Remembering Tom Landry... RIP Coach...
Remembering Tom Landry...RIP
(September 11, 1924 – February 12, 2000)
ZONE MEMBER, DCFU ADMIN, TSZ STAFF
For the past few months, I always had it in my head...write something for Landry....Write something for Landry. My memories of him are sketchy at best...I know what everyone seems to know about him. He was a quiet leader. He loved his wife and his family. And he was a deeply religious man.
But his life came alive for me through the words of some of the people that played for him....Danny White, Bill Bates, Chad Hennings, Jim Jeffcoat, and Rayfield Wright. The love they had for that man. They recall him as a coach, but more than that, they recall him as a man they love, miss, and respect.
And now, here it is Feb.12th, 7 years since he was called home, and I don't know how to do it all justice. I've researched and I've read. So, I'll provide a little background on him and then turn it over to some special friends of mine, who have their own special memories of a great man.
Tom Landry was born on September 11, 1924. He grew up in Mission Texas, was an A-student, president of his class, and a member of the National Honor Society. And he excelled at football. He served in the army in WWII, was discharged and enrolled in the University of Texas.
During his junior year, he made the All-Southwestern Conference second team, and in his senior year, he served as co-captain. In 1948, Texas won the Sugar Bowl, and in 1949 his team won the Orange Bowl. In 1949, Landry graduated with a degree in business administration from the University of Texas and later earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Houston.
Tom Landry began his professional career as a defensive back for the old New York Football Yankees, and then the Giants. With the Giants, he became their defensive coordinator, while Vince Lombardi was the offensive coordinator.
He left New York in 1960 to take a job as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys expansion team. A Dallas group headed by owner Clint Murchison Jr. and General manager Tex Schramm recruited Landry for the job, signing him on for 5 years at $34,000 a season. Landry ran an insurance business in Dallas during the off-season and the offer gave him a chance to move closer to home.
In his first season as head coach, Landry failed to win a single game. The team had a 0-11-1 record. Landry offset the team's lack of talent with an innovative offensive strategy that called for multiple formations based on the strengths and weaknesses of his own players and those of his opponents. He used 10 or 11 formations a game, with up to six variations of each formation. This was several times as much offensive diveristy as the NFL average. The Landry defense, on the other hand, was a one-formation machine.
Despite a losing record, Landry had won the confidence of Cowboys owner Clint Murchison. In 1964, Murchison signed Landry for an additional 10 years as head coach of the Cowboys. This marked an unprecedented show of support for a coach with only a 13-38-3 record. By 1965, the team won as many games as they lost. And in 1966, the Cowboys made the playoffs for the first time after posting a 10-3-1 season. That year, Landry was named the NFL's Coach of the Year. In 1967 the team won the Eastern Division title.
After the 1970 season, the Cowboys advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time, but lost the championship game to the Baltimore Colts. The Cowboys eventually made it to the Super Bowl five times, winning in 1972 and 1978 and losing in 1971, 1976, and 1979. Throughout his career, Landry earned a record of 250-162-6 in the regular season and 20-16 in the playoffs. He coached for 29 years with the Cowboys. 29 years with one team. Even now, it's difficult for me to imagine one man doing so much, so well, for so long.
And now, I am going to call this part.
.....A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
I've been very fortunate and blessed in the world of message boards, to have made some incredible friends, who taught me it's as simple as being a fan of a team.....along with the love for what we do to support them daily.
First out of the gate is Hostile; zone admin, historian, teacher, and writer in his own right........
Also out of the zone is Trickblue; mod, friend, ace reporter, with a childhood story that sums up the man Landry was, much better than I ever could
" When Tom Landry introduced his systems to his players there was always one factor they all had to have, intelligence. They say that when someone is truly gifted at Chess that they can see the moves in their head even if the chess board is not in front of them.
That is how I envisioned Tom Landry. I believe that he saw football diagrams no matter what he was looking at. He was a true student of the game and as such an honest to goodness genius of the game.
Most coaches are known for one side of the ball or the other. Landry is one of the few who was an innovator on both sides of the ball. He is generally regarded as the creator of the 4-3 defense. His version of itin Dallas, "The Flex," was designed to bring the ball to the tacklers. No one else has ever done this. It requires highly intelligent players to do it.
[View Full Quote] Landry also was an offensive innovator with his multiple shifts, shotgun formations, and play action. He took a track star in Bob Hayes and made defenses change the way that they cover in the secondary.
