George Halas has received a lot of credit over the years for bringing an NFL franchise to Dallas, and deservedly so. However, it was inevitable. This wasn't like landing a pro team in Green Bay. This was Texas, the football capital of the country. And while an earlier venture didn't work out in 1952, the league knew at some point and time that another team, with the right ownership, was worth trying.
Now, this plan was never slated for 1960. Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall was high and mighty with the ridiculous concept of being the Team of the South. Looking back, imagine there not being an NFL team south of the nation's capital. Heck, today football is the sport of the south.
Long before 1960, Halas was a legend. If there's a Mount Rushmore of professional football, Halas is George Washington, the first chiseled bust. He attended the meeting in Canton, Ohio, in 1920 when the American Professional Football Association was formed. Four years later, the name was changed to the National Football League. Halas was more or less running the league from the get-go, the owner, general manager and head coach of the Decatur Staleys, who became the Chicago Bears.
Nothing took place in the NFL without Halas either saying so or approving. There was a commissioner, Bert Bell, but he more or less answered to Halas. Yes, this was awkward considering Halas continued to own and coach a team, but it was a different time, and Halas was the guy who signed Red Grange, the Galloping Ghost himself, and that more or less put the league on the map, from the back page to the front page of the sports section. Halas ended up coaching the Bears for 40 years and won six NFL titles.
The NFL was symmetrically neat for some time, two divisions, six teams each. And no one was in a rush to change things. The league wasn't really making any money to speak of, so why expand? Television was just becoming influential, the Greatest Game Ever Played was only a season previous, the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship. That was the birth of television and the NFL.
And then Lamar Hunt entered the picture. Young and wealthy, he wanted to bring a franchise to Dallas, his hometown. Another son of a rich oilman, Clint Murchison Jr., wanted to do the same. However, Hunt was willing to go a step further and when he was rebuffed by Bell and Halas, he simply started his own circuit – the American Football League. That forced the NFL's hand, and almost overnight, Murchison was awarded a franchise. And even without the assistance of an NFL Draft, which took place six months earlier than it currently does, the Cowboys were slated for action in 1960. Halas wasn't about to allow the AFL to have a head start with the football fans of Dallas.
Around this same time, most in AFL circles began referring to the soon-to-be Dallas Cowboys as Halas' boys or the Halas Strangers or sometimes even worse. Hunt, for one, was shocked.
"There is no way we would've been playing in 1960 without George Halas," former player personnel director Gil Brandt recalled in 2010. "He was really running the league back then and rightfully so. He was first followed by the Maras [who owned the New York Giants]. I know he went out of his way to help Clint and even offered advice to [Cowboys president] Tex [Schramm] that first year.
"Also, without George Halas, we would've never landed Don Meredith, who meant so much to us those first 10 years, both on the field and with ticket sales."
Halas knew that by simply drafting veterans from other teams, a collection of players either past their prime or likely never to have a prime, the Cowboys would be awful. And this was the case, as they went 0-11-1 in that first season. But, he knew they needed to have someone to put fannies in the seats.
So Halas drafted Don Meredith in the third round of the 1960 NFL Draft for the sole purpose of sending him to Dallas via a personal services contract. "Dandy Don" was quite established in the area from his time at SMU.
Halas also went out of his way to help Schramm and Murchison those first few years. After the 1962 season, the Dallas Texans of the AFL moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs, and by 1966, with Meredith at quarterback, the Cowboys became one of the most successful franchises in the league.
Now, it should be noted that "Papa Bear" was acting in the best interest of his league more so than being motivated to give Dallas a successful pro franchise, but still, the Cowboys would have a much different history if not for George Halas.