“A Tribute To The Man In The Funny Hat”: Memories of Tom Landry

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American history is loaded with what we refer to as icons. Those people who’s names are immediately thought of when a certain topic is brought up. When that topic is coaching in the NFL, especially the Dallas Cowboys, the first thought that comes to mind is Tom Landry. I asked some friends and family to help me put together “A Tribute To The Man In The Funny Hat”.

It’s been over two decades since “The Saturday Night Massacre” and over half a century since the “Great Innovator” became the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. I was a young child on that dismal day in February of 1989 when the flashy new owner (Jerry Jones) fired the legendary Tom Landry. I was barely old enough to know what football was, but that day is in my memory banks as if it was yesterday. The look of sheer horror on my dad’s face when the announcement came that Tom Landry had been fired. It didn’t take long for the rage to appear in his eyes. Those kind eyes that I had always remembered suddenly turned to stone. To this day, in spite of a few glory years in the early 90′s, my dad has never once tried to hide the contempt he has towards Jerry Jones for firing Tom Landry.

On February 26th 1989, a dark cloud covered the entire nation. Cowboys’ Nation. America’s Team had been struck by a blow that they would feel for the rest of their lives. This was the day that the stone faced, hard nosed, emotionless leader cried. For “The Man In The Funny Hat”, the mere thought of life without football, life without his beloved Cowboys,  was the equivalent of spending his final days on death row. How could this be? How could there be an NFL without the brilliant man who pioneered many of the things still  in use by NFL teams today?

Football would never be the same without Tom Landry roaming the sidelines. Football as we knew it, was over. There would never be another “Dooms Day Defense”. There would never be another 20 consecutive winning seasons that amassed two Super Bowl titles (VI, XII), 5 NFC titles, 13 Divisional titles, and compiled a 270-178-6 record, the 3rd most wins of all time for an NFL coach. His 20 career playoff victories are the most of any coach in NFL history. He was named the NFL Coach of the Year in 1966 and the NFC Coach of the Year in 1975. His most impressive professional accomplishment is his 20 consecutive winning seasons (1966–1985), an NFL record that remains unbroken and unchallenged.

From 1966 to 1982 Dallas played in 12 NFL or NFC Championship games, over a span of 17 years. More impressive is the Cowboys’ appearance in 10 NFC Championship games in the 13-year span from 1970 to 1982. Leading the Cowboys to 3 Super Bowl appearances in four years between 1975 and 1978, and five in nine years between 1970 and 1978, and being on television more than any other NFL team. It was that success and the national exposure it created that spawned the title of “America’s Team”, a title Landry did not appreciate because he felt it would bring on extra motivation from the rest of the league to compete with the Cowboys. (Landrys’ Career accomplishments courtesy of Wikipedia.)

  • Career history
  • As player:
  • New York Yankees (AAFC) (1949)
  • New York Giants (1950-1955)
  • As coach:
  • New York Giants (1954-1959)
  • (Defensive coordinator)
  • Dallas Cowboys (1960-1988)
  • (Head coach)
  • Career highlights and awards
  • Pro Bowl selection (1954)
  • First-Team All-Pro selection (1954)
  • AP Coach of the Year (1966)
  • Sporting News Coach of the Year (1966)
  • 2× UPI Coach of the Year (1966, 1975)
  • Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor
  • Dallas Cowboys record for career wins (250)
  • 2× Super Bowl champion (VI, XII) 2x (NFL Champion 1966, 1967)
  • 5× NFC Championship victories (1970, 1971, 1975, 1977, 1978)
  • 250-162-6 (regular season record)
  • 20-16 (playoff record)
  • 270-178-6 (overall record)

I am a firm believer in Karma. The Cowboys have had 1 playoff win in 17 years and have only amassed 5 double digit win seasons… Over the same period of 17 yrs, the Landry led Cowboys attended 12 championship games. I honetly believe this drought is Karma coming back on the tyrant ( Jerry Jones) for firing Gods coach. Thomas Wade “Tom” Landry.

It was said that the roof at Texas Stadium had a hole in it so God could look down on his coach and his team. “Americas Team”, our team, The Dallas Cowboys.

Keeping all of this in mind, I found it imperative to put together this “Tribute To The Man In The Funny Hat”. I would like to express a big Thank You to the people who had the opportunity to enjoy the Cowboys when they actually were “Americas Team”. The people that helped me to make this article possible. Who is better suited to share their input on the best coach to ever roam the sidelines in the NFL? Some may say he had the 3rd most wins, but it’s the post season wins that matter the most, and Tom Landry, still to this day, holds that record. So, from the bottom of my heart, I want to express my love, respect, admiration, and last but not least, my sincere appreciation to the man who was truly responsible for making the Dallas Cowboys the best team in NFL history. The Man In The Funny Hat.