During his unmatched 20 straight winning seasons Tom Landry's teams had top rated defenses and top rated offenses as well. His teams never relied on only one side of the ball to control a game.
One of the most noted things about Landry was his stoic stare. He didn't celebrate. He also didn't fly into rages. His reasoning was quite simple and at the same time mind boggling. In Landry's gameplans and schemes every second on the clock counted and he simply would not waste any time dwelling on what just happened. He watched the play happen and immediately began to calculate his next move. He didn't think even 5 seconds of reaction was worth the trade off.
Life was about ambitions and reaching your goals for Tom Landry. One of the things that drew me to the Cowboys in the first place was his absolute goodness as a person. In this world there are 3 kinds of people. People who make things hapen. People who watch things happen. People who wonder, what happened. Tom Landry made things happen and when he had players who wanted to do the same, there was never anyone better. Not in the history of the game."
I idolized the Cowboys as a kid. My two role models were my father and "Mr. Landry" as I called him. I had my father around, so I decided I would contact "Mr. Landry" for the the best of both worlds.
I began writing letters to "Mr. Landry" in 1970. I was only seven at the time but I was diligent in my letters to him. I never realized how remarkable it was to actually receive letters BACK from him. Coach sent me several personal letters back. Unfortunately they have long been misplaced. But one thing did stand the test of time. One thing I will never forget.
[View Full Quote] It was a Thursday afternoon in April of 1972. It seemed like a normal day as I walked into my home after school. My father was home that afternoon and called me into his office as I walked into the door. There it was; a box. It wasn't very big but it was for me. I couldn't imagine what it was or who it was from. I looked on the box and it was addressed to me. The return address said "Dallas Cowboys" on Central Expressway in Dallas, Texas. My heart raced.
I frantically opened it up to find something I would never have imagined. A football from "Mr. Landry". Not just any football but a football sent to me, and signed by the 1971 Superbowl Champion Dallas Cowboys. To this day, it is still my most prized possession outside of my family. I have been offered ridiculous amounts of money for it at times, but it is not for sale at any price. It is priceless to me.
That's the thing that made Tom Landry a legendary figure. He felt it was important enough to take the time out of coaching the Dallas Cowboys to write to a seven year old boy.
One of my two role models, my father, is still with me. The other one I miss dearly. RIP "Mr. Landry"
It's funny, but with each story someone shared with me, the more I thought....Tom Landry was all about a team, and here we all are.. in some different boards and walks of life...coming together for one cause. I talked to OCF over at thesilverandblue.com and he shared some thoughts with me, and who incidentally has become a mentor to me in a lot of ways.......
As a young kid (I was 9 then) wandering a few blocks over to see the new football team in their 1st training camp. I had no idea who Tom Landry was, or even who the Dallas Cowboys were, for that matter. The camp was more like something you might see now for a high school practice, except the players were older. There was no big money back then, no big press corps or security, as I simply walked up to the bleachers sat down and watched. Over the days of watching, I had players have me "watch" their wallets, coats, hats, shoes etc. I never had conversations with Landry, although I did get the odd... "how you doing today" comment from him. I did watch the practices though, and observed Landry as a person almost completely absorbed in what he was doing. He seemed to migrate from group to group and had a clear agenda. He was trying to show, to teach, to communicate. He seemed like he was friendly, but all business.
[View Full Quote] Over the years, I honestly believe he inspired me to be the Engineer I am today. I admired his approach to the game, the many innovations he brought, like the flex, the double clutch snap, getting the world's fastest human to just huck to the ball to, to stretch defenses. Making the shotgun popular, bringing hundreds of free agents in, and having players travel in the off season to visit our troops abroad. (I actually met Cowboys twice during my overseas tours in the military), and his many theories that even coaches like Parcells embraced, like a player showing something after 2 years and starting in 3- if not, move on. Computerizing trends and plays etc. I believe the game was a giant multilevel chess game, to Landry and I believe he was a football genius. I really miss him as a coach, and probably always will.
Okay, almost halfway through these, thanks for you patience, but I really thought the best tribute and way to have him live on, is though these stories...
so next up, is Azriel/Reg....mod, friend, confidante at DCFU
This next story is a little different, but amusing....LOL but a dcfu member and for his dad,
I'm among the few here that is old enough to remember Tom Landry from day one of his tenure as Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys. That and my unashamed respect and adoration for "The Man in the Hat" is why I was asked to add my thoughts about him to this tribute. I spent about a week trying to compose in my mind the perfect way to do his memory justice. But then my best friend and fellow Cowboys/Landry fan said..."just write and let your heart speak". So...following are the rambling but sincere words of my heart...
