Jimmy Johnson coached the Cowboys from 1989-1993 and in that time he led the team to two Super Bowl titles. He left Dallas before the 1994 season primarily because he and owner and general manager Jerry Jones didn't see eye to eye on personnel matters.
(Specifically: Johnson's contract gave him sole control of personnel decisions and Jones wanted to share the duties. It didn't happen and the men parted ways.)
But Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, who spent his entire 12-year career in Dallas, thinks the Cowboys could have won a lot more championships if Johnson had remained the coach.
“When Troy (Hall-of-Fame quarterback Troy Aikman) and I get together we look at each other — and I'm telling you there's not a time we don't get together (and say) ‘We should've at least had five ourselves,' “ Irvin said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “We should've won five. We should've at least walked away with a minimum of five Super Bowls.
“That's a minimum I really do believe that. You look back on it now, and if I had the sense I have now … if I had it then … we certainly would have won five Super Bowls. It just works out that way. It still gets to me, man. I'm telling you. It really does.”
Instead, the Cowboys won a Super Bowl after the 1995 season -- coach Barry Switzer's second year on the job -- and won a playoff game the following season, but they didn't sniff another postseason victory until January 2010.
In 2012, Johnson clarified Jones' claims that Jones played a major role in building the rosters that won those three titles.
"The time I was with the team, I had complete and total responsibility over the football operation," Johnson said at the time. "That meant personnel, the draft, coaches, including the strength coach. Everything. It was always in my contract. ... When we signed that first contract, Jerry said, 'I'll be in charge of the finances, you'll be in charge of the football,' we'll make history."
Jones, however, remembered things differently.
“During Jimmy's tenure, the authority to hire the players was with the GM," he said at the time. "But it was agreed that we wouldn't bring a player into the organization that he didn't approve of. We were a team and it worked very well. In our unique circumstances, where the owner and the GM were the same person, in the case of a disagreement -- which we never had -- the owner had the ultimate authority.”
And last summer, Jones reiterated where he stood on Johnson taking credit for the team's success.
"Disloyalty ... I couldn't handle the disloyalty," the owner and GM told ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr. as to why he parted ways with Johnson. "Whether it was right or not, by every measurement you can go, I had paid so many times a higher price to get to be there than he had paid, it was unbelievable."
Wherever the truth lies, it's hard to dispute that Johnson had a critical role in fixing the organization, which had three straight losing seasons when he arrived in Dallas.
“There was no turnaround without Jimmy,” Irvin said recently. “Just the whole mindset of what Jimmy built and how he set our mind toward one goal. There were a lot of guys when we got here. And they were all wanting to have (their own space) and do their own thing. Some people wanted to make money. Some people wanted to be famous. Maybe some guys wanted whatever they wanted. (But) Jimmy was able to get us all on the same page. And that's what beautiful about winning championships.”