There are worse assignments than doing a film on Jimmy Johnson. For NFL Films producer Bennett Viseltear and his staff, it meant spending quite a bit of time at Johnson’s home in the Florida Keys.
“We did have one day when the seas were pretty rough,” said Viseltear of going on Johnson’s fishing boat. “It almost was a little too much for our cameraman.”
Thankfully, the crew survived and likely joined Johnson in some post-voyage beers.
The laid-back Keys made for an interesting setting for latest edition of A Football Life, the terrific documentary series on NFL Network. Wednesday’s show (8 p.m. ET) focuses on the complex career and life of Johnson.
Here’s a link with the preview.
You see the various sides of the driven, if not possessed coach in the college and pros, who eventually retreated to the relaxed lifestyle of fishing and hanging out with the guys on Fox NFL Sunday.
The film includes scenes of Johnson taking Bill Belichick out on his boat and interviews with Dallas owner Jerry Jones, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Terry Bradshaw, Barry Switzer, and many others.
The film leaves you with the sense that Johnson might have left a few titles on the table by fracturing his relationship with Jones and by retiring for good from coaching in 2000. Yet it also reveals that Johnson believes he made the right decision to get out when he did.
It all makes for a compelling film in what has become one of the best sports series on TV. Make sure to set your DVR so you don’t miss another A Football Life.
Here’s Viseltear on the film:
His view of Johnson: He’s a very complex guy. At the same time, he is no non-sense. He won’t spend a moment on something he doesn’t want to do. As a coach, whether he was using his psychology major or not, he knew people. He was a classic button pusher. He knew what it would take to get the best out of you. I could feel him sizing me up in the first couple days we were with him.
On the scenes with Belichick: We heard he invites some current coaches to come meet with him, and we asked if we could shoot the next one. Belichick usually goes down there once during the off-season. They go way back, and their relationship is quite genuine. I don’t know if they talked more football than usual for our benefit, but it was fascinating to listen to from my point of view.
On Jones’ participation: He was up for it. It was a situation where clearly early on they were great for each other. Jimmy couldn’t have done what he did in Dallas without Jerry’s money and backing. But things didn’t work out. In the end, they just couldn’t interact.
On whether Johnson should have won more: Pretty much wherever Jimmy went, he stayed about five years. He only lasted four years (with the Dolphins), and he probably was done after three. Listen, he went 52-9 (with the Miami Hurricanes), won two rings with Dallas, and got Miami to the playoffs three out of four years. It’s hard to win a Super Bowl. They aren’t too many guys out there with two rings.