The Dallas Cowboys – The Team Of The Nineties

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

In Pearlman’s book, few Cowboys come off as fully functional human beings, least of all the architect of the success, Jimmy Johnson, who divorced his wife of 20 years and treated his sons "like third cousins" because he only had time for a single pursuit.

"When he was coaching, it was football first, second, third and fourth. Nothing came fifth," said one of his players, Alonzo Highsmith.

An interesting subplot was how the Cowboys dynasty almost never got started. The Herschel Walker trade, an epic heist explained fully, really got it going. But we also read how Johnson preferred Steve Walsh to Aikman at quarterback and privately said Aikman "would spend his career lathered in mediocrity." Offensive coordinator David Shula wanted Irvin cut as a rookie, and Irvin ultimately stayed mostly because Norv Turner replaced the overmatched Shula. And the great Emmitt Smith? "Johnson was so opposed to the idea of selecting an offensive player," Pearlman wrote, even late in the first round, that the running backs coach had to stand on a table in the draft room and scream, "This is the guy, dammit!"

How far the Cowboys were willing to go is detailed in the story of their star defensive end Haley, maybe the least house-trained player in NFL history. From Page 115: "On his first day at Valley Ranch, Haley arrived in the conference room for a defensive film session dressed only in a towel. ‘The next thing you know, Charles is lying naked on the floor in front of the screen, entertaining himself,’ said teammate Tony Casillas." Pearlman gets a lot more graphic in explaining that this was a normal day for Haley.

"I do think Charles Haley’s reputation has kept him out of the Hall of Fame," Pearlman said in the e-mail. "I really can’t fathom another reason he’s not in."

Readers get a clear sense of how the Cowboys both rose and fell. How Irvin and Aikman coexisted perfectly, how Aikman was never a freelancer in the Brett Favre mold, that his success stemmed from his "robotic . . . ability to pinpoint exact locations, time after time."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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