Bye Week Blues

They say there are two things that are inevitable, death and taxes. I would add the bye week to this old saw. Each of these three is definitely on the horizon for everyone, but if you have a good accountant or doctor, only the bye week is etched in stone.

If Cowboy fans will brave the Kansas City Arizona game to get their weekly fix of football, I see no sense in not forging ahead with as sensitive a topic as there is in the Dallas Cowboy Kingdom.

Who built the Cowboys championship teams of the 1990's? Was it Jimmy alone or was it Jimmy and Jerry together?

Jimmy inherited a 3-13 team from Tom Landry. The worst team in the league in 1988, Jimmy came to the Cowboys with Mark Tuinea, Nate Newton, Kevin Gogan, Ken Norton Jr., Kelvin Martin, Chad Hennings and of course Herschel Walker in place. Jimmy was also fortunate to have the heart and soul of the future team on the roster with Michael Irvin.

Jimmy's first draft consisted of Troy Aikman Super Bowl MVP and Pro Bowler, Daryl Johnston Pro Bowler, Mark Stepnoski Pro Bowler, and Tony Tolbert.

While it must be said that Jimmy fell into the perfect situation, his former job at Miami allowed him to know first-hand some of the talent he would soon be drafting. His skills at picking players seemed unmatched, but a certain portion of his gift involved a networking system with college coaches that most teams didn't have. A distinct advantage for Johnson.

He also brought a staff of coaches that had worked together for years and were effective at forming a winning ball club. Except for Dave Campo, all the assistant coaches were with him for his entire time at Miami, some following Jimmy from OSU. These skilled talent evaluators had their fingers on the pulse of the crop of draftees for several years and conduits to coaches of major universities across the country.

But perhaps the most important factor is the Herschel Walker trade. Two issues come to mind during this fleecing of Mike Lynn and the Minnesota Vikings. The first is Jerry's willingness to sweeten the pot for Walker by signing a one million dollar check so the player would accept the trade. The second issue, which is much more subtle is the salary cap.

In today's marketplace, a Walker trade would immediately cost the Cowboys his signing bonus. Since premiere running backs are paid tremendous up-front money in the form of a bonus, Dallas would never be able to make that trade and thus not have a shot at the Darren Woodson's and Emmitt Smiths if the cap were in place. Critical players that were mainstays with the franchise during the championship years.

The Walker trade produced results in both Emmitt and Jimmy Jones the next draft. It also brought in Alvin Harper and Erik Williams the following year.

But make no mistake Jerry's fingerprints were all over this deal. Jimmy spent his days directing a terrible ball club on the field as Jerry worked the phones looking for someone to take Walker. Jimmy approved the talent offered, but it was Jerry Jones that orchestrated the bank hold-up that gave the Vikings a hand full of magic beans for three Super Bowl trophies.

So many picks in the hands of Johnson allowed him to wheel and deal. But having that option also cost the Cowboys. Jimmy's insistence to fidget on draft day with continuous movement was like an eight-year old kid after eating three bags of M&M's. No matter what, he couldn't sit still.

Prior to the 1989 draft Jimmy selected Steve Walsh with his first pick in the supplemental draft. This gave away the first over-all selection the following year for a player that caused more problems with Jimmy's eventual Super Bowl MVP quarterback, Troy Aikman than it did in producing via a trade. Perhaps the real tragedy of Jimmy's quick decisions meant that he missed on selecting Junior Seau in the first round of the 1990 season.

Plan B free agency, a bone tossed to the players in lieu of real free agency that would come later offered Jimmy much. He could have a player carousel, swapping one body for another until he found the correct piece. That piece was Jay Novacek. Perhaps the best free agent to ever come to the Cowboys. Novacek couldn't block a geriatric from the doors of Luby's on a Senior Citizens Discount Day but as a receiver he could find the open spot and move the chains.

Another timely move came when Jones called up the 49ers and inquired about a defensive end just before the start of the 1992 season. They had a player that was disruptive in the locker room and from his antics seriously caused concern about his sanity. Jones offered a third round pick and this piece, more than any other, changed the face of the Cowboy defense. Jerry gave Jimmy exactly what the team needed, a pass rushing defensive end in Charles Haley.

Al Davis called Jerry up after the trade and congratulated him on getting the Super Bowl piece. It ended up to be a correct portend because the team that was ousted by the Lions the previous year went on to back-to-back championships in '92 and '93.

Jerry's flair for adding an important piece to the puzzle was again witnessed when he brought in Deion Sanders. The injury to Kevin Smith in the first game of the 1995 season against the Giants could have spelled disaster for the Cowboys.

Deion's skills and reputation made Larry Brown the Super Bowl MVP that year and a rich man when Al Davis mistakenly offered him a sheik's ransom to migrate to Oakland.

One other factor aided in the championship seasons for Jimmy's team. And that was the firing of David Shula.

Jimmy chose the son of Don Shula, the venerable coach of the Dolphins to be the offensive coordinator in 1989. One of the bigger mistakes by Jimmy, the offense as Lawrence Taylor put it once, was like a high school offense. Jimmy let David go after that disastrous season.

Jimmy wanted to approach the offensive coordinator for the Dolphins, but Don wouldn't allow Jimmy to talk to his assistant.

Fortune smiled on Johnson once again when he asked Ernie Zampese who would be a good OC for the team. He recommended Norvel Turner, a coach for the Los Angeles Rams.

Norv was exactly the big brother Aikman needed and the play caller that kept the other team on their heels. Titles followed.

Jimmy Johnson's name is at the head of the list when discussing the franchises success in the ‘90's. Jerry has always been seen as a meddlesome owner that wanted to horn in on the glory. But facts suggest that even these two giants of Cowboy lore had help from both circumstances and people lost in the myth of history.

Jimmy never wanted to talk about luck. He quickly angered when the subject was brought up. Jerry used the word serendipity to describe the situation, avoiding his head coache's ire.

Here at the Update when we discuss the reasons behind why this subject is still so popular with Cowboy fans everywhere, we just call it the bye week.

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