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Rocky Jerry Jones-Jimmy Johnson relationship turns loving after Ring of Honor announcement

No more awkwardness. No more lingering. The former Cowboys coach is headed to the Ring of Honor.

Three years, 10 months and seven days. That’s how much time passed between Jimmy Johnson’s tear-filled acceptance of his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in the Fox studios and Sunday’s awkward announcement — again on Fox just before the start of the Cowboys’ game in Carolina — that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was adding Johnson to the club’s Ring of Honor.

For something that was billed by both men as a great love affair — “We never disagreed on anything,” Johnson said shamelessly — it took nearly four years for the Cowboys to honor a coach who was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame before the onset of the pandemic.

“There’s never been a question that Jimmy would go into the Ring of Honor,” Jones told the national TV audience after briefly talking about Dak Prescott and his team with Johnson. Jones then announced that Johnson would be inducted on Dec. 30, 1923, before Johnson laughed and corrected him, moving the date forward a century to halftime of the Cowboys’ home game with the Detroit Lions.


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Why break the news minutes before a kickoff in Charlotte? Why the Detroit game for the celebration? I suppose none of that really matters. Both men had their 80th birthdays in the past year or so, and maybe the gift of time allowed them to put behind Johnson’s tempestuous exit from Valley Ranch in the spring of 1994. It sounds as though all they remember now (or all they choose to remember) are the good times of which there were plenty in a very brief time span.

As the two spoke in a news conference after the Fox announcement, there was more of a hint of honesty about their departure and separation and long-running feud that has been patched over and then reopened numerous times in the last three decades. Jones used the very unusual phrase of “beautiful scars” that the two left on each other during their self-destructive stumble to the finish line in 1994.


But the two men mostly professed nothing but love for each other and a real recognition of how much they needed one another. It was a real step forward in this never-ending healing process to hear Johnson say, “He’s a big part, maybe the biggest part of my entire career.”

Jones, who has always been better at admitting his faults during the break-up, even though Johnson wanted out of town as badly as the owner wished to send him on his way, said, “I recognize sometimes the frailty of human emotions, but that shouldn’t stand in any way of the great relationship we had.”

At the end of their time here, the “great relationship” was such that Johnson would not even raise a glass to Jones’ toast at the owners’ meetings in 1994, prompting the owner to go on an alcohol-fueled rant about “500 coaches” that could win Super Bowls with this team — just the phrase Johnson needed to guide his exit to Florida, where he had already purchased a home, without looking like the guy who quit on the Cowboys.


The messy finish line, unprecedented for a team that had just achieved back-to-back Super Bowl wins, can be swept away now although this team’s history of not reaching another NFC title game with a group that wasn’t Johnson’s players remains ongoing.

Jones didn’t seem to realize just how long he had made Johnson wait for this moment.

It’s understandable that the club didn’t stage a ceremony during the 2020 season when only 25,000-30,000 fans were allowed into AT&T Stadium, but he’s had the entire 2021 and 2022 seasons and most of 2023 (DeMarcus Ware found his way in earlier this year) to get this done.

If it was as automatic as Jones suggested it was, there’s really no explanation, beyond the difficulty the owner has with listening to stories about the greatness of Jimmy that omit his role as owner, as to why almost four years will pass between Johnson being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and finally being included in the club’s Ring of Honor.

“Certainly there was a little awkwardness that was happening from not doing this that I guess I anticipated but I didn’t really anticipate,” Jones said. “So I wouldn’t have wanted that to linger any longer.”

No more awkwardness. No more lingering. For some, the “curse” of not having enshrined Jimmy is being lifted Dec. 30. Maybe it’s what the team needs to beat the Lions, the only team Johnson ever lost a playoff game against as Cowboys coach.

Regardless, the love affair that began in the spring of 1989 with Jones announcing that Johnson, as the new coach of the Cowboys, was worth five Heisman Trophy winners is back. In full bloom.

The Cowboys are getting their second coach in the Ring of Honor. We may be in for another long wait for a third.

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