Jimmy Johnson, having guided the Dallas Cowboys to a six-game improvement and into playoff contention this season, was named NFL Coach of the Year.

Johnson, in his second year with the Cowboys after an illustrious career as a college coach, got 181/2 votes from 80 sportswriters and broadcasters in balloting conducted by The Associated Press. He edged Art Shell of the Raiders by 21/2 votes. "That's very nice, and I'm truly honored," Johnson said. "I think the voters looked at the entire year and the improvement we had made over last year."

In 1989, the Cowboys were 1-15, the worst team in the NFL and in franchise history. It was a rude debut as a pro coach for Johnson, who won the national title in 1987 at the University of Miami.