Jimmy Johnson: 'I like Chip's approach'

Joe Namath's 221st career interception. Wearing a signature mink, Broadway Joe prematurely tossed the coin before it was called. Referee Terry McAulay snatched it out of the air before a replay.
Joe Namath's 221st career interception. Wearing a signature mink, Broadway Joe prematurely tossed the coin before it was called. Referee Terry McAulay snatched it out of the air before a replay. (MCT)
Posted: February 04, 2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - They're known for their innovations on opposite sides of the ball, but Chip Kelly and Jimmy Johnson could end up having more in common if the former continues to follow the latter's winning path from college football to the NFL.

Johnson, a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach, said he saw similarities between his approach when he made the jump to the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 and Kelly's when he left Oregon for the Eagles last year.

No. 1, they didn't abandon what worked for them in the college game - Kelly with his offense and Johnson with his defense - despite naysayers.

"I like Chip's approach," said Johnson, who was in New York last week promoting Fox's coverage of Super Bowl XLVIII. "For instance, when we came in the league, we played a [defensive] coverage. Phil Simms told Bill Parcells when we played the Giants, 'Hey, they're playing that college coverage.' And Parcells said, 'You better learn that college coverage because these guys know what they're doing.'

"It was Cover 2. Now everybody in the league plays Cover 2. Hey, it was successful for us in college, so I said it will be successful for us here. And I think Chip Kelly is taking the same approach."

Johnson left the University of Miami after compiling a 52-9 record, including a national championship, in five seasons. He needed more time than Kelly to turn the Cowboys around. He went 1-15 and 7-9 in his first two seasons, but Johnson had to completely overhaul his roster, something that was harder before free agency.

By his third season, though, he had Troy Aikman at quarterback, Emmitt Smith at running back, and Michael Irvin at wide receiver, and the 11-5 Cowboys won the NFC East. In Years 4 and 5, Johnson guided Dallas to the franchise's third and fourth Super Bowl titles.

Kelly made changes on the defensive side of the ball in his first year, but the offensive personnel remained essentially the same, if not the scheme. While he did incorporate many aspects of his Oregon offense - no huddle, up-tempo, package plays, the zone read - Kelly also adapted to NFL defenses and the skill-set of quarterback Nick Foles.

The Eagles went 10-6, a year after going 4-12, and won the division.

Neither Johnson nor Kelly had coached or played in the NFL before his arrival, but each knew enough about the league. Johnson, like Kelly, attended NFL camps for years and implemented pro elements into Miami's schemes.

"We'd go to two or three camps every offseason and spend time with the pro coaches and watch how they operated," Johnson said. "So I was a little bit better prepared than some of the college coaches."

Johnson also said that Kelly's selection of players in his first draft was comparable to how he drafted in his first few seasons. Three of the Eagles' first four picks were players who were on teams that beat Oregon during Kelly's tenure. He also selected prospects he had tried to recruit.

Johnson tried to enlist Aikman and Smith before they went to Oklahoma and Florida, respectively. And he coached Irvin at Miami.

"If you're in one of the top college programs, you're going to know the top players," Johnson said. "And so, when you go into professional ball you get an opportunity to draft those players. . . . You've probably already been in their homes. So you know them as a person."

Wilson stands tall

With the Seahawks' clobbering of the Broncos, Russell Wilson became the smallest quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

Not selected until the third round of the 2012 draft, likely because of his 5-foot-11 frame, Wilson said he never heard a discouraging word from his father as he faced long odds to reach the NFL.

"He used to always tell me, 'Russ, why not you?' " Wilson said of his father, Harrison, who died in 2010 from complications of diabetes. "And what that meant was believe in yourself, believe in the talent God has given you, even though you are 5-11, and you can go a long ways.

"That's why I decided to play football, and I wanted to go against the odds a little bit."

Drew Brees of the Saints and Len Dawson of the Chiefs, both listed at 6-foot, were previously the shortest players to win Super Bowls at a position that some insist must be played by men taller than 6-2.

Wilson went 18 of 25 for 206 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. He ran three times for 26 yards and had no turnovers.

"He's the general," Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin said. "I still . . . haven't seen anybody prepare the way he prepares. There were three minutes on the clock, still ticking, and he's still in our face telling us, 'Stay ready,' and we're like, 'Man, the game's pretty much over.' He just wants to be great that much."

Extra points

Seattle's 22-point halftime lead was the second largest in Super Bowl history, behind the 49ers' 29-0 lead over the Broncos in 1989. . . . Former Super Bowl-winning quarterback and Fox television analyst Terry Bradshaw was not part of the network's coverage after the death of his father, Bill, at the age of 86.


 

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