Click on the next page to read tributes to Tom Landry from Coach C and Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com

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Tags: Dallas Cowboys Tom Landry

  • jrcowboy49

    I was 40 years old and will never forgive the idiot Jerry Jones not only for the firing but the disrespectful maner in which he did it! It left a curse on Jerry to this day!

    • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

      I agree 100%

    • C. Joseph Wright

      I can see how it is easy to think now, but did you really think that at the time?
      I didn’t think much negative about Jerry Jones until after Jimmy Johnson left. No one was happy with how unceremoniously Landry was fired, but Jones and Johnson were successful pretty fast.

      • jrcowboy49

        I lived in Dallas/Fort Worth and I can assure you the feelings for Tom Landry were strong and Jerrah was south of Hell!

        • C. Joseph Wright

          I don’t doubt that all of that is true. I didn’t live in Dallas, but I do remember lots of people being angry about how Landry was treated. I just don’t remember anyone saying Jones had doomed the franchise, or even that he was a terrible GM, until after Jimmy Johnson left.

          • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

            well dad and many others hated JJ from day 1 a few bowls in the early 90′s didn’t change how they felt

      • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

        Tom was quoted as saying “They will forget about me quick”. On the day they had the Landry day Landry and his wife both said, I wonder if anyone will even show up? The fact is thousands of people lined the street to pay tribute. Landry said that was the most emotional day of his life, because no one forgot. they still loved him. To this day he has not been forgotten and never will.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.valentino.39 Michael Valentino

    Cas, I want to say I am both honored and humbled to have my words of appreciation shared in this tribute. And, as a long-time fan of Coach Landry and the Cowboys, I want to commend you on such a wonderful article. Everything about it, including your photo selection and the tear-producing video tribute you put together, is superb. I would hope you would be able to share this with Coach Landry’s family. It is so beautifully done. I was riveted by your father’s story and can only imagine what it was like for him to meet Tom Landry and the Cowboys players as a young boy. And Bryan’s words gave us all better insight into what eventually drove him to be a pro football scout. And the stories of three men, all within the same age group, all having been impacted by Coach Landry as young boys, are but a small representation of the way Coach Landry had – and continues to have – such a profound impact on the lives of people inside and outside of football. Cas, thank you for your friendship and for inviting me to share my thoughts on the greatest coach in NFL history. And tell your dad he did a great job of raising you. :) …and he needs to write more often. :) Michael

    • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

      Thank You

  • Bull_Shirt

    Very good article and tribute!
    I’ve watched the Cowboys since I was a kid, about 45 years now. I was like many other people when Jones dismissed Tom as if he was just another “nobody”, and I was PO’d. In my opinion about why the last 2 or 3 years of Tom’s career was on a down slide, was because of his disease, Leukemia. I think it was taking its toll on him and he couldn’t function as he once did. Jerry should have been a real man, and convinced Tom to retire instead of firing him like he was some kind of 2nd class citizen.That’s what I found more despicable than anything.
    But, Jerrah is getting his comeuppance now, not only for doing what he did to Tom, but being arrogant and thinking any of 500 coaches could coach the Cowboys. We’re on number 8 now if I’m not mistaken. Just another 492 left to go, or thereabouts, w/o researching the exact number.
    I’m not sold on Jason Carrot either. He was a back up QB all of his career for a reason. Until JJ relinquishes the GM position, I see nothing but the same ol same ol continuing until a qualified GM is hired.
    Just my thoughts.

    • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

      Thank You for your thoughts and you are right!

  • OMAD

    I just sent a message, it posted briefly and dissapeared

    • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

      if you get a disqus acct or sign in with twitter you wont have that problem.

  • wayne t

    Cowgirlcass22, I grew up about the same time your dad did. I
    have been following the Cowboys since I was 11 years old . Tom Landry was one
    of the smartest men in football. There will never be another Flex Defense run
    because no one knows how to run it because it is so complex . When Landry was
    fired I almost quit the Cowboys. The NFL
    network did a documentary on Landry if you haven’t seen it yet you need to .
    Thank you for writing an article on Landry.

    • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

      your welcome and TY for sharing your thoughts.

  • boysteamusa

    What a Head Coach Tom Landry! Im priviledged to have watched him lead this team to greatness. Forever thankful for what he brought both to football and to the Cowboys. rest in peace Tom!