Gil LeBreton

Canton has it backward, voting in Cowboys’ Jerry before Jimmy

On this day, the Tuesday of what appears destined to be the most meaningful week of Jerry Jones’ football life, Jimmy Johnson had only words of praise for his former boss.

“I said this at the time when I saw he was nominated,” the two-time-winning Super Bowl coach said. “You look at the value of every franchise in the league right now and see how it’s skyrocketed.

“I think his vision, his marketing, sometimes his persistence on some of the things, the TV contracts, etc., I think without question he deserves to be in there.”

Well and good. The Jones bandwagon, despite some notable derailments, has turned into a locomotive seemingly bound for Canton.

The vote will come Saturday.

And the head coach who took Jones’ team and shaped the Dallas Cowboys into the NFL’s juggernaut of the 1990s?

Jimmy laughed at the thought.

My question to him was whether he thought Jerry getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame would enhance his own chances.

You would have thought I had mussed up his hair.

“I’m 73 years old, going on 74,” Johnson said, when he had stopped laughing. “That’s wayyyyy down my list of concerns. I’m more concerned about being here for 74 and 75.”

It was a modest answer, a discreet one. Jimmy might be the healthiest, happiest-looking 73-year-old on the planet. If he’s lost any sleep over not having a bust in Canton — or a worse slight, not yet being in the Cowboys Ring of Honor — Johnson doesn’t show it.

Indeed, at a gathering Tuesday of Super Bowl media, Jimmy never looked more comfortable. Media members would stop by Johnson’s table and ask him about this particular team or that particular quarterback — right in Jimmy’s wheelhouse, in other words — and Jimmy would knock it out of the park.

On the New England Patriots’ twosome of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady:

“I think Bill Belichick is the greatest coach to ever coach in the league. I think Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever play in the league. I think if you look at the records, it backs it up.”

Jones is a Hall of Fame finalist in what the Canton people call the “contributors” category. George Halas and Lamar Hunt are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as contributors, as are the Rooneys and the Maras and the man who originally built the Cowboys, Tex Schramm.

Great men all.

But 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. also is in the Hall as a contributor, mostly for hiring Bill Walsh as head coach.

And that’s where the Jerry-Jimmy inconsistency irks me. Without Jimmy Johnson, would Jones have won a single Super Bowl?

Owner Jones’ post-Jimmy record screams no.

Johnson’s quarterback was also at Tuesday’s Fox press conference and was asked about Jimmy’s omission from the Hall.

“I know what Jimmy meant to our teams,” Troy Aikman said. “I’ve always said that if any of us are in the Hall of Fame, then Jimmy should be in, because our success began with Jimmy.

“I guess what hurts him is maybe a lack of longevity on his part. But that’s the price Jimmy paid when he wanted to go to the Keys and fish.

“I think he’s a great coach and a great evaluator of talent. Whether or not he gets in the Hall of Fame I don’t know, but he damn sure should be in the Ring of Honor.”

In this week, Owner Jones’ memorable week, Johnson says he’s nothing but happy for his former boss.

And his own chances?

“Hey,” Jimmy said. “Years ago it might have been a concern. Very little concern right now.”

Well and good. But Jerry Jones in the Pro Football Hall of Fame before Jimmy Johnson?

Sounds backward to me.

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