Brand image, name, and symbol differentiate one company from the next. The Dallas Cowboys Star is indisputably the most recognized symbol of all 32 NFL teams. That star, while clearly a success in recognition, is not going to win them any Super Bowls. What the Cowboys need is a brand, “on-the-field”, i.e. a Pittsburgh Steelers running game, a New York Giants stout defense, or a New England Patriots pass attack. This handful of teams have shown success at winning consistently because they do not go changing game plans every 2-3 years like the Cowboys. The Cowboys need to find some stability or there will be no more Super Bowls in the future.
The Giants, located in New Jersey, are known for their attitude and rough-around-the-edges state of mind. They won two Super Bowls, one in 2008 and one in 2012, both against the New England Patriots, by keeping Tom Brady and company from capitalizing on their own successful brand of passing. With an average-at-best quarterback, Eli Manning, while clutch in the 4th quarter, did not win that game with the offense. It was because of their incredible defensive pass rushing unit of Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, and the rest of the crew. These young players follow the likes of the Cowboys own Tom Landry, Carl Banks, Michael Strahan, and Lawrence Taylor as some of the greatest Giants defensive talent ever seen. Their brand is hard-hitting, attack-dog assaulting defense.
The Steelers, located in Pittsburgh, are known for their blue-collar mentality and toughness. The Steelers pound the ball, relentlessly making their way into the endzone. Historically, they have used a powerful running game to win the most Super Bowls, six, out of all NFL teams. They have rushed for nearly 5,000 yards more than any other NFL team since the 1970’s. They relied on smash-mouth, run-up-the-gut football and it’s worked year after year. When they won back-to-back Super Bowl’s (twice) in 1975, 1976, 1979, and 1980, Franco Harris led the way. In 2006, Willie Parker could not be stopped from pushing his way through like a freight train. Rashard Mendenhall carried the load in the 2009 win. Other greats include Jerome Bettis, John Henry Johnson, and Rocky Bleier who all made the Steelers champions with this brand of football.
The Patriots, located in Boston, are known for their business-during-the-day, party-all-night position. Much like their home city, the Pats depend on the business-like short passes or over the middle, party-type little dinks and dunks. Tom Brady does not throw the long bomb traditionally. His wide receivers and tight ends take out chunks of yardage by moving down field in spurts. The team does not rely on their defense, nearly as much, as they know Brady can go to work and move the ball at will. Out of seven Super Bowl appearances, Brady led his team to victories in 2001, 2003, and 2004. While the defense did step up during those three wins, it was still the overall passing game brand that won the titles. Drew Bledsoe, Steve Grogan, Ben Coates, Stanley Morgan, and Deion Branch are all part of that brand of football history.
The Dallas Cowboys have not had a brand on the field to be proud of in nearly 20 years. They do not have that unique identifier that sets them apart from the other 31 teams. They have been rather manic since the 1990’s due mostly in part to the coaching carousel ride. In the 52 years of existence, the Cowboys have employed eight head coaches. The first, and by far the best, Mr. Tom Landry, coached for 29 years. He made the Cowboys into winners and he established a brand that people recognized. Fans, coaches, fellow football players knew who the Cowboys were and what they could do to the opponent. The next six head coaches never got the chance to cement their own plans into place because they all left prior to their five year anniversaries. Coach #8, Jason Garrett must take up the torch and follow in Coach Landry’s footsteps, put in an action plan, recruit those type of players, get the existing roster to buy in, and stick to it or they will continue to fail. Whether it’s a passing attack, the offense is already in place for this style, or more emphasis on the defense, only the coaching staff knows, but Jason must take control. By establishing a formula for success, the players will support the coaching staff, respect the direction, and the Cowboys will be back on center stage.
Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control.
Despite what the media says or what a fanbase in Wisconsin decrees, the Dallas Cowboys are still America’s team. Cowboy fans can be found worldwide and they believe, every season, that they will return to the glory days and collect more Super Bowl rings. That confidence must come from the top down, but the head coach must have the ability to act and do, not just be the puppet.