Clint Murchison, Jr.: The Owner Rarely Heard From

The Dallas Cowboys ownership as of the last 20 plus years has been nothing but vocal and probably more in the news just as much as the quarterback of this team.  Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys in February of 1989 from Bum Bright, who bought the team from the founder of the team Clint Murchison in 1984.

Bum Bright owned the Cowboys for a short time before selling to Jones after losing millions to a bad business deal.  Bright wasn’t heard from much other than publicly wanting to fire then Head Coach Tom Landry in 1987.  Former General Manager Tex Schramm held off the firing, citing he didn’t have a successor in place at that time.

But the Cowboys owner you rarely heard from was the original owner, Clint Murchison, Jr.  Murchison owned the Cowboys for almost 25 years and started the franchise despite his father’s objections.  Clint Murchison, Sr. felt like it was a waste of money and that he was going to lose his shirt in such an investment.  Murchison, Jr. was involved in numerous investments including a taxicab company and insurance company among many others.  Clint along with his brother, John, ran the business with a hands-on approach as much as possible.  The initial sale of the Cowboys occurred due to a dispute between Clint and John’s estate, so the team was sold to settle it.

Clint had a love of the game of football and with that love; he created the Dallas Cowboys in 1960 hiring former Los Angeles Rams Public Relations Director Tex Schramm.  Schramm’s first assignment was to find and hire a head coach.  Schramm found and hired the defensive coach of the New York Giants and former Texas Longhorn standout football player, Thomas Wade Landry.

Unlike the current ownership, Murchison stuck with his investments and allowed Schramm to work his magic as the General Manager of the Cowboys.   Murchison even endorsed Landry’s hiring and believed in his head coach by offering him an unprecedented 10 year contract in 1964.  In 1967, Murchison and Schramm announced plans to build a futuristic and elite stadium to be completed by the 1971 season.  Murchison had a hand in designing it since he had a degree in engineering from MIT.  Many people claimed that next to the Cowboys, Murchison was proud of Texas Stadium.

Mural of Tex Schramm, the Cowboys original General Manager
Graphical credit: http://www.profootballhof.com/photos/151/2003/7/15/

Murchison allowed Schramm, Landry, and Scout Gil Brandt basically run the franchise with Schramm as the leader of the three.  Murchison had a hands-off approach figuring that the three men he hired didn’t need any second guessing or interference from the owner.  The three not only ran the franchise but turned into one of the most successful franchises in the sports world.  Murchison was a rarity and if he were alive today, he would probably be looked up on as strange to buy a team and not be a hands-on owner.

Honestly, a lot of owners including our own current owner should take a page out of this history and learn from it.  Considering the popularity and prestige of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones could find himself a very good and capable general manager.  Jones then could remove the title of President and let his people work.  The only time we saw that was when he bought the team and let Jimmy Johnson take care of things until the two couldn’t get along to the point of Johnson losing his job.  In this fans perspective, Jones is batting 1.000 for getting rid of good coaches and firing them in a controversial way.  First the firing of Landry and then after winning a Super Bowl, fires Johnson.  His hires after Johnson have been nothing but a joke starting with the original “Bozo the Clown” Barry Switzer.  It was my thought that the hiring of Barry Switzer was more about Jones getting a dig at Johnson.  Jones wanted to have a coach who won a national championship as well so that Johnson wouldn’t be the only NFL head coach to have a national championship ring.  Plus Switzer’s antics and embarrassing interviews just made the hiring that more of a side show than anything else. I could go on about the remainder of coaches but I will save that for another time.

Murchison was a rarity of owners in the NFL but he was the best the Cowboys had for 25 years.  Like I stated, perhaps Jerry Jones should take a page from history but we all know his ego will never allow it.

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