OXNARD, Calif. — Everyone who followed the NFL at the time knew that the Dallas Cowboys were unraveling at the seams in 1994 when owner Jerry Jones and coach Jimmy Johnson had "mutually decided" to part ways.
The Cowboys were coming off of two consecutive Super Bowl wins over the Buffalo Bills and were set to be a dynasty.
Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer was an assistant coach with the 1964 Arkansas Razorbacks, who won a national championship with Jones and Johnson on the roster. The national championship winning coach probably didn't know what division the Cowboys played in, but he knew how consequential the dissolution of Jones and Johnson could be to the franchise.
According to Jones, one of Switzer's first acts when he visited with Jones at Valley Ranch in 1994 was to make peace between the two former Hogs.
"Barry Switzer came in the office and Jimmy had just left," Jones said. "And, so, Barry came down from Norman, Oklahoma, to talk about getting the job. And he comes in and he said, 'Where's Jimmy?'"
Switzer couldn't accept Jones' explanation that Johnson had departed the organization and wasn't coming back.
Said Jones: "I said, 'Barry, Jimmy's gone. We're sitting here talking about you being the coach.' I said, 'What in the world are you so anxious to talk to Jimmy about?'
"He said, 'I just want to get both you little a------- on this couch and ask you both how could you [mess] this up.' That was Switzer."
Switzer took over as coach of the Cowboys from 1994-97, winning Super Bowl XXX 27-17 over the Pittsburgh Steelers at the end of the 1995 season. Although Switzer joined Johnson as the only coaches at that time to win a national championship and a Super Bowl, the asterisk next to his accomplishment was that he did it with Johnson's roster.
One of the greatest what-ifs in Cowboys history is what the 1990s might have looked like with Johnson on the sideline. Could the Cowboys, who have never been to so much as an NFC Championship Game since 1995, added more Lombardi Trophies?
"Jimmy's a great coach, ridiculous, my role here was to keep it together," said Jones. It was my job. Should have had deference to something that was working good. Those are the things that come to my mind. We had a great run of it. He's a great coach, and I'm proud to have him as a friend, and proud to have had the times that we had. We just had a great experience."
The Cowboys have a roster replete with youth, talent, and veteran leadership with quarterback Dak Prescott embodying all three qualities. Dallas opens camp seeking to rebound from a 6-10 finish and third place in the NFC East.
The Cowboys' first preseason game is Aug. 5 against the Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game. Johnson will finally be inducted into the Hall of Fame that weekend after being selected as part of the Class of 2020.
Do you think Jerry Jones made a mistake by letting Jimmy Johnson get away all those years ago? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.