Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys (Part 3)

Here is story that uses Tom Landry as an example of meekness:

Because he regularly attended a church, Tom Landry thought he was a Christian. In his own words: “I had been in and about church my whole life. But really, it was only half-heartedly…I thought of myself as a Christian but I really wasn’t. I was just a church-goer, which is a lot different. If you just go to church, it’s a lot like going to the Lion’s Club or something like that. Oh, man, there’s no comparison.”[2] Then one day in 1959, Landry accepted an invitation to a men’s Bible study because, he says, he couldn’t think of a graceful way to get out of it![3] It’s a good thing, too, since in that meeting Tom came to realize how many passages from the Sermon on the Mount spoke directly to the personal struggles in his life. So he returned the next week. And the next. Later that year, says Tom, “I finally reached a point where faith outweighed the doubts, and I was willing to commit my entire life to God.”[4]

In 1959, Tom was a 33-year-old assistant coach for the New York Giants and an off-season insurance salesman. Eventually, he would coach a team of his own – the Dallas Cowboys – and he would lead them to an unprecedented 20 consecutive winning seasons, five Super Bowl appearances and two championships. An impressive record, to say the least. Even more impressive to many of us who watched him, though, was that he did it without raising his voice.

Tom was meek in the best sense of the word. He was a reserved man, a soft-spoken man, a man who walked with God as he walked the sidelines. That was evident by his game-time mannerism. Were the Cowboys up by 14 or down by 14? Tom’s demeanor provided no clue. Was it fourth and goal on the opponent’s one yard line or first and ten on their own twenty? Did the Cowboys just fumble away the game? Did the refs just blow a call? Don’t look to Tom’s expression for answers. This now-devout Christian personified gentleness and self-control.

Not exactly the norm in the workplace of NFL coaching. More typical were people like legendary Vince Lombardi, infamous for being unapproachable for days after his offense had a bad game.[5] Similarly, Raider coach John Madden got so worked up in his job that he had to retire from coaching because of ulcers.[6] Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka also fit that mold. Not only was he notorious for his sideline tantrums, Ditka was apparently a bear off the field as well. When he played tennis with Landry, for example, he would smash his racket on the ground so many times it began to resemble, in Tom’s words, an “aluminum pretzel.”[7]

But Tom was different. According to sportswriter Bob St. John: “The pressures of coaching in the NFL has had adverse mental and physical effects on the majority of coaches in the profession. But Landry does not … have ulcers or trouble sleeping.”[8] Tom attributes that to his faith, asserting that “My relationship with Christ gives me a source of power I would not have otherwise. What eats you up inside is fear and anxiety. God does not give us fear, but power and love and self-control.”[9]

That’s meekness.

Tom Landry managed to remain meek in a world of macho football players, thunderous peers, and a hyper-critical football town. The culture of his workplace put no edge on the man. Tom did not allow it to shape him adversely. Rather, he was shaped daily by his faith. As a result, today Tom Landry is renowned not only for his win-loss record, but for being a contemporary role model for workplace Christians everywhere. His legacy is one of both character and success.

Ours can be too if we reject the notion that meekness is weakness. Don’t buy into the workplace myth. In gentleness, you can both survive and thrive in a job environment that continually encourages you to act otherwise. As discussed in chapter 1, this begins by acknowledging God as your ultimate CEO. It continues by taking a page from Coach Landry’s playbook: Never lose sight of Jesus’ disposition. Regardless of what others are doing on the job, don’t let harshness, quick-temperedness, and aggressiveness undermine your witness and your legacy. Instead, live by God’s standard: “I am gentle and humble in heart.”

No, meekness is not weakness. It’s Christlikeness.

Wikipedia noted:

Landry’s success during nearly three decades of coaching was the impetus for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990, less than two years after his last game. Landry was inducted into the “Ring of Honor” at Texas Stadium in 1993. Landry had declined several earlier offers by Jones to enter the Ring of Honor before accepting in 1993.

