The Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s
Q: Can you talk about the time you were covering the Dallas Cowboys from 1990 to 91? That was the beginning of the last great era for the Cowboys.
A: I think one of the reasons the Dallas Morning News hired me was because I already had a relationship with Jimmy Johnson and some of the coaches on his staff.
When I was at UPI in Kansas City, in addition to covering the Chiefs I also covered the baseball Royals, NBA Kings and the Big Eight. I got to know Jimmy in his first gig as a head coach at Oklahoma State in 1979. Dave Wannstedt, Butch Davis and Tony Wise were on that staff and also came with him to Dallas. So there was a comfort level from the start.
The Chiefs were playing the Cowboys at Arrowhead on the Sunday following the Herschel Walker trade – I was covering KC then — and I remember talking to Jimmy on the field before the game.
He said, “We made that trade for the draft picks, not the players.” He wasn’t going to let his coaches fall in love with all the players that came over from the Vikings – and there were some good ones: Isaac Holt, Jesse Solomon, David Howard… Jimmy knew the college game – and college players – and saw the draft as his ticket to rebuilding a team with a veteran cast that couldn’t compete.
As a college coach he had been in the homes recruiting many of the players he wound up drafting. I covered the Cowboys in 1990 and 1991 before the Morning News moved me to the NFL beat. So I got to know the Triplets before they were the Triplets. I got to know Nate Newton, Kevin Gogan and Erik Williams before they became “the great all of Dallas,” as they were labeled by NFL Films. You could see the giant strides players like Tony Tolbert, Leon Lett and Larry Brown were making on the practice field.
You saw a team learning to be good and realizing they could be great. In 1991, after the Cowboys beat the Bears in their first playoff game, I told Jimmy he has now won as many playoff games as I’d seen in the last 16 years.