Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys (Part 2)

Tom Landry was a committed Christian and look what impact a few words he had with a former player:

“Pat Summerall Here”
Theme of the Week: High-Profile Turnarounds
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

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Key Bible Verse: But God is so rich in mercy … that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life (Ephesians 2:4). Bonus Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

For 45 years Pat Summerall’s voice and face spelled football. After his own career as a star kicker, Pat went into broadcasting, at first covering golf and tennis. Teamed for years with John Madden, he was a Sunday afternoon voice of Fox TV NFL football.

But Pat was an only child whose parents divorced before he was born, leaving him feeling empty and alone. He became an alcoholic, living from drink to drink as his body broke down. During the 1994 Masters tournament, he faced up: “I’d been getting sick a lot, throwing up blood—and I got sick again at 4 a.m. I looked in the mirror, saw what a terrible sight I was, and said to myself, “‘This isn’t how I want to live.'”

Pat spent 33 days in the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, California. This helped alleviate his alcohol problems but didn’t address his spiritual vacuum. Then he bumped into his old coach, Tom Landry, who explained about his spiritual need and connected him with Dallas Cowboys chaplain John Weber. Pat’s life was transformed, and he was baptized at age 69.

“Summerall was once the life of every party with a drink in his hand,” Weber says. “Now he gets his power from another source.”

Wikipedia noted:

Landry played in the AAFC in 1949 for the New York Yankees, then moved in 1950 across town to the New York Giants. In 1946, the New York Giants had drafted Landry in the Seventh round of the college draft. He was drafted as a “Futures” pick, which was a rule in place at the time that allowed NFL teams to draft underclassmen, and hold their rights until the player had completed their college requirement. In 1948, the New York Yankees of the AAFC also drafted Landry.

Landry had just finished his final college football game, when Jack White[disambiguation needed ], who was an assistant coach for the Yankees, took Landry aside. He offered Landry a contract to play for New York in the AAFC. The contract was for $6,000, plus a $500 signing bonus. Landry used the bonus money to pay for a wedding with high school sweetheart, Alicia.

Landry’s career got off to a start after the Yankees starting punter was injured in the preseason, and Landry performed well in his place. The Yankees shared Yankee staduim with baseball’s beloved Yankees, and Landry remembered in his autobiography how in awe he was seeing names like DiMaggio, Rizzuto, and Ruffing above the lockers. Landry’s career began as a back-up to Yankees star running back Buddy Young. His first start would come against the AAFC’s powerhouse, the Cleveland Browns, coached by Paul Brown, and a roster full of future hall of famers like Lou Groza, Bill Willis, and Otto Graham. Landry did not have a good debut as a starter, Mac Speedie, the receiver he was assigned to cover, set an AAFC record for receiving yards in the game. It was after the game that Landry would learn his wife had given birth to their first child, a son.

After the 1949 season the AAFC folded, and the New York Yankees were not among the teams absorbed by the NFL. The New York Giants exercised their territorial rights and selected Landry in a dispersal draft. It would be under the guidance of Giants head coach Steve Owen that Landry would get his first taste of coaching. Instead of explaining the 6-1-4 defense to the players, Owen called Landry up to the front, and asked him to explain the defense to his teammates. Landry got up, and explained what the defense would do to counter the offense, and this became Landry’s first coaching experience. The 1953 season would be a season to forget, with the lowest point coming in a 62-10 loss at the hands of the Cleveland Browns. This loss would ultimately cost Coach Steve Owen his job, and would again have Landry pondering his future.[6] In 1954 he was selected as an all-pro. He played through the 1955 season, and acted as a player-assistant coach the last two years, 1954 through 1955, under the guidance of new Giants head coach Jim Lee Howell. Landry ended his playing career with 32 interceptions in only 80 games.

NFL coach

For the 1954 football season, Landry became the defensive coordinator for the Giants, opposite Vince Lombardi, who was the offensive coordinator. Landry led one of the best defensive teams in the league from 1956 to 1959. The two coaches created a fanatical loyalty within the unit they coached that drove the Giants to three appearances in the NFL championship game in four years. The Giants beat the Chicago Bears 47–7 in 1956, but lost to the Baltimore Colts in 1958 and 1959.

In 1960, he became the first head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and stayed for 29 seasons (1960–88). The Cowboys started with difficulties, recording an 0–11–1 record during their first season, with five or fewer wins in each of their next four. Despite this early futility, in 1964 Landry was given a ten year extension by owner Clint Murchison Jr. It would prove to be a wise move as Landry’s hard work and determination paid off, and the Cowboys improved to a 7–7 record in 1965. In 1966, they surprised the NFL by posting 10 wins, and making it all the way to the NFL championship game. Dallas lost the game to Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, but this season was but a modest display of what lay ahead.

Throughout his tenure, Landry worked closely with the Cowboys general manager, Tex Schramm. The two were together during Landry’s entire tenure with the team. A third member of the Cowboys brain trust in this time was Gil Brandt.

