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MURRELL COLUMN: Nine spots in Super Bowl, but no room for PA in Canton

It shouldn’t have been an eye-popper, but it was. Jimmy Johnson was named a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Immediately, visions of a trip to Canton, Ohio, came to mind. Present inductees from Port Arthur and surrounding areas, not so much. Not even greater Orange.

(I even checked with Bob West. If anyone knows one otherwise, please call me.)

Really, what’s taking so long for Johnson to get in? Are back-to-back Super Bowls as a head coach not enough?

Yeah, they are. So, forgive Johnson that he didn’t coach as long as Bill Belichick has.

Still, Johnson’s career is about as rewarding as Vince Lombardi’s in Super Bowl history. Each has won the Big Game twice. Lombardi, though, won three more championships in the pre-Super Bowl era (before 1966 season) with Green Bay.

Lombardi posted a 96-34-6 record in 10 seasons as a head coach. Johnson went 80-64 in nine seasons — and he managed to coach the Miami Dolphins to eight or more wins in each of his four years there. Can’t he get some love from Canton for that?

Still, Johnson’s success — even combined with his personality on Fox Sports — were not enough for him to make the finalists’ cut for the Class of 2017.

Somehow, Don Coryell’s success with the St. Louis (now Arizona) Cardinals and San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers is enough to make him a finalist, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — yes, Jerry Jones — is on the list.

Voting for Coryell can be justified. He was the first coach to win more than 100 games each on the collegiate and NFL levels. The “Air Coryell” offense revolutionized the game.

Voting for Jones can be justified. Three world championships and a valuation of $4.2 billion to top the NFL makes him look like the world’s smartest businessman.

I guess it was also genius that he forced Johnson out of Valley Ranch at the prime of the Thomas Jefferson graduate’s career so that Barry Switzer could get him his next ring.

To overlook Johnson for Canton can’t be the result of player-data overload, just because Hall of Fame lovers are fixated on the greats who played the game in the NFL. The Hall makes room for the coaches and executives who’ve shaped the game.

Compare Johnson’s place in football history — the first coach to win a collegiate national championship and a Super Bowl — with Coryell’s, and there is simply no excuse.

This is not from the mind of a Port Arthur News sports editor. It is from the mind a Cowboys fan since 1991, who happened to grow up a fan of the team Switzer, Johnson and Jones played for, the Arkansas Razorbacks.

As we celebrate the eighth and ninth Port Arthur ISD graduates who are playing in next Sunday’s Super Bowl, there is no plausible reason Johnson is not in the Hall of Fame by now. And that’s drawing from all points of reference.

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or at ic.murrell@panews.com. On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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