Johnson to Coach Dolphins

TIMES STAFF WRITER

They may not be the first words Jimmy Johnson speaks today, but coming soon to a sound bite near you . . .

How 'bout them Dolphins!

In a move that has been anticipated from the moment he left the sidelines two years ago, Johnson has returned to the NFL as coach of the Miami Dolphins.

According to a Dolphin source, there will be a news conference today announcing that Johnson, 52, has replaced legendary Don Shula, who retired last week.

It will be a familiar position for Johnson, considering he replaced the legendary Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 for his first NFL job.

After five years in Dallas, he had won consecutive Super Bowls before leaving in the wake of a celebrated feud with Cowboy owner Jerry Jones, who then hired buddy Barry Switzer.

Johnson has spent the last two seasons as a television analyst and subject of constant rumors. In joining the Dolphins, he will be returning to the site of his 1987 national championship as coach of the University of Miami.

His new owner, Wayne Huizenga, will not be as controlling as Jones. But his new on-field situation will not be so pliable.

Johnson is taking over an overpaid, underachieving team that was expected to reach the Super Bowl but went 9-7 with a season-ending humiliation in the playoffs at Buffalo.

The differences between this situation, and the Cowboy surroundings in 1989, are many.

In Dallas, Johnson inherited a first-round draft pick that became Troy Aikman.

In Miami, his quarterback is aging Dan Marino, who is in no mood to rebuild.

In Dallas, Johnson inherited expendable talent Herschel Walker, whom he traded for several high draft picks that he used to build the core of his team.

In Miami, there are no marquee players besides Marino that he could deal for more than one first-round pick.

"Jimmy really fell into some things here that speeded up the process," Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman said of Johnson. "It will be hard to duplicate that."

Expect some members of the high-priced defensive line to be blown out. And linebacker Bryan Cox to be muzzled. And at least half of the pouting secondary will be shipped away. Slouching receiver Irving Fryar will probably be told to move it or lose it. The old offensive line will probably get young, fast.

Shula left a legacy of 347 victories. But Johnson has few equals in the combined areas of coaching and talent evaluation, as was proven by his turnaround in Dallas--where he went 1-15 in his first season but 13-3 in his fourth.

Johnson helped elevate Aikman from a struggling rookie into the league's top quarterback. He oversaw an offensive line that helped Emmitt Smith become the league's top running back.

His style of fast, attacking defenses--with which he took pride because he was always a defensive coach--are now being emulated by many teams in the league.

Times staff writers T.J. Simers and Larry Stewart contributed to this story.

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