The Great Innovator

Tom Landry sculpture.jpg

Tom Landry invented the now-popular “4-3 Defense“, while serving as Giants defensive coordinator.[7] It was called “4-3” because it featured four down lineman (two ends and two defensive tackles on either side of the offensive center) and three linebackers — middle, left, and right. The innovation was the middle linebacker. Previously, a lineman was placed over the center. But Landry had this person stand up and move back two yards. The Giants’ middle linebacker was the legendary Sam Huff.

Landry built the 4-3 defense around me. It revolutionized defense and opened the door for all the variations of zones and man-to-man coverage, which are used in conjunction with it today. —Sam Huff[8]

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 a defense that flowed to daylight and blotted it out.

To do this, he refined the 4-3 defense by moving two of the four linemen off the line of scrimmage one yard and varied which linemen 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.

It has been said that, after inventing the Flex Defense, he then invented an offense to score on it, reviving the man-in-motion and starting in the mid-1970s, the shotgun formation. But Landry’s biggest contribution in this area was the use of “pre-shifting” where the offense would shift from one formation to the other before the snap of the ball. This tactic was not new. It was developed by Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg around the turn of the 19th to 20th century; Landry was the first coach to use the approach on a regular basis. The idea was to break the keys within the defense used to determine what the offense might do. An unusual feature of this offense was Landry having his offensive linemen get in their squatted pre-stance, stand up while the running backs shifted, and then go back down into their complete “hand down” stance. The purpose of the “up and down” movement was to make it more difficult for the defense to see where the backs were shifting (over the tall offensive linemen) and thus cut down on recognition time. While other NFL teams later employed shifting, few employed this “up and down” technique as much as Landry.

Landry also was ahead of his time in his philosophy of building a team. When the Packers were a dynasty in the 1960s with 245 lb (111 kg) guards and 250 lb (110 kg) tackles, he was busy stockpiling size for the next generation of linemen. Tackles Rayfield Wright stood 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) and Ralph Neely weighed 265 lb (120 kg). Center Dave Manders weighed 250 lb (110 kg). All went on to block in Pro Bowls and Super Bowls in the 1970s.

The same with defense. The better linemen of the 1960s were the shorter, stockier, leverage players like Willie Davis, Alex Karras and Andy Robustelli. But Landry drafted the taller, leaner linemen like 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) George Andrie and 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) Jethro Pugh in the 1960s and later 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) Ed Jones in the 1970s. Long arms allow for increased leverage in the pass rush. A quarter of a century later, all NFL teams covet pass rushers who resemble thickly muscled National Basketball Association (NBA) power forwards.

In the days before strength and speed programs, Landry brought in Alvin Roy and Boots Garland in the early 1970s to help make the Cowboys stronger and faster. Roy was a weightlifter and Garland a college track coach. Now every NFL team has specialty coaches.

Landry also was one of the first NFL coaches to search outside the traditional college football pipeline for talent. For example, he recruited several soccer players from Latin America, such as Efren Herrera and Raphael Septien, to compete for the job of placekicker for the Cowboys. Landry looked to the world of track and field for speedy skill position players. For example, Bob Hayes, once considered the fastest man in the world, was drafted by and played wide receiver for the Cowboys under Landry.[9]

Landry also was the first to employ a coach for quality control. Ermal Allen would analyze game films and chart the tendencies of the opposition for the Cowboys in the 1970s. That gave Landry an edge in preparation, because he knew what to expect from his opponent based on down and distance. Now every NFL team has a quality control coach, and most have two.

Landry produced a very large coaching tree. In 1986, five NFL head coaches were former Landry assistants: Mike Ditka, Dan Reeves, John Mackovic, Gene Stallings, and Raymond Berry.

Coaching in the Super Bowl

While Tom Landry’s Cowboys are known for their two Super Bowls against Chuck Noll and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Landry also led Dallas to three other Super Bowls, and were a Bart Starr quarterback sneak away from representing the NFL in the second Super Bowl. Tom Landry was 2-3 in Super Bowls, winning both in New Orleans and losing all three at Miami’s Orange Bowl Stadium.

Landry coached the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl win, defeating the Miami Dolphins 24-3, holding the Dolphins to a mere field goal. The Cowboys had now won their first Super Bowl, a year after losing a heart breaker to the Baltimore Colts. The Cowboys lost the first battle with the Steelers, in a game that is heralded as a classic. The rematch would be just as good, with the Cowboys being a Jackie Smith catch away from beating the Steelers in the rematch. Super Bowl XIII, the rematch, featured Cowboys Linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson saying famously “Terry Bradshaw couldn’t spell c-a-t if you spotted him the C and the T.” Landry recalled in his autobiography how he cringed when he heard that, because he didn’t feel that Bradshaw needed addition motivation in a big game like the Super Bowl.[6]

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