From 1984 to 1988, the Miami Hurricanes were one of the most dominant teams in college football history. In a span of four years, the Canes lost just two regular season games, appeared in two National Championship games, and captured the schools second title in 1987.
Leading the charge for Miami was head coach Jimmy Johnson, who arrived to Coral Gables from Oklahoma State in 1984 and helped turn the Hurricanes into the U. Then, following the 1988 season, Johnson was gone, and bolted to the NFL to take over as head coach for the Dallas Cowboys.
There have been several UM coaches who have made the decision to leave Miami to go to the NFL, and Jimmy’s choice is still talked about today. So, on this weeks “What If Wednesday,” we peg the question, what if Jimmy Johnson never left Miami?
First off let’s state the obvious, and that obvious lies in Dallas and in the NFL. If Jimmy didn’t take the head coaching job for the Cowboys after the 1988 year, there’s a real possibility that we don’t have one of the great dynasties in pro football history.
Though he coached in Dallas for just five years, Johnson led the Cowboys to Super Bowls in 1992 and 1993. If Jimmy rejects Jerry Jones offer and is forced to pick another head coach for the Cowboys, who does he hire instead? Does he go with Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, who left OU after that same 1988 season?
Does Dallas still draft Troy Aikman number one in 1989? Does the famous Herschel Walker trade happen that same year? Does Emmitt Smith get drafted in 1990, and if not, is he still the NFL’s all-time leading rusher? It’s a possibility that America’s Team still has two Super Bowl championships instead of five.
Here’s some more scenarios:
-The Herschel Walker trade never happens in 1989— Bring K.J. Sails To The U (@hurricanesmarsh) April 30, 2019
-Emmitt Smith doesn't become the NFL's leading rusher
-Troy Aikman goes to the Lions
-Barry Sanders goes to the Packers
-Steve Young has more than one Super Bowl
-The Bills have at least one Super Bowl
Now let’s go back to Coral Gables. This is an interesting question when thinking about the Hurricanes, because, Miami still won a National Championship without Jimmy and under new coach Dennis Erickson in 1989, and then again in 1991. Now JJ did win a title in 1987, but besides that, his team did falter in some pretty big stages throughout his time.
In 1985 and 1986, Johnson and his team lost in both the Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, when a win would’ve given Miami a National Championship. Then in 1988, even though you can blame it on the refs, a loss at Notre Dame dashed the dreams for another chance to play for a title. So who’s to say that Miami still wins two more titles if Johnson decides to stay?
But then again, what if the Hurricanes do win the national championship in 1989? Moving onto 1990, does Miami still lose at BYU in the season opener? Remember, Jimmy’s teams at Miami rarely lost in the regular season, and from 1985 to 1988, they lost just one game on the road during the regular season! So if the Hurricanes don’t lose at BYU, beat Notre Dame on the road, you can’t tell me that Colorado or Georgia Tech is beating that Miami team in the National Championship. So that means another title for the Canes in 1990, and then again in 1991, which would be a three-peat for JJ and UM.
Here’s another way to look at Jimmy staying at Miami. Now obviously things weren’t perfect during Johnson’s time at UM, in terms of complying with NCAA rules. However, when the NCAA put Miami on probation in 1995, a majority of the allegations took place while Dennis Erickson was head coach. If JJ remains at UM, are they able to control that situation, and are the NCAA’s sanctions on Miami as harsh? Also, if Johnson stays, we wouldn’t have had the penalty fiasco that took place in the 1990 Cotton Bowl against Texas.
But let’s go back to the 1989 season. When Jimmy decides to stay with the Hurricanes, quarterback Steve Walsh also decides to stay at Miami for his final year of eligibility instead of declaring for the NFL Draft. He finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy race in 1988, and because he stays for his senior season, he then wins the Heisman Trophy and the National Championship in 1989. The following year in 1990, because he stayed for another season in college, he then becomes one of the top players taken in that years NFL Draft instead of going in the supplemental draft in 1989. Perhaps, Walsh even then carves up a decent career in the pros.
Now consider yet another scenario. When Johnson left to go to the Cowboys in 1989, he took Butch Davis with him to be the defensive line coach in Dallas. Once Johnson left Dallas after the 1993 season, Davis was then promoted to defensive coordinator for the Cowboys, and then was hired as UM’s head coach in 1995. So if Jimmy stays at Miami in 1989 and so on, Davis doesn’t go to the NFL that year, and therefore doesn’t climb the coaching ladder as fast, so does he ever become the head coach for the Hurricanes?
And finally, for my last scenario. Jimmy stays at Miami until he wins his third-consecutive National Championship in 1991. Following that season, JJ leaves to go become the head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles instead of Rich Kotite after Buddy Ryan’s contract expires, where Johnson then leads Philly to new heights. Because Jimmy stayed at Miami in 1989, Dave Wannstedt also stayed on Johnson’s staff at UM instead of going with him to the Cowboys, and then becomes the next head coach for the Hurricanes in 1992.
Am I missing anything? What other “What If Wednesday,” scenarios would you guys like me to write about?