Stepping up for laid-back Switzer In word, deed, Dallas rallies to defend its maligned coach

January 16, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

IRVING, Texas -- When Emmitt Smith and his mother talked yesterday about the Dallas Cowboys' latest Super Bowl trip, they quickly zeroed in on one of the most popular topics here the past two years: the difference between coaches Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer.

The contrast between Switzer's laid-back style and Johnson's hard-driving approach has been debated endlessly in Dallas since Johnson parted ways with owner Jerry Jones in March 1994.

Johnson, who was named the Miami Dolphins coach last week, had been getting the better of the debate because of Switzer's failure to make the Super Bowl last season, his 0-3 record against the San Francisco 49ers and the failed fourth-and-one call in Philadelphia.

But Switzer -- labeled Bozo the Coach by a New York tabloid after the Philadelphia fiasco -- got some redemption Sunday, when the Cowboys beat the Green Bay Packers, 38-27, in the NFC title game to advance to Super Bowl XXX on Jan. 28.

The Cowboys' players rallied around Switzer after the game. Even quarterback Troy Aikman, who is perceived as being more comfortable with Johnson's style than Switzer's, presented Switzer with the game ball.

Smith, who virtually carried the Cowboys on his back with a 150-yard performance against the Packers, was lavish in his praise of Switzer.

"I talked to my mom this morning about the difference between Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, and I actually found the difference," he said.

"I think the difference between Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer is that Jimmy didn't allow many players to get too close to him unless you were one of them kind of players who was performing like a Michael Irvin or a Troy Aikman. He had his standard, and he let you know right then and there what his standard was. With Barry, anybody can get close to the man. That's unique. That's what I like about the man."

Smith added: "The man deserves a lot more credit than what a lot of people give him credit for."

As usual, Aikman was more restrained in his comments about Switzer.

"I think there are those players who are very supportive of Barry [despite] the criticism that he's been getting over the last few months. That's good," Aikman said.

giving Switzer the game ball, Aikman said: "Since I was out on the field with the ball as the game ended, I had the ball in my possession, and I gave it to Barry.

"I'm not one for really a lot of keepsakes. I thought about giving it to my niece, and then I saw Barry and I thought, 'Why not give it to Barry?' I'm sure he would appreciate it more than she would."

Aikman, though, seemed to be happier that offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese, who replaced Norv Turner in 1994, made it to the Super Bowl for the first time. Zampese had been in four previous conference championship games -- with the San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles Rams and last year with the Cowboys -- without making the Super Bowl.

"He's regarded as one of the finest offensive coordinators in football," Aikman said. "It means a lot to me that I had an opportunity to be the quarterback when he got to go the first time."

Jones, who pushed Johnson out with a $2 million severance payment and hired Switzer, apparently felt vindicated that Switzer made it to the Super Bowl.

Although he conceded the Cowboys have a lot of talent, Jones said: "Others have had great talent and didn't get there. Barry's gotten there."

Switzer can join Paul Brown and Johnson as the only coaches to win championships in college and the NFL.

Johnson has a boat called "Three Rings" for his college title and his two NFL titles. Switzer, who won three national championships in college, said jokingly, "Maybe I can get me a boat called 'Four Rings.' "

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