Jimmy Johnson not so sure the Los Angeles Rams need an offense-minded coach

Former NFL coach Jimmy Johnson, pictured in 1997 when he was with the Dolphins, was the first coach to win a college football national championship and a Super Bowl.
(Todd Warshaw / Allsport)

What should the Rams keep in mind when hiring their next coach? NFL legends Tony Dungy, Ron Wolf and Jimmy Johnson weigh in with their first-person perspective in this three-part series on finding a coach who best fits a franchise. Saturday: Tony Dungy. Sunday: Ron Wolf. Monday: Jimmy Johnson.

Jimmy Johnson is in an elite club of football coaches. He was the first of three to win a college football national championship and a Super Bowl. After him came Barry Switzer and Pete Carroll.

Johnson, a former University of Miami coach, won two Super Bowls as coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 1989-93, then replaced the legendary Don Shula as Miami Dolphins coach from 1996-99. Johnson is now a studio co-host on “Fox NFL Sunday.”


There’s been a lot of talk publicly about the Rams getting an offensive coach, and obviously they need to get that offense straightened out. But the main thing is to get the right head coach. The right head coach can always hire an outstanding offensive coordinator.

You look at some of the top coaches of all time, and the majority of them have been defensive coaches. But they’ve got their hand in the offense and they’ve had some outstanding offensive assistants. I don’t think it’s a given that the Rams are going to hire an offensive coach.

How you classify a coach can be a little misleading, anyway. You could say Bill Belichick is a defensive coach, but how long ago was that? He’s a close friend of mine, and I know he has a hand in everything.

The main thing is getting the right head coach, and the Rams don’t need to be in a hurry to do it. Some coaches are really good in interviews, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the right guy. So many of these people making these types of decisions around the league are truly not football people. Some of these owners want to get involved, and some of these owners have no clue about football. The No. 1 thing is to make sure that football people are making these decisions, and getting the right advice from the right people.

A lot of people will ask me about a certain coach, and I’ll say, “I can only tell you what I’ve heard.” But unless I have personally worked with somebody, I can’t tell you how he is. … I don’t want some stranger calling me and saying, “Hey, can you recommend me for a job?” I’m going to tell him, “You seem like a nice guy and I’ve enjoyed visiting with you, but unless I’ve actually worked with you, it’s going to be hard for me to recommend you.”

If I’m assessing a coaching opening, I want to know: Do they have the right quarterback? Do they have some talent? Do I have a situation where I can go and get talent? As far as the newness of the Rams being back in Los Angeles, the stadium they’re building and all that stuff, those things don’t mean a whole lot.

I think the jury is still out with Jared Goff. I’ve seen some good things, but by the same token I’ve seen some things I wasn’t real impressed with.

As a coach, you need to know what kind of working situation you have with your personnel department. Being a GM and handing talent all those years, I wouldn’t go into a situation unless I was picking the talent. Some coaches might not want to mess with that, but every coach is going to want some kind of say in it.

As far as hiring a coach from college football, that’s a completely different world. If a college coach hasn’t had some pro experience, I would be leery of hiring him. In my last four or five years in college football, I visited pro camps and spent a lot of time with pro people, preparing for pro football.

College is a different game, it’s a different world, it’s a different length of season. There are different demands. If it’s a college coach who hasn’t had any exposure to pro football, you’re probably in for a rude awakening.

A lot of coaches in college can get away with mistakes because their players are so much more talented than their opponents. If you’re at one of the top 10 schools in college, you’re going to win eight or nine games just by showing up. The No. 1 thing for college coaches is recruiting. Get good players.

For the Rams, the biggest thing is getting the right guy to win games. It doesn’t have to be a celebrity coach. You don’t have to get a star, because if you get a star and he goes 4-12, he’s not a star anymore. If you get a no-name and he goes 12-4, all of a sudden he becomes a star.

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesFarmer