The era of the early to mid 1990's is, of course, one of the highlights of Dallas Cowboys franchise history with three Super Bowl wins in four seasons. Now once more, football will have an opportunity to immortalize some of the men who helped to make that period in Dallas history memorable.
Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson and defensive end Charles Haley are among the 25 semifinalists under consideration. This is Johnson’s first time to be a semifinalist; Haley has progressed this far eight other times.
We will know for certain which, if either, will be donning a gold jacket during the annual NFL Honors Show on February 1, 2014, the day before the Super Bowl. In the meantime, let's look briefly at the careers of each of these men.
Dallas Cowboys Head Coach 1989-1993
A native of Port Arthur, Texas; Jimmy Johnson played his collegiate football for legendary coach Frank Broyles at the University of Arkansas. It was during this time that the future Dallas head coach met and became friends with teammate and future Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Over their time in Fayetteville, the pair won a national championship as part of the Razorbacks program. Their college years behind them, Jones went into business while his friend Johnson elected to remain in the game and began his series of coaching jobs by becoming an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech. His career would culminate as the head coach of first Oklahoma State and later the University of Miami. When his former teammate purchased the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, Johnson would make the leap from the collegiate ranks to the National Football League.
As the second head coach in Dallas history, Johnson was tasked with filling the shoes of legendary coach Tom Landry. Although his career began with an inauspicious 1-15 season, the dark days would not last long. The pair of Jones and Johnson soon built the Cowboys into a contender by savvy drafting, and a willingness to invest heavily in free agents to improve the team. Even though his tenure in Dallas was a short one, Johnson became one of only six men in NFL history to lead his team to back-to-back Super Bowl wins. His efforts in building a program established a culture of dominance that became the signature trait of the dynasty era Cowboys. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Jones and Johnson, neither lacking in the ego department, soon found themselves in conflict and eventually parted ways.
At least according to Jimmy, the bygones are in the past, and Jerry Jones has assured him a place among the Cowboys greats.
"Jerry told me three years ago he was going to put me in the Ring of Honor. I think it's great for players and it's a really a great honor for those players, but for coaches, really, we have done our work, you can see the records, and so that accomplishment is satisfying enough, I'm not real big on accolades." - Jimmy Johnson
Following a short stint as a broadcaster, Jimmy Johnson once again found himself tapped to replace a legend. This time it was Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins. Like his time in Dallas, the Jimmy Johnson era with the 'Phins was a brief one. Even though he was able to put a championship caliber defense on the field, the coach was not able to regain the success he experienced in Texas. After two mediocre seasons Johnson resigned as the Dolphins coach only to reverse himself shortly there after. After another season that started with Super Bowl aspirations but ended with frustration, Jimmy Johnson retired from coaching and returned to the world of broadcasting.
His career record in Dallas was 44-36-0, while his overall NFL record mark stands at 80-64-0. To that Jimmy added a record of 81-34-3 from his time in the NCAA. For his career, Johnson's playoff record is 9-4, and his full resume includes the 1992 and 1993 Super Bowl Championships which are also paired up with the 1987 college football National Championship that he won at as the Miami Hurricanes head coach.
Dallas Cowboys Defensive End 1992-1996
A two time All-American out of James Madison University, Charles Haley entered professional football as the fourth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 1986. Although he was known for being a hard working and very talented player on the football field, Haley soon became "more trouble than he was worth" in the City By The Bay. Following confrontations with his coach, George Seifert, and the team's QB, Steve Young, the young Haley found himself on the trading block. After winning the first two of his five Super Bowl rings as a 49er, he became a Dallas Cowboy. While in Dallas, Haley was a key piece of the Dallas teams that won three Super Bowls in a four year stretch. After retiring due to injury, he made a short return to the NFL with the same San Francisco team that had previously traded him away.
For his career, Charles Haley recorded a total of 100.5 sacks and was five times selected to the Pro-Bowl, twice being named All-Pro. Since his retirement, Charles has been inducted into the Cowboys Ring Of Honor for his efforts as a member of the dynasty teams. In fact, many have credited him with being the final piece that brought those teams to the pinnacle of professional football.
As much as the Cowboys were about the Hall of Fame triplets on offense in Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, they didn't sniff the Super Bowl and become champions until they made the trade with San Francisco for Haley. - Clarence Hill, Jr. Forth Worth Star-Telegram
Haley is widely believed to have not taken his place in Canton due to his unusual behavior. He had the reputation of being an outstanding football player, Charles was also dealing with demons that impacted his image around the league. Once he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2002, the reasons for his erratic and obnoxious behavior became clear. Nonetheless, his reputation has been tarnished. As has been noted above, Haley is a semi-finalist for the ninth time, and despite his obvious impact on his teams and their success his induction into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame is not assured this time around either.
Each of these men has carved for himself a niche in the lore of the National Football League and a spot among the greats in Dallas Cowboys history. Along the way both have earned the opportunity to join the immortals of the game in Canton's hallowed halls, but will this be their year, or will Johnson, like Haley, find himself in a holding pattern? Will Haley finally overcome the barriers that have kept him on the outside looking in? Only time will tell, but for now the time has come for us to share our memories of what Jimmy Johnson and Charles Haley did to usher in one of the great epochs of Dallas Cowboys football.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The finalists for the 2014 HOF class have been announced. For the fifth time, Charles Haley will be a finalist for induction. Coach Johnson will not be a finalist this year.