Hall of Famer Jimmy Johnson dishes on the life of an NFL coach -- on and off the field -- in his new memoir
Johnson's memoir meticulously deconstructs his winning philosophy, the necessary attitude for which it's named after, and also explains the challenges of a coach who was burdened with being the successor to Howard Schnellenberger at Miami, Tom Landry in Dallas and Don Shula in his last coaching job with the Dolphins. As an esteemed talent evaluator, Johnson indexes the five traits he looks for in a player:
Johnson says the job of a football coach is to unlock players' potential like some kind of gridiron Wizard of Oz, cultivating attributes he certainly knows are there.
Of course, Johnson also gives you a peek behind the curtain of a coaching career bound by several what-ifs, despite all of his success. He offers up interesting recollections of two big losses to Penn State and Notre Dame during his tenure at the University of Miami. He provides his side of the story in a well-documented relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones -- a chapter perhaps coincidentally bookmarked with the memoir's leaflet of photos, and one that features his detailed exit from Dallas after winning back-to-back Super Bowls. And he reveals how, during the twilight of his coaching career with the Dolphins, he tried to do everything he could to trade up and draft Peyton Manning at the behest of Archie Manning.
For Johnson, writing a tell-all turned out to be an overall pleasant experience, a recounting of his storied coaching career. But the sacrifices he made along the way had a great effect on Johnson, subject matter that invokes a different tone from the normally radiant coach.
"Then we got into the struggles and the sacrifices," Johnson said. "Struggles with my own family and being away from my family the whole time that I was trying to win a championship. The sacrifices that they made. So, in some way, it was an apology to my two sons (Brent and Chad) that I wasn't there for them."
Johnson recently said as much during his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech in 2022, but the subject is far deeper than those in Canton, Ohio, heard at the moment. His youngest son, Chad, battled alcoholism in 2009, and the story of his recovery is one of the longest, most in-depth chapters of the memoir. Johnson depicts a chilling tale that not only includes the trials and tribulations of Chad's recovery, but how he questioned if this was the result of his coaching career taking precedence over his family. That was most certainly the case, according to Jimmy himself.