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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jimmy Johnson, a Psychological Case

ATLANTA -- Phillip Trapp, retired chairman of the University of Arkansas psychology department, said he couldn't say for sure if James William Johnson was "an A, B, C, D or F" student.


"But's it like I told all our psychology majors at the time," Trapp said by phone from Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Monday. "Other things being equal, you should have an edge in dealing with people."


Dallas 38, San Francisco 21.


James William Johnson, who once had been more interested in Freud and Jung than Lombardi and Halas, had already been exposed to abnormal behavior and child and adolescent psychology before becoming Jimmy Johnson, the football coach, destined to deepen Buffalo's depression.


"My decision to major in psychology," Johnson wrote in his book, "Turning the Thing Around," "was also the decision that would eventually make the difference between a good Xs-to-O's college coach and a national championship coach; between a good, solid National Football League coach and a Super Bowl coach."


Johnson, the aspiring industrial psychologist who passed on the pursuit of a master's degree to become an assistant football coach in order to pay his bills, has risen to the very top of his profession with an uncompromising focus.


"I'll crush you like a squirrel in the road," Johnson once said when asked about his drive to succeed.


The Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVII because Jimmy Johnson ordained it to be so. Emmitt Smith's contract holdout might have sabotaged their return visit to the Super Bowl, but complacency never had a chance against Johnson.


While head coach at the University of Miami, Johnson's teams not only went five for five against opponents who were ranked No. 1 at the time, but 31-0 against competition that had been unranked. There is no sneaking up on Jimmy Johnson.


"You are about to read and learn more about the egotistical, selfish coach of the Dallas Cowboys," Dallas Morning News columnist Frank Luksa wrote before this season began. "To describe Jimmy Johnson in those terms is not a criticism. It is to repeat his self-portrait.


"Johnson is bone-cutting honest on the subject of himself. He is without pretense. This is me, he says: a single man who likes his beer, loves his job, wants and needs few close pals, thinks he's a hell of a coach, knows he will win and doesn't mind being quoted about any of it since he's said it before."


The folks in Dallas, who looked upon Tom Landry's fedora as if it were part of the Texas landscape, have now come to know and even accept the outsider, who vacations in the Bahamas, doesn't believe in exchanging Christmas presents, hates baseball and pets, and wins football games.


"I don't think anybody in the country understands the pressure of coming to the Cowboys after Tom Landry," says Johnson, who makes more than $1 million per year and is signed through the year 1999.


Sunday, he had the fans on their feet cheering before the game had begun, as he had asked them to do earlier in the week. Those who had booed him in 1989 after guiding the Cowboys to a 1-15 mark in his first year as Landry's successor were now his buddies.


"When Jimmy Johnson came here to coach the Cowboys, no one could be certain how long it would take for him to get the football team turned around," said Jerry Jones, a former Arkansas football teammate of Johnson's who hired him to coach after buying the Cowboys. "We knew we might have to have a little patience for a little while.


"But if you knew Jimmy, you knew the job would somehow get done. You just plain knew it."


Determination highlights his cold and impersonal approach to achieving success. There is something there that almost makes winning football games more important than family, friends and life beyond the videotape of next week's opponent.


"I have to have a rush," Johnson has said. "My whole life is an extreme. I live it that way on purpose. I'm either at the depths of despair or the heights of ecstasy. There's nothing in the middle."