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Going From Rambo to Dirty Barry : Pro football: Switzer easing into his job as coach of the Cowboys.

July 24, 1994|MIKE PRESTON | BALTIMORE SUN

AUSTIN, Tex. — He's traveled from the Oklahoma plains into this Texas town to do a job.

He's one tough hombre.

The name is Barry Switzer.

The Boss calls him Clint Eastwood.

"Comparing Jimmy Johnson to Barry Switzer is like comparing Rambo to Clint Eastwood," said Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner. "Rambo came in with a lot of fire and smoke, explosions and gunfire. That was Jimmy. Barry is more relaxed, laid back. He comes into a town real quiet and then lights it up. Both are big-bang guys."

In the Cowboys' first week of camp, Switzer hasn't had the presence of a Bear Bryant, peering down out of the tower. In fact, his motto seems to be walk lightly and carry a little stick.

Switzer, 57, doesn't scream. He doesn't teach. The Cowboys run the same offense, the same defense, have the same techniques and use the same practice schedule. Switzer occasionally steps into various player stations, picks up a few tidbits, and then moves on to the next group. The only time he gets involved is to congratulate a player on an outstanding play.

"Way to go Troy, way to go Emmitt."

He slaps them on the butt.

That's it.

"I think Coach Switzer can be effective like Coach Johnson," said Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman. "Coach Johnson wasn't a big X and O guy. He let his assistants do that.

"But make no doubt, Coach Johnson put his stamp on the team. He got the team motivated. Right now Barry is observing. Eventually, he has to put his stamp on the team. It will be tough."

That's because there are so many questions. Do the Cowboys have enough talent left to win an unprecedented third straight Super Bowl? Can a new offensive coordinator be as effective as the last one? Can Switzer coach on this level?

Switzer could get into another no-win situation like George Seifert, who had to replace Bill Walsh in San Francisco. In five years, Seifert has been to the playoffs, including the National Football Conference Championship Game, four times, and won a Super Bowl in his rookie season.

But Seifert is never mentioned in the same breath with The Genius. And Switzer has a double whammy.

He coached at Oklahoma for 16 years (three national championships) and had the Red River rivalry with the University of Texas. Texans are known to hold a grudge even against Texans.

Last Friday, a fan spotted Mississippi State Coach Jackie Sherrill on the sidelines at practice. Sherrill was disliked in Austin when he coached at Texas A&M.

"It's bad enough having to put up with Switzer," shouted the fan. "Get out of here, Sherrill. Get off the sidelines."

Anti-Switzer banners at practice are taken down by security guards.

"For the most part, the reception here has been great," said Switzer, who has been out of coaching since he left Oklahoma in 1988. "Now to stay in public favor, we've just got to win some games."

Anything short of a three-peat could cause problems in Big D, and a lot of the talent from the previous two teams is gone.

On the departed list are linebacker Ken Norton, guards Kevin Gogan and John Gesek, kicker Eddie Murray, defensive tackle Tony Casillas, tight end Jimmie Jones and quarterback Bernie Kosar. All but Kosar played vital roles for the Cowboys the past two seasons.

Also on the list is offensive coordinator Norv Turner, now head coach of the Washington Redskins.

"If we keep Emmitt and Troy healthy, we still have the nucleus to make the road to the NFL championship come through Dallas," said Switzer. "I'm excited, it's like I'm a kid again. I'm pumped up like it was my first day at Oklahoma. I look at those rings the players have, and I'm committed to getting one. I look at this as a challenge.

"I'm not here to rock the boat, and I don't care who gets the credit. I've always considered myself a man of reasonable intelligence, and I'm not going to interfere with something that's been successful."

Switzer seems to have won over the veteran players. A trademark of his at Oklahoma was to call a player by number instead of his name. Not anymore.

"The game is still the same, a halfback is still a halfback and you still have to block and tackle to win," said Switzer. "But you can't say, hey 22 (Emmitt Smith) get over here. You say, 'Mr. Smith, would you please join us in our little huddle because I want you to carry the football.' "

But it's Jones who provides the most pressure, as Johnson can attest. After two Super Bowls, their strained relationship finally snapped last winter. After an incident at a cocktail party -- Jones said Johnson snubbed him after a toast--the owner started talking about a coaching change. Johnson took him up on it in March, agreeing to a cash settlement of his contract.

The owner hasn't changed, apparently. Jones, who was coached by Switzer as a freshman at the University of Arkansas, has attended every practice, looking like one of Switzer's assistants. Johnson would not have allowed this.

Jones wears coach's shorts and molded athletic shoes. He talks with other assistants, sometimes "breaking down" to show a technique.

Every shirt of Jones' has a Super Bowl logo on it, and he loves to flash the ring. Always.

Switzer is aware of Jones' presence on the field, and he stops occasionally to chat with his boss.

"The shirt, the ring, it's a reminder to Barry," said Jones, always the last off the field after doing countless interviews. "Yes, I wear them intentionally because I know Barry wants one of these bad."

Switzer also wants to please Jones. Last Monday, Switzer was reluctant to attend a golf tournament. Jones insisted. Switzer was there. Even posed for a picture with former University of Texas football Coach Darrell Royal, a person he never liked.

"Our last coach got burned out, so we're giving this one relaxation every other day," Jones said jokingly.

Switzer smiled. "He's the boss. I'm thankful he gave me the job," said Switzer.

He doesn't want to rock the boat.

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