The Greatest Cowboys Coaches; Landry, Johnson, and…Garrett?

When talking about the great coaches of the Dallas Cowboys you find that the conversation can turn extremely serious, extremely fast; much like discussing bi-partisan politics.   Why?  Most likely this stems from a lack of patience from the fan base towards the recent string of mediocre Cowboys coaches.  Pretty understandable considering it’s been almost two decades since “America’s Team” has come close to seeing a Superbowl from anywhere other than a couch.  Ask any fan and they’ll typically point out; to be world champs again, the Cowboys have to find another coach like Landry or Johnson.  But, what about a Jason Garrett?

Sure, with only three seasons under his belt it’s kind of early to start erecting that bronze statue of “Red” in front of Cowboys Stadium, but it’s an interesting debate when you break down the numbers.  Not the championships; as Garrett is lacking in that department, rather by wins versus losses.  “But Landry and Johnson have way more wins that Garrett” you might say; and overall you’d be right, except you’re looking at Landry’s and Johnson’s resumes after their Cowboys coaching careers were over.  Remember, Garrett has only been the Cowboys Head Coach for just under three seasons.

Feb 5, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; General view of the snow on the statue of Dallas Cowboys former coach Tom Landry (not pictured) outside of Cowboys Stadium before Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 6, 2011. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

First let’s start with the Great Tom Landry.  Coach Landry was well known for his defensive innovation as a coordinator for the New York Giants from 1954 – 1959.  During his tenure he helped to make the Giants one of the most feared defensive teams in football and had appearances in three championship games.  Opportunity came knocking in 1960 when Landry was hired to coach a newly formed expansion team called the Dallas Cowboys.  Success eluded Coach Landry for the following five seasons.  Despite this, he was offered a ten year contract extension in 1964.  We know now that extension was one of the best decisions ever made as Coach Landry went on to have an extremely successful 29 year career as the Dallas Cowboys Head Coach, netting two Super Bowl Trophies and record number of play-off wins.  However; as previously mentioned Coach Landry’s first three seasons were a failure, posting a dismal record of 9 – 28 – 3.

Nov 1, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Former Dallas Cowboys, and Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes head coach Jimmy Johnson is seen on the sidelines during a game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Johnson became the Dallas Cowboys second Head Coach in 1989 after Jerry Jones purchased the franchise for 140 million.  Coach Johnson had great success leading the Miami Hurricanes but not many Cowboys fans were enthusiastic about him taking the wheel after the controversial dismissal of Coach Landry.  Johnson’s first season posted a record of 1 – 15 – 0 and did little to boost the fan base’s optimism.  In fact, it only confirmed the feelings most Cowboys Fan’s had, “Jimmy got the job ‘cause he’s Jerry’s buddy”.  Again, we all know how the story ends.  Coach Johnson soon becomes one of the most successful coaches in the 90’s, leading the Cowboys to two Lombardi Trophies and posting an overall winning percentage of .550 as well as an astonishing post season winning percentage of .875.  Coach Johnson became one of the greatest head coaches of the Dallas Cowboys; but his first three seasons were less than great with a losing record of 19 – 29 – 0.

Nov 22, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett during the game against the Washington Redskins during a game on Thanksgiving at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Garrett came to the Dallas Cowboys as a bright and innovative offensive coordinator in 2007.  He quickly coached the Cowboys Offense to second best in the NFL and over the next couple of years kept them in the top ten offenses overall.  After the Cowboys failed to produce wins under Wade Phillips halfway through the 2010 season, Wade was out and “Red” was anointed as the sixth Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys.  His story remains incomplete but his first three seasons top the two (undisputed) greatest head coaches in Cowboys history.  Even though he’s posted a winning record of 21 – 19 – 0; you’ll find that Garrett remaining the Head Coach in 2013 is as polarizing a discussion to most Cowboys Fans as Tony Romo continuing at Quarterback.  Maybe it’s the fan’s lack of confidence in Jerry’s ability to find a good head coach.  Not counting Garrett, Jones is one for six when choosing a successful coach (most agree that Switzer won with Jimmy’s team).  Plus, didn’t Jerry allow Sean Payton to get away.  Maybe it’s because Garrett has the emotions of a sea bass.  Regardless of the reason, the numbers don’t lie.  Coach Garrett has managed to do in three seasons what Johnson and Landry couldn’t …WIN.

