James William Johnson (born July 16, 1943) is an American football coach and broadcaster. He was the first football coach whose teams won both an NCAA Division 1A National Championship and a Super Bowl. In 1993, Johnson wrote Turning The Thing Around: My Life in Football (ghostwritten by Ed Hinton). Johnson currently lives in Islamorada in the Florida Keys where he spends most of his time fishing.
Born in Port Arthur, Texas, Johnson graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School (now Memorial High School) in Port Arthur, where one of his classmates was future rock superstar Janis Joplin, whom Johnson nicknamed "beat weeds."
He went to college at the University of Arkansas and won a national title on the football team, where he was an all-SWC defensive lineman for Hall of Fame coach Frank Broyles, and a teammate of future Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Johnson's future rival head coach, Barry Switzer, was an assistant coach. Johnson was nick-named "Jimmy Jumpup" because he never stayed down on the ground for long during football practices or games as it was said his determination was boundless.
Johnson's Hurricanes would post the school's first undefeated regular season in 1986, only to lose the National Championship Game that year to #2 Penn State. The loss, along with losses in Miami's prior two bowl games, began to raise questions about whether Johnson was capable of winning major games. In the ensuing 1987 season, however, the Hurricanes went undefeated in the regular season yet again, and winning the school's second National Title by defeating Johnson's old tormentor Oklahoma for the third season in a row.
Johnson also created controversy by allowing the University of Miami to retire Vinny Testaverde's football jersey number #14, but refusing to retire Bernie Kosar's number #20, even though Kosar played one season for Johnson and led the Hurricanes to the national title (though that didn't come under Johnson). Testaverde played four seasons for Johnson and entered Miami as a redshirt freshman, but lost both times when the Hurricanes played for the title (35–7 to Tennessee in the 1986 Sugar Bowl and 14–10 to Penn State in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl). Johnson's reason for not retiring Kosar's number was, "Bernie didn't finish the program here (at Miami)." Kosar graduated with honors a year ahead of his freshman class in 1985 with a dual major in finance and economics (and subsequently entered the NFL's supplemental draft), while Testaverde never graduated, despite attending for five years.
Johnson served as head coach of the Cowboys from 1989 through 1993. He is one of only six men in NFL history—(including Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Chuck Noll, Mike Shanahan, and Bill Belichick)—to coach consecutive Super Bowl winners, winning Super Bowl XXVII in 1992 and Super Bowl XXVIII in 1993.
After the 1993 Super Bowl victory, Johnson resigned as head coach, due largely to his inability to work with Jones. Jones then hired another former teammate at Arkansas, former University of Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer and the Cowboys won another Super Bowl two seasons after Johnson's departure, although Johnson still received a significant amount of credit for that third Super Bowl victory, as he was generally credited with having assembled the team.
Johnson's tenure in Miami was a disappointment, and it did not live up to expectations. Johnson won fewer games in his first season than Shula had in his final season (8–8 vs. 9–7). Johnson's overall winning percentage at Miami was 55.3% vs. 65.8% for Shula
Johnson inherited one of the NFL's best offenses, led by Hall of Fame Quarterback Dan Marino, but only a mediocre defense. As a defensive specialist, Johnson expected to put together a championship defense. With complete control over personnel decisions, Johnson and his staff signed several excellent defensive players, drafting future pro bowlers Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor, Sam Madison, and Patrick Surtain. But Johnson's draft record in Miami was blemished by several high profile first round busts, including running back John Avery and wide receiver Yatil Green.
In January 1999 Johnson resigned as Dolphins head coach, citing burnout. He reversed his decision in one day, after Dan Marino -- with whom Johnson had a strained relationship -- pleaded with Johnson to come back. Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga also hired in the recently-fired Chicago Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt, a former assistant under Johnson both at the University of Miami and in Dallas, as Defensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach.
In the face of Super Bowl–level expectations, Miami faded down the stretch, and Johnson's relationship with Marino dissolved completely. The Dolphins' final game of the season was an embarrassing 62–7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Divisional Playoff Round. Johnson resigned the day after the game and Marino soon thereafter announced his retirement.
Johnson never won a Super Bowl in Miami, only won 1 playoff game, and retired after compiling a 26–21 record. He was succeeded by Dave Wannstedt.
After leaving the Dolphins, Johnson became a TV studio analyst again for Fox Sports, and is currently part of their NFL pregame show. He has been assigned as a studio analyst for Fox's coverage of the Bowl Championship Series in January with Chris Rose as the host, and also pens a column on Foxsports.com.
"If you're gonna talk the talk, you better walk the walk!"
"Let the mind control the body, not the body control the mind."
"Treat a person as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat him as what he could be, and he will become what he should be."
"The best game we play will be the last one of the year." (his way of avoiding mentioning Super Bowl to his players but implying it as the goal and expectation)
"Hey, Johnny Majors couldn't help it if I had a young and nervous football team." (after losing to Tennessee by a score of 35-7 in the Sugar Bowl following the 1985 season)