DAVIE, Fla., Jan. 11 -- Jimmy Johnson Thursday became the highest paid coach in the National Football League when signed a four- year, $8 million contract to take over the Miami Dolphins. Johnson's appointment as successor to the retired Don Shula was announced Thursday afternoon by Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga at a news conference during which Huizenga stated the terms of Johnson's contract, including the fact that Johnson will have complete control of the team and that the contract is the richest for any coach in pro football. Johnson gains the distinction of replacing two of the most successful coaches in NFL history, Tom Landry at Dallas and Shula at Miami. 'Jimmy will be in complete control of all the day-to-day operations and aspects of the Miami Dolphins,' said Huizenga. 'He will haveexactly the same authority Don Shula had through the years.' Johnson led the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl championships in 1992 and 1993 before resigning and becoming a commentator for the Fox Network. Johnson had reportedly talked to other teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, about a return to coaching but made it well known that he favored south Florida as a place to live. Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history with 347 victories, stepped down as coach of the Dolphins last Friday. After a series of offseason personnel moves raised fan expectations entering the 1995 season, the Dolphins' 9-7 record and playoff rout by the Buffalo Binls came as a bitter disappointment.
Many fans had been clamoring for months for Shula's departure and for Johnson to replace him. Johnson said he took the job with the Dolphins because he felt the team could become a champion in the near future. 'I don't think this team needs a major overhaul,' said Johnson. 'There will be changes. That comes with the territory. I knew when I signed the contract the expectations would be high. 'I coach the game with a passion. That's the way you get to be the very, very best. If I didn't feel I could get it done in two to three years, I wouldn't be here. 'I'm a hands on coach. I like guys who work hard and play good. I coach with passion and I expect my players to play with passion. The talent we have here made me decide where I am today. 'I've had opportunities to go back into coaching. This allows me to reach a goal I've had in coaching -- to be the very best. When I saw the opportunity and the commitment to winning here, that's when it sparked, I want to do it again -- I can do it again.' Johnson said his work as a television analyst kept him closely involved with pro football. 'It helped me stay on top of trends, the zone blitzes,' said Johnson. 'I had the opportunuty to talk to head coaches throughout the league, talk to them about what they are doing. I think that's going to make me a better coach.' Johnson said his first task will be to select a coaching staff and begin evaluating talent for the draft in April. 'All of the coaches will be evaluated,' said Johnson. 'I told them I want to have the plan in place. I want to have the organization in place before I go one at a time.' Johnson coached the Cowboys to back-to-back Super Bowl titles after the 1992 and 1993 seasons. But Johnson lost the opportunity to become the first coach to win three straight Super Bowls when he decided not to return for the 1994 season. Johnson said he left the Cowboys because he felt he lost his focus as a coach, but many attributed his departure to his stormy relationship with Dallas owner Jerry Jones. Jones purchased the Cowboys in 1989 and named Johnson as head coach to replace the legendary Tom Landry. Johnson was 1-15 in his first season with the Cowboys in 1989, but quickly rebuilt them into a playoff team two years later. Three years after the disastrous first season, the Cowboys beat Buffalo 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII. Dallas repeated as champions, again beating Buffalo, 30-13, in Super Bowl XXVIII. Johnson was 51-37, including playoffs, in his five years in Dallas. Johnson served as head coach at the University of Miami from 1984 to 1988 and compiled a 52-9 record. The Hurricanes won the national championship under Johnson in 1987. Johnson previously was the head coach at Oklahoma State from 1979 to 1983. He was 29-25-3 in his five years at Oklahoma State.