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  • Kaylee

    Jimmy Johnson, like Landry, inherited a talentless mess. Garrett was handed the best pass rusher in the game, a very good QB, one of the best tight ends, at least one very good wide receiver and a promising if injury-plagued young middle linebacker. That’s a very good core to build on. Johnson had an injury-plagued Michael Irvin and nothing else, but got better with each successive year. After winning one game in 1989, he had the team in playoff contention by year two, and a wild card victory after an 11-win third season. Garrett has actually gotten worse since his first half season. Johnson knew what he was doing with this franchise. Our current head coach does not. He’s as confused as a deer in the headlights.

    • truth

      Further, the Cowboys went 7-9, 7-8(?) and then 3-13 in 1988, Landry’s last yr. with Dallas. Add to that that Jimmy traded his best player, Herschel Walker to Vikings for the famous blockbuster trade.

      So again, this is way off when it comes to comparable seasons and/or situations. Bad, bad article.

      JG on the other hand, was given a Playoff team coached by Bill Parcels. I mean that in and of itself should speak volumes. But add, that Bill, if not entirely, helped draft and pick FA’s for the team. I mean someone who knows good players and Football in General.
      Let’s not forget, Cowboys had done well that yr., handily beating the Seahawks but again like we have seen recently, Romo single-handily lost the game with his late game bone-headed decision-making….losing the game by fumbling the FG kick.
      Please with the far-reaching comparisons.

  • truth

    What is this

  • truth

    I’m sorry, really, really sorry, but this article just plain-out sucks. I mean you’d think it was written by a 5 yr.old that doesn’t know much about football let alone Cowboys football, sheeshhh, for crying out loud.

    Plainly, JG as underachieved year-in and year-out. And as much as anyone wants to debate this, it is fact when you break it all down. Again, this is where most go wrong, bad, south… They can’t for the life of, break it all down and come up with an intelligent summation.

    JG was fortunate enough to get indirectly, the high first round picks that you get when your team, formerly, went 5-11 for what, 3 straight yrs. Then to compound that, with a former Super Bowl Champion HC that had garnered such accolades to show that he was a career Winner, and not for a season or two.

    JG was the recipient of a well previously drafted team along with good FA pick-ups and coaching-up of team. Heck, many will tell, as seen through that season, that Cowobys under Parcels’ was on the cusp of being Great. Of course, many will tell you that once again, as in the future, Tony Romo would continue with his bone-headed decisions to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!!

    JG underachieved once again, and every yr. since!! The players, during the 08′ season complained to Jerry and Wade that JG wasn’t “coralling Romo…” In other words, JG wouldn’t and maybe couldn’t – didn’t have the know-how or wherewithall – to. This, unexplicitly, as later would be seen, caused JG to hate Wade and some players and then, cause a huge rift between coaches and players that would eventually have devastating consequences. Ohh come-on…you guys don’t remember that?? Hmmm….some must not be paying attention like I was and still am.

    JG was given a stout OL, good to decent running game, unbelievable core of WRs but JG, as a Coach and Scheme-setter, came up short week-in and week-out, year-in and year-out! JG sucks and the evidence is there to prove it!!

  • californy

    What you failed to mention about Johnson he had one of the lowest payroll team when he won the First SB, and ever since that brilliant moment JJ has had the boys in Cap hell. The boys still had the talent for 3 more years to win two more SB. Jimmy was building his team during these three years . JG has been building and rebuilding the same OL for two years in a row and has the boys Running attack the worst in team history. This team is 18.2 million over the cap with 35 players under contract, we have player we can’t cut of trade because of the salary cap. We have 1/3 of the team without a contract and only 6 draft picks to fill the opening. The future cap number are going to be bad, expect 2 more years without hiring any more player to get rid of these cap hits. JJ wont work this way but will continue what he is good at and that purging this team with talent, no depth and cap hits.

  • californy

    By the way it doesnt take 10 years any more top rebuild a winner. GB added 42 -players in two years and won the SB with one of the lowest payroll in football.

  • ‘mericas_team2013

    “Jason Garrett came to the Dallas Cowboys as a bright and innovative offensive coordinator in 2007″- I would like to know who thought this about Garrett…