b. July 16, 1943, Port Arthur, TX
The co-captain of the undefeated University of Arkansas team in 1964, Johnson was an assistant coach at several schools before becoming head coach at Oklahoma State in 1979. He won 30 games, lost 25, and tied 2 in 5 seasons there before going to the University of Miami, Florida, in 1984.
He built a remarkable record at Miami, winning 52 games with just 9 losses in 5 seasons. His undefeated 1987 team was ranked first in the nation after winning all 11 regular season games and beating Oklahoma 20-14 in the Orange. The 1986 team was ranked first after the regular season, when it won all 11 games, but dropped to second because of a 14-10 loss to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl. Johnson's 1988 squad was also rated second.
Jerry Jones, the other Arkansas co-captain in 1964, bought the NFL's Dallas Cowboys in 1989 and hired Johnson as head coach, replacing the legendary Tom Landry, who had been the team's only coach until then. The move was criticized in many circles, and criticism continued after the Cowboys had a 1-15-0 record in Johnson's first season.
However, the Cowboys improved to 7-9-0 in 1990, 11-5-0 in 1991, and 13-3-0 in 1992, when they went on to beat the Buffalo Bills 52-17 in the Super Bowl. Johnson coached Dallas to a second straight Super Bowl victory over Buffalo by a 30-13 score following the 1993 season.
Johnson and Jones then had a falling out, mainly because Jones felt that Johnson was getting (and taking) too much credit for the Cowboys' success, and Johnson resigned. After two years as a television analyst, he became head coach and general manager of the Miami Dolphins in 1996, replacing the legendary Don Shula.
Although he had a respectable 36-28 record with the Dolphins and took them to the playoffs three straight years, Johnson resigned after the 1999 season.
A believer in speed rather than size, Johnson was often considered primarily an offensive coach, especially in his approach to the passing game. However, attacking defenses at both Miami and Dallas were important to his successful record. The Cowboys had the top-rated defense in the NFL in 1992.