BrooklynFans Of Books: Gary Myers On The Dallas Cowboys Empire

How ‘Bout Them Cowboys? Inside the Huddle with the Stars and Legends of America’s Team

By Gary Myers

Grand Central Publishing; hardcover, $28.00

There have been many books about America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys, this year’s NFC East Champions, but there hasn’t been one that gives you an inside pass to the most valuable sports franchise in the world.

Gary Myers has covered the NFL since 1978, including when he was the Cowboys beat writer for the Dallas Morning News. He also was the longtime NFL columnist for the New York Daily News, and he currently contributes to The Athletic.

In the new book, How ‘Bout Them Cowboys, Myers tells the story of the NFL’s biggest franchise with special access to their bombastic owner, Jerry Jones, his sons Stephen and Jerry Jr., daughter Charlotte, and dozens of interviews with current and former players and coaches, and characters from across Cowboy Nation.

While keeping track of the successes and controversies of some of the biggest names in the NFL on and off the field, How ‘Bout Them Cowboys looks to the legends of previous generations, and explains why the star on the helmet has become iconic, and how a little expansion team from North Texas has become a $5 billion brand.

Myers reveals a lot of new information, including on Jones’ relationship with Jimmy Johnson, the head coach who delivered two consecutive Super Bowl victories in 1992 and 1993.

It was soon after that second championship that Johnson departed Dallas in the spring of 1994, something that still stings some of the stars from that glorious era.

Myers presents a different angle to the Jones-Johnson battle, as he  writes, “It was many years later when Johnson and Troy Aikman were having a beer after the Divorce of the Century, an unfortunate ego-driven chapter in Cowboys history when Jones paid Johnson $2 million to go away and do anything but coach the Cowboys after winning back-to-back Super Bowls. Aikman was now the lead analyst for the NFL games on Fox, and Johnson was part of the studio team for the Fox pregame show, but Johnson’s departure still irritated Aikman.

“He may never forgive Johnson for not finding a way to make it work with Jones. The Cowboys were so young and so talented they might have won another two or three Super Bowls in a row if Johnson had remained. At the very least, they could have become the first team to win three in a row.

“The quarterback put down his beer and looked at his former coach with his piercing blue eyes doubling as poisonous arrows.

“‘We could have been Brady and Belichick,’ Aikman said.

“Aikman was filled with remorse, but Johnson didn’t flinch. Even telling the story, Johnson has no regrets about what  could have been. ‘Those things aren’t important to me,’ he said.

“They were to Aikman. ‘I don’t know that we would’ve won more Super Bowls,’ Aikman told the Dallas Morning News. ‘I say that with the understanding and appreciation of how difficult it is to win a Super Bowl. But regardless of that, I strongly believe we would’ve remained competitive for a longer period of time with an opportunity to achieve greatness at the conclusion of each season had Jimmy remained our coach.’

“Johnson waled away from the best team in football when it was just hitting its peak with its best players – Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, a bruising offensive line, a dominant and deep defensive line – because he could no longer deal with his boss.

“If AIkman was distraught by Johnson’s departure and the ensuing chaos with Barry Switzer’s hands-off, no-discipline approach, then Irvin was beside himself with regret. He had played for Johnson at the University of Miami and arrived in Dallas one year before his coach. Irvin loved Tom Landry, but Johnson was his guy. Irvin also became close to Jones and still is, but Johnson was such an important part of his life, and he left Irvin when they were all in the prime of their careers. ‘I was very upset with that decision. It’s their decision,’ Irvin said. ‘They are two smart guys. Alpha males. There is no doubt in my mind with Jimmy we win more Super Bowls. No doubt in my mind we win four in a row. Not just four in a row. We may come back and get a fifth or sixth with Jimmy. People were always talking about Jimmy and were worried about him burning out. Belichick is doing great still and he’s been there forever. I would have loved to have seen that kind of stay with Jimmy and Jerry. I will say that I really hoped and wished that Jimmy would have let Jerry play a little bit more like he wanted to. He just wanted to play with his team.’

“Their egos were just two big. jimmy couldn’t handle Jerry and Jerry couldn’t handle Jimmy.

“‘Jimmy was maniacal about winning football games. Kraft and Belichick have that, but Kraft allows Belichick to run it,’ Irvin said. ‘Go ahead and run it and I’ll make all of the business decisions. Run it. Jerry wants to bring all his guys in the locker room and I ain’t got no problem with that. But if we just lost, you got to know Jimmy is not with any of it. Jimmy wouldn’t let us eat on the plane back home if we lost. In the fourth quarter, I would be joking with guys but I wasn’t joking, ‘ Come on man, dude, eight minutes left, are we going to eat today or what?’

“Really, no food?

“‘Jimmy got so hot. When he gets hot, he gets crazy,’ Irvin said.

“When the flight attendants brought out the food on the flight after the Cowboys lost a road game, Irvin claims Johnson prevented them from serving. ‘Take that cart back,’ he barked.

“He would starve his players?

“‘Yeah,’ Irvin laughed. ‘We ate five hours before the game. If we lost, we wouldn’t eat until we got home.’

“Switzer let them eat. He was probably first in line. He just wasn’t as good an NFL coach as Johnson. He didn’t win nearly as much.”

There are also stories about how Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989, his efforts to induct Tom Landry into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor, how he lured Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells to Dallas, and star tight end Jason Witten, who was proclaimed Mr. Cowboy by Hall of Famer Bob Lilly, who first earned the moniker.

Dallas is always at the epicenter of the NFL universe, and How ‘Bout Them Cowboys delivers an exciting and surprising account of America’s Team, its greatest celebrities, its mercurial management, the vicious rivalries, and the enduring saga that makes this the most popular and polarizing team in sports.

 

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