Jimmy Johnson Jabs Belichick

Jimmy Johnson jabs Bill Belichick, claims Jim Harbaugh took easy way out as he roars into Houston with Heart

Jimmy Johnson jabs Bill Belichick, says Jim Harbaugh took easy way

Jimmy Johnson TV
Jimmy Johnson does not mince words on current NFL head coaches — Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh included. Courtesy of TV Insiders
Bill Belichick Texans
Bill Belichick may have a boat, but Jimmy Johnson wants you to know it's not as big as his. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Paul Bear Bryant Awards
The Bear Bryant Awards honored Dallas Cowboys icon Jimmy Johnson this year. Photo by Alexander's Fine Portrait Design
Jimmy Johnson TV
Bill Belichick Texans
Paul Bear Bryant Awards

Jimmy Johnson strolls into the room 10 minutes early, smiling all the way. The Dallas Cowboys legend's decked out in an expensive suit, his tie and pocket square the bright teal color of the water he loves to fish in near his Florida Keys home.

"How y'all doing?" Johnson asks the reporters and camera men crowded around one corner of a Hilton Americas-Houston conference room. "Am I standing in the right spot?"

Johnson is more relaxed than any coach in history, because he long ago left coaching behind. It's been 16 years since Jimmy Johnson's had a team to call his own. But somehow that hasn't diminished his impact at all. If anything, Johnson is even more revered today. At a Bear Bryant Awards ceremony that sees TCU's Gary Patterson walk away with another Coach of the Year trophy  — albeit one of the coolest trophies in sports with the Bear Bryant bust, houndstooth hat included — Johnson is clearly the biggest star in the building.

 "You're guaranteed by just showing up that you're going to win eight or nine. On the pro level, that's not the way it is. It's a grind." 

One gets the sense that the 71-year-old Johnson knows this. But he's not using it to lord over anyone. Instead he goes out of his way to be accommodating. You almost expect him to be disappointed there aren't any babies to kiss in this decidedly middle-aged college football fan crowd.

"It's good to be involved with the American Heart Association," Johnson says of Bear Bryant Awards' long-time charity overseer. "From my coaching days I had some heart problems."

Johnson chuckles. The guy who turned the Miami Hurricanes into the most feared program in college football — and a cultural touchstone that's still relevant today  — has become something of a coach guru. He goes fishing with Urban Meyer — with the Ohio State coach seeking out his expertise and bringing his son Nate along.

"He wanted to catch some big dolphins and we did," Johnson says. The coach pauses for a beat. "Mahi mahi," he clarifies with a mischievous smile.

Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly did not want to fish when he reached out to Johnson recently. Kelly sought insight into Johnson's experiences running the Cowboys personnel department while coaching. A task that the former Oregon coach is suddenly essentially taking on himself.

Jimmy Johnson's aura remains ultra powerful to his coaching peers (no matter if Jerry Jones is still too petty to put him in the Cowboys' Ring Of Honor). Heck, Johnson holds super clout even with his rare multiple Super Bowl winning brethren.

Bill Belichick's Fib?

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is one of Johnson's closet friends. Or rather, Johnson — who makes friends easily — is one of the closet friends of Belichick, The Hoodie who has few confidants. Belichick goes fishing with Johnson every offseason.

Jimmy Johnson is one of the few people in football who teases Belichick without fear.

"Belichick," Johnson says. "He's got a boat too. A little smaller boat (than Johnson's)."

Jimmy lets that one sink in. He's had great timing way before he became a Fox Sports personality.

 For all his wit and his current relaxed vibe, Johnson carries a strong sense of what's right and wrong in coaching. 

Johnson named his own state-of-the-art boat, "Three Rings" — after the national championship he won at Miami and the two Super Bowls he captured for the Cowboys. Belichick named his own boat "Five Rings" — which doesn't sit too well with Jimmy.

"A few of those were as an assistant," Johnson says, chuckling. "I told him that doesn't count."

You only get full credit for what you do when you're in charge in Jimmy Johnson's world. So Bill Belichick is a Three Rings (for the titles he won in New England) just like Johnson.

For all his wit and his current relaxed vibe, Johnson carries a strong sense of what's right and wrong in coaching. That's why he's not going to join the chorus praising Jim Harbaugh for leaving the NFL to take on the Michigan job.

You want to call that move courageous? Please. Jimmy Johnson does not hesitate to paint going to a program as storied as Michigan as something of the easy way out.

"You look at the top schools in college and there's the chance to win 10, 11, 12 games and play for the national championship every year," he says. "The difference between the top schools and everyone else is just so huge.

"You're guaranteed by just showing up that you're going to win eight or nine. On the pro level, that's not the way it is. It's a grind."

If you are still wondering why Jimmy Johnson never returned to coaching despite some serious courting over the years, the way he talks about the extreme toll of NFL coaching now is instructive. "You have no life other than coaching in professional football," Johnson says. "In college, you at least have some opportunity to spend some time with your family."

Johnson is living no one's grind now. Hasn't been for more than a decade. If his Houston visit this week is any indication, Jimmy Johnson's life is pretty sweet. It's good to be the Coach Guru.