Landry died on February 12, 2000, after battling leukemia. Landry’s funeral service was held at Highland Park United Methodist Church, where he was an active and committed member for forty-three years. He was interred in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas. A cenotaph dedicated to Landry, complete with a depiction of his fedora, was placed in the official Texas State Cemetery in Austin at the family’s request.[14]

The Cowboys wore a patch on their uniforms during the 2000 season depicting Landry’s trademark fedora. A bronze statue of Landry stood outside of Texas Stadium, and now stands in front of Cowboys Stadium since the Cowboys relocated in 2009. The section of Interstate 30 between Dallas and Fort Worth was named the Tom Landry Highway by the Texas Legislature in 2001. The football stadium in Landry’s hometown of Mission, Texas was named Tom Landry Stadium to honor one of the city’s most famous former residents.[15] Similarly, Trinity Christian Academy’s stadium in Addison, Texas is named Tom Landry Stadium in honor of Landry’s extensive involvement and support of the school.[16][17]

Head coaching record

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
DAL 1960 0 11 1 .000 7th in NFL West
DAL 1961 4 9 1 .308 6th in NFL East
DAL 1962 5 8 1 .385 5th in NFL East
DAL 1963 4 10 0 .286 5th in NFL East
DAL 1964 5 8 1 .385 5th in NFL East
DAL 1965 7 7 0 .500 2nd in NFL East
DAL 1966 10 3 1 .769 1st in NFL East 0 1 .000 Lost to the Green Bay Packers in NFL Championship Game
DAL 1967 9 5 0 .643 1st in NFL Capital 1 1 .500 Lost to the Green Bay Packers in NFL Championship Game
DAL 1968 12 2 0 .857 1st in NFL Capital 0 1 .000 Lost to the Cleveland Browns in Divisional Round
DAL 1969 11 2 1 .846 1st in NFL Capital 0 1 .000 Lost to the Cleveland Browns in Divisional Round
DAL 1970 10 4 0 .714 1st in NFC East 2 1 .667 Lost to the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V
DAL 1971 11 3 0 .786 1st in NFC East 3 0 1.000 Super Bowl VI Champions
DAL 1972 10 4 0 .714 2nd in NFC East 1 1 .500 Lost to the Washington Redskins in NFC Championship Game
DAL 1973 10 4 0 .714 1st in NFC East 1 1 .500 Lost to the Minnesota Vikings in NFC Championship Game
DAL 1974 8 6 0 .571 3rd in NFC East
DAL 1975 10 4 0 .714 2nd in NFC East 2 1 .667 Lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl X
DAL 1976 11 3 0 .786 1st in NFC East 2 1 .667 Lost to the Los Angeles Rams in Divisional Round
DAL 1977 12 2 0 .857 1st in NFC East 3 0 1.000 Super Bowl XII Champions
DAL 1978 12 4 0 .750 1st in NFC East 2 1 .667 Lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIII
DAL 1979 11 5 0 .688 1st in NFC East 0 1 .000 Lost to the Los Angeles Rams in Divisional Round
DAL 1980 12 4 0 .750 2nd in NFC East 2 1 .667 Lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in NFC Championship Game
DAL 1981 12 4 0 .750 1st in NFC East 2 1 .667 Lost to the San Francisco 49ers in NFC Championship Game
DAL 1982 6 3 0 .667 2nd in NFC 2 1 .667 Lost to the Washington Redskins in NFC Championship Game
DAL 1983 12 4 0 .750 2nd in NFC East 0 1 .000 Lost to the Los Angeles Rams in Wild Card Round
DAL 1984 9 7 0 .563 4th in NFC East
DAL 1985 10 6 0 .667 1st in NFC East 0 1 .000 Lost to the Los Angeles Rams in Divisional Round
DAL 1986 7 9 0 .438 3rd in NFC East
DAL 1987 7 8 0 .467 2nd in NFC East
DAL 1988 3 13 0 .188 5th in NFC East
Total 250 162 6 .607 20 16 .556

In popular culture

  • In 1959, while defensive coach of the Giants, Landry pretended to be a Catholic missionary priest on the TV panel game To Tell The Truth (on an episode that included balloonist Commander Malcolm Roth).
  • The coach in Peter Gent‘s novel North Dallas Forty is based on Tom Landry. G.D. Spradlin played the role in the film of the same name.
  • In Fox‘s animated sitcom King of the Hill, the local middle school is named after Tom Landry, and Landry is a personal hero of the show’s main character Hank Hill. He mentions being “mortified” because he went to work on the date of Landry’s death after his cousin Dusty (guest star Dusty Hill of ZZ Top) had previously tricked him into thinking Tom Landry had died, and he thought it was a repeat of that prank. Hank also has a Tom Landry Ceramic plate that he sometimes consults in times of need, on one occasion saying “Where did I go wrong, Tom?” Landry also occasionally appears to Hank in dream sequences to counsel him in times of need, like during Hank’s varnish induced hallucination on the episode “Hillennium“.
  • The series Friday Night Lights features a character named Landry hinted to be named after Tom Landry, given the town’s obsession with football.
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