to go in and run the draft and XTC also coach this year, and I said I'm not really ready to make that kind of commitment. Nothing against that particular team, but I wanted to take some time off and relax a bit and get back into coaching next year," he said.

When asked if the teams that wanted him this year are also interested in him for next year, he said, "We're still having discussions with one of them."

When asked if that team has a new owner, he flashed a big smile and said: "I'm not going to name any teams. I've probably stirred things up too much already."

But his comment that he has met Lurie and is impressed with him isominous for Kotite, entering his fourth season as the Eagles' coach.

"He's going to be good for Philadelphia, and he's going to be good for the league," Johnson said of Lurie.

He became vague when he was asked how he happened to meet Lurie. The Eagles didn't return a call to their office, and Lurie can't make any moves until the NFL owners officially approve the sale next month.

Johnson said he plans to coach somewhere in 1995 after working as a TV commentator this fall.

"I could have things wrapped up before the end of the season," he said.

Johnson's commercial invites fans who stay at that hotel chain to enter a contest to pick the team Johnson is going to coach next year.

Since the winner gets a trip for two to the Super Bowl in January, Johnson must be planning to take a job before that game.

The Miami Dolphins probably are Johnson's first choice because he likes to live there, but coach Don Shula recently entered negotiations on a contract extension with new owner Wayne Huizenga.

"It seems like I did read something like that. Who knows what's going to happen?" Johnson said.

If Johnson winds up working for Lurie, they could have the same strained relationship Johnson had with Dallas owner Jerry Jones. Lurie has given indications that he plans to be the same type of hands-on owner Jones is.

But then it could be difficult for Johnson to work with any owner because he likes to operate with total control of a franchise.

Johnson, who has never coached in one place longer than five years, laughed and said he could get along with an owner for five years.

"Five years seemed to be the magic number," he said.

He added: "It's got to be the right situation. I'm not going to get into something I'm not going to be happy doing."

He predicted he'll win a Super Bowl with his new team.

"The only thought on my mind is that when I get back into coaching, we'll win that third Super Bowl," he said.

Johnson's commercial was filmed on a Baltimore sound stage, according to Carolyn O'Keefe, the vice president of public relations for Gray, Kirk Van Sant, because the agency is located here.

Since Johnson was in Baltimore, he did the politically correct thing and plugged the city's chances of luring a team to move here.

"I heard the rumor that a team might be moving to Baltimore. That's fourth- or fifth-hand information. I think Baltimore deserves a football team. I think everybody would love to see Baltimore have a franchise back here," he said.

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