Thursday, January 30, 2014

When Parity Arrived and Jimmy Departed

Twenty years ago today, Jimmy Johnson coached in his final Super Bowl, guiding the Dallas Cowboys to their second straight championship.

Johnson's relationship with team owner Jerry Jones had been deteriorating that season. Jones' ego resented the attention Johnson had received since winning Super Bowl XXVII, and he wanted to have more say in football decisions, which had been Johnson's exclusive domain.

About two months after Johnson led the Cowboys to a second consecutive Super Bowl championship for the first and (so far) only time in their history, Johnson left the Cowboys. I don't think it was ever established whether Johnson resigned or was fired.

Dallas had hammered Buffalo the year before. In fact, it was the first (and, so far, only) time that two teams met in consecutive Super Bowls, and it was the fourth–ever Super Bowl rematch.

It wasn't much of a surprise that the Cowboys were 10½–point favorites in the rematch, considering they had beaten the Bills by 38 points the year before, but the point spread was a bit of a surprise. It was only the fourth time a team was favored by 10 points or more in a Super Bowl since the last time the Cowboys won one with Tom Landry as coach more than 15 years earlier.

As it turned out, the Cowboys covered that spread. But it didn't look too promising at halftime when the Bills led, 13–6.

"[T]hat only gave their fans false hope," writes Justin Tasch of the New York Daily News about Buffalo's second–half collapse, hastened by the emergence of Emmitt Smith.

In the second half, Dallas' Smith earned the Most Valuable Player award, scoring two touchdowns to lift the Cowboys to a 30–13 victory.

He finished the game with 132 yards on 30 carries. His longest run — for 15 yards — resulted in the touchdown that put Dallas ahead to stay in the third quarter.

In hindsight, Super Bowl XXVIII is an example of NFL parity. Some might even say it is a cautionary tale — but of what?

On this day 20 years ago, it was hard to imagine that both of these teams would be missing from most of the Super Bowls in the next two decades. Dallas did return a couple of years later — with former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer at the helm — but Buffalo has rarely even won its division in the last 20 years.

Perhaps it is a reminder that, for good or ill, time marches on.

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