[View Full Quote] I am a Cowboys fan, in great part, because of Tom Landry. As a Texas-born child, growing up in NC, I was always attracted to things and people that connected me to my proud Texas roots. I loved football and when the Cowboys were introduced as an expansion team, I immediately started paying attention to them. The fact that they sucked that first year was usurped by my fascination with their "different-looking" uniforms and all of the really then-creative things they did on the field...the offensive shifts & motion, that wacky "set-stand up-down to stance" hitch the OL did before every play...well...except when the offense had lulled the opposing D in thinking they always did that and would snap the ball on "quick set" while the opposing D was lolly-gagging awaiting the hitch, the perfectly-timed trick plays, and the famous "Flex D" (which I'll address further down). But it was that stoic-looking dude in the hat, plain suit, and sometimes FBI agent-looking trench coat that fascinated me. His demeanor...cool, non-plused, outwardly devoid of emotion, calm & blunt in speech, was so unlike other coaches. I became a fan of HIM even before I learned that he was the creator of all of that cool stuff the Cowboys did.
The Flex D...
*"Tom Landry invented the now-popular "4-3 Defense", while serving as Giants defensive coordinator. Landry also invented and popularized the use of keys — analyzing offensive tendencies — to determine what the offense might do.
When Landry was hired by the Dallas Cowboys, he became concerned with then-Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi's "Run to Daylight" idea, where the running back went to an open space, rather than a specific assigned hole. Landry reasoned that the best counter was to take away daylight.
To do this, he refined the 4-3 defense by moving two of the four lineman off the line of scrimmage one yard and varied which line people did this based on where the Cowboys thought the offense might run. This change was called "The Flex Defense," because it altered its alignment to counter what the offense might do. Thus, there were three such Flex Defenses — strong, weak, and "tackle" — where both defensive tackles were off the line of scrimmage. The idea with the flexed linemen was to improve pursuit angles to stop the Green Bay Sweep — a popular play of the 1960s. The Flex Defense was also innovative in that it was a kind of zone defense against the run. Each defender was responsible for a given gap area, and was told to stay in that area before they knew where the play was going." -*Wikipedia
Over the years, I watched, cried, rooted, anguished and mostly cheered as Landry led the Cowboys...initially to failure and a call for his head, then to being perennial bridesmaids, then to winning it all, while becoming the most consistent high-achievement team in the history of the NFL. And thru all those years of trials and success, Landry never changed...never compromised his principles on or off the field...always holding firm to his priorities of God, family and then football...always a class act...always honest...always thinking outside of the box...always quietly tough but fair...always loving HIS Dallas Cowboys.
I don't have, never had, and never will have many heroes. I just don't do much looking-up to (and do no looking down at) people. But Tom Landry is one of my heroes.
Rest in peace, Coach...and THANKS!
And before I get to two of his ex-players, this next story is one of the first up close personal stories I had ever heard about Mr. Landry about a year ago. So from DCFU's own COACH CBartel
I didn't know him that well Deb, but my father did, my fathers name is Tom as well so don't get confused. He met Landry back in the 50's when he was in high school. I think Tom was playing for the giants back then, my father was a standout athlete in high school that Landry was visiting. Then when my father came back from the war, they met again by coincidence at my dad's store. When he would come into town (to play of course my father's giants) he would normally stop by my dad's store (i would think it was out of his way in reality). I do remember meeting him a few times. I did meet his wife I think he had two daughters and a son. I did play some catch with him, talk about making you feel old, thinking back that far.
[View Full Quote] I always thought it was funny, because my father and him had complete opposite personalities, at least compared to what most would think. I remember them chatting about football, my father throwing every Jersey cuss word out there and Tom just crack a smile or grin. Landry saying "God help you Tom" my father saying "God help your cowboys if i was a Giant... you traitor" (something to that effect) they both would laugh. I became a cowboy fan just for spite, I was the rebel traitor son, but he gave me a cowboy hat and a football... I still got both.
When the 80's rolled around we didn't see him that much. He told my dad the game has changed, with relentless media coverage. but every now and then he would drop on in grab a sandwich, but he would normally be alone unless his wife was with him. Don't remember anybody else with him except for once and thats another story.
