I recently had the opportunity to represent Bleacher Report in interviewing former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson. He talked about his upcoming appearance on the reality show Survivor, his partnership with Crown Royal, the Dallas Cowboys, and the rest of the NFL.
Here is how the conversation went.
BR: Jimmy Johnson! It’s a pleasure to speak with you today.
JJ: Very nice to speak with you.
BR: Can you talk about your recent appearance as a contestant on the show Survivor?
JJ: Really, this is something that I've wanted to do for a long time and finally had the opportunity, I tried six years ago and got turned down and three years ago got turned down medically. I went all the way to the end and they found some blockage in my arteries and I took care of it and lost 30 pounds and got my cholesterol down from 220 to under 100 and started a strict workout routine. So I got in shape to do survivor and got approved this past year. The only thing I can say is as much as I enjoyed the adventure, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Lack of sleep, lack of water, lack of food, rain keeping you from sleeping, it was very difficult.
BR: Was it harder than you expected it to be?
JJ: Without question it was a lot harder. I know as a coach and a player we had three a day practices and that was physically taxing but at least we had food in our stomach and a good nights rest and plenty of cold water. This was so taxing physically and on top of that we had all the hardships that with survivor. I was hoping for at least a banana tree or a coconut tree that had something in addition to the rice but it was very, very difficult down there.
BR: Did you do anything to prepare for the show?
JJ: Yeah, I did things like study on how to build a shelter, how to start a fire. I could start a fire from scratch. So that part was OK. And I did some conditioning work, some swimming and some running, but I wasn’t prepared for all of the things that I was confronted with there in Nicaragua.
BR: What was the toughest part of being on the show?
JJ: I think the most difficult thing was really the elements. What happens when you don’t have any food in your stomach, and you don’t have any water and your dehydrated and you haven’t had any sleep, you don’t have any energy so that really affects you mentally and how you approach things.
BR: Was it the toughest thing you have ever done?
JJ: I think it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. And you have to take into account at 67 years old it was a lot more difficult than it might have been if I was 27 years old. I’m the second oldest contestant they’ve ever had. I’ve probably been in a recliner for too long or watching too long so that didn’t make it very easy. [chuckles]
BR: Can you talk about your partnership with Crown Royal and the contest you are doing with them?
JJ: Crown Royal, with the Jimmy Bowl, is an opportunity for individuals to go to crownroyal.com and watch some funny videos that I have and win a contest to where they can present a short essay or short video to win this contest via a flag football game played days after the big game in Dallas, there in Cowboys Stadium to be coached by me. It’s an all expense paid trip to Dallas, to meet the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, to play in Cowboys Stadium and again to be coached in a game coached by me. It should be a great trip for somebody.
BR: Jerry Jones recently said that he believes this Cowboys team is the most talented team he has had since the Super Bowl teams of the 90s, what do you think about that assessment?
JJ: I think it may be as sound as any team that we had. Of course, we’ve got to see them play. I think defensively they are very good, with the skill positions; they’ve got great running backs, great wide receivers. I think Dez Bryant really helps the receiving corps. They’ve got one of the best tight ends in the league. I think the big question is if that offensive line can protect Tony Romo. If they can do that, then they will be in the mix as good as anybody in the NFC. The other thing is, last year they showed that they can win some playoff games, win games late in the year. So, again, you look at the Saints, the Vikings, maybe Green Bay, but Dallas should be right in the mix.
BR: What do you think of the Cowboys taking Dez Bryant with their first pick in the NFL draft?
JJ: I thought taking Dez Bryant was a great pick. He is an extremely talented individual. There were some people that thought he was somewhat of a risk with his background and not playing last season but really he is a very, very talented individual and can make some great plays. I actually thought he should have been picked higher than what he was picked.
BR: Who do you think will be the biggest competitor to the Cowboys for the NFC East crown?
JJ: I’m really impressed with Kolb there in Philadelphia. He’s a very talented quarterback. I think he is going to make the transition from McNabb to himself so much smoother than what people expect. Andy Reid has done a great job in the past, they play good defense and I think with Kolb they are going to have an outstanding team. You look at the Giants and they were down a bit last season but I’d look for them to come back. I look for the Giants and Philadelphia to be behind the Cowboys somewhat but I think they can make it a race.
BR: What affect do you think the pressure of possibly being the first team to play in the Super Bowl at home will have on the Cowboys?
JJ: I really don’t think there will be pressure on the Cowboys if they can get to that point as far as hosting a Super Bowl. I think, if anything else, it would give them a huge home field advantage.
BR: Do you think those sort of off the field pressures affect a teams play on the field?
JJ: I think as far as any kind of pressure on a football team or on an individual in professional sports really depends not only on that individual but the leadership they have on the team and the leadership they have on the coaching staff. A lot of times, they can divert some of those pressures off of the individual and off of the team.
BR: Who do you have as your sleeper team in the NFL this season?
JJ: The sleeper team that I would have in the NFL would be the Green Bay Packers. I think Aaron Rodgers had a great year last season and wasn’t recognized for it. I think that they’re playing the underdog role with Brett Favre and Minnesota getting all of the attention. I think Green Bay could make a run at it.
BR: What team have you been most impressed with throughout the preseason?
JJ: I’ve been impressed with a couple of different individuals; it’s hard to get impressed with a team in the preseason because it’s preseason. Not much of that really goes in and really affects me. I do like the Jets, I do like the Indianapolis Colts. I think in the AFC they should be strong competitors. It’ll be interesting to see how they play, especially if the Jets get Revis back, which they should.
BR: What is your take on the whole Brett Favre retirement situation?
JJ: I think you come to expect kind of a soap opera with Brett and his back and forth being retired, unretired. And without question, the Minnesota Vikings have kind of gone out on a limb making all kind of concessions to him. I think it kind of restricts the rest of the team and it’s almost like they are depending too much on Brett to be the savior and I would be surprised if he had the magical year that he had a year ago.
BR: Do you think what Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson, and Ryan Longwell did in going to Mississippi to convince Favre to come back to the Vikings was the right way to handle the situation?
JJ: Well, only the individuals that are right in the mix can say whether that was right or wrong and you really don’t know the answer to that until you see the results. If they end up having a great year and Brett Favre plays great then it was the right thing to do. If they implode, then it was the wrong thing to do.
BR: Who do you think will win the Super Bowl?
JJ: I’m not really good with predicting. I think the teams that I talked about will be in the mix, you talk about the Cowboys, the Packers, the Vikings, the Saints, and on the other side with the Colts and the Jets.
BR: Thank you very much Jimmy.
JJ: Thank you.