Tom Landry paced the sidelines as the "only head coach" in Dallas Cowboys history for 29 years in his trademark fedora. By the time Landry's coaching career ended following the 1988 season, he had compiled a 270-178-6 record, the third most wins in NFL history.
That distinguished career was good enough for Landry to gain entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Cowboys Ring of Honor in 1993, thanks to leading the Cowboys to two Super Bowl titles, five Super Bowl appearances, five NFC Championships, 13 division titles and an incredible 20 consecutive winning seasons.
"This team has always played for me," Landry once said. "That was the key to why I continued coaching. If they wouldn't play for me, I would have been out a long time ago. They always played hard and tried hard."
Landry's head coaching career did not start out very smoothly, coming over from the New York Giants staff to take over the expansion Cowboys in 1960. That first year ended with an 0-11-1 in 1960, the tie coming against Landry's former team the Giants, preventing the Cowboys from going winless. The Cowboys went on to suffer through losing seasons in the first five years, before going 7-7 in 1965.
But from that point on, Landry turned the franchise into "America's Team," the Cowboys reeling off 20 consecutive winning seasons from 1966-85, one of the longest winning streaks in all of professional sports.
As a player-coach with the Giants before coming to the Cowboys, Landry helped to develop what would eventually become a base defense in the NFL, the 4-3. It was innovations like this that caught the attention of Cowboys owner Clint Murchison Jr. and president Tex Schramm when it came time to select the franchise's first head coach.
As head coach of the Cowboys, Landry introduced more innovations to the game, including offensive motion. Very seldom did the Cowboys run a play from the formation they initially lined up in after breaking the huddle. Landry brought back the shotgun formation, popularized situational substitutions and concocted the "Flex" defense.
Walking the sidelines characteristically stoic, Landry was always thinking a couple of plays ahead and what the long-term effects of each play he called might be. He coached football as if it were a chess match, positioning his team in the best way to win in the end. And in the end, no one coached with more success for a longer period of time than Landry.
That success was the impetus for Landry's induction into Pro Football Hall of Fame less than two years after he coached his last game.
"I think it's always good to have recognition for success," Landry said at the time. "That's what athletics is all about: achieving. Winning seasons. Super Bowls. Individual honors. It makes the kids look up and think of a time they might be up there."
The legendary coach, born Sept. 11 1924 in Mission, Texas, died Feb. 12, 2000 of leukemia.
|* Super Bowl Appearance
** NFL Championship Game Appearances
*** NFL strike-shortened season