Its good that you are doing this, I will get a copy and send it to my dad, because even tho how harsh my father was with Landry, Landry could land a few punches himself, so to speak.... he knew that was how my old man was and kept coming back for more... I always think deep down, why Landry was perceived a certain way quiet and calm, was because he didn't want his true nature to show in Texas, with all the southern baptist around. Of course he was from Texas, but i think he had some New Yorker in him because of playing/coaching years, just because he seemed to enjoy how my father was.
Of course that was just my opinion, but he was a great man, maybe second to none on the way he carried himself. i'm still pissed that landry was let go in the mannor he was by jerry. But i do know that Tom Landry thought highly of Bill Parcels, but that is another story for another day.
you don't have to use any of this, My father tho would talk your ear off about Landry... of course back when he wasn't a "Landry Traitor" as my dad would put it. lol
And now the letter that started this whole project for me, a very spiritual man in his own right....HOF'er, MR. RAYFIELD WRIGHT
I met him 3 times. Once at my Dads summer football camp in '84 and twice at FCA functions (1 in Austin '89 and 1 in Ruston, Louisiana '94). The first two times, I was just a little guy in awe of meeting such an icon to me. In '94, I was a freshman in High School and was a little more inclined to talk to him. He sat at the table to eat lunch with myself, my Dad, and Jim Hess (former scout for Dallas). I got to talk to him for about and hour. Thats when he told me the quote that is in my sig "Nothing worth while was ever easy" I will always remember that. He was such a genuine man. He was one of those guys that always wanted to get to know young people.
[View Full Quote] I can remember wanting to talk football and schemes (by this time, I had spent a lot of time helping my Dad with game film, recruiting, and game plans) with him to learn a few things, but he was far more interested in getting to know me as a person and my relationship with . He gave me some advice as far as getting my coaching career started and what it takes to succeed in this business. He said "Son, if your gonna be a football coach, there is one thing you need to remember. Some days you will be driving to work and you'll think to yourself I can't believe they are paying me to do this!, other days you'll think They ain't paying me near enough to put up with this!. The man who makes it is the one who can fight through the bad times and take advantage of the good times. Success doesn't just happen, you have to make it happen". '
He was one of the most remarkable men I have ever met and the world lost a great human being when he lost his battle with leukemia. It was the only battle he ever lost. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet him. I only wish more people could have done so.
And last but not least....one I just received a few minutes ago, probably the most down-to-earth player I've had the pleasure to talk to....as Juke will agree....Mr. Danny White
I think about Coach Landry every day. So for me, February 12th is just another day when I will give thanks and praise to our Creator for placing Coach Landry in my path....and on my road less traveled.
I ask your members to say a silent prayer for Mrs. Landry and members of his amazing family. They celebrate his life each and every day...while suffering from his loss with dignity and respect.
Recently, I spoke to Mrs. Landry. She said, "You know, Rayfield, my Tommy loved all of you guys so much....but he loved me more!" Coach Landry's legacy was: Faith. Family. Football. In that order of importance. We should all be so lucky to live by those values and virtues.
This day will be especially heart-warming for me....because I know that, during a hot day last August in Canton, Ohio, the legendary Coach Landry had one of those rare, yet momentous smiles on his face.
[View Full Quote] We are heading to the Super Bowl...and then on the to Pro Bowl...so I'm sorry for the short note.
Yeah, we are in the middle of training camp. I think of Coach Landry practically daily, but remembering his death is just not a big deal to me. It's as if he's still here as far as I'm concerned. So, I'm not going to light a candle....I'm going to try to be the Coach and the Man he would expect me to be. Thanks for all you do.
Mr. Tom Landry was a pioneer, a visionary and an inspiration to a nation.
He died of leukemia on Feb. 12, 2000. Bob Lily and Drew Pearson were just two of many that spoke at his funeral. Pearson said Landry was putting together the GFL, God's Football League, and had a lineup that included Derrick Thomas and Walter Payton. His fedora was buried with him, but his memory will live on forever. Maybe just for today, all of us everywhere, can light a candle, and remember the man.
A lot of love went into this article, and wanted to thank again....Hostile, Trickblue, OCF, Juke for the amazing graphic, and Az, scout, and CB.
"When you want to win a game, you have to teach. When you lose a game, you have to learn."
"Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do in order to achieve what they want to achieve."
"Football is an incredible game. Sometimes it's so incredible, it's unbelievable."
Last edited by Deb : 02-10-2007 at 10:38 PM.