In the last of my trifecta of looks at some of the aspects of the Cowboys past and present, I turn my attention to the coaches who have been at the helm of the Dallas Cowboys since their inception in 1960. As we all know, some have achieved greatness, while others have simply faded back into the sidelines from whence they came.
Three coaches have brought Super Bowl glory to Big D. Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson each won two Lombardi Trophies; although it can and has been argued that Barry Switzer was the beneficiary of coaching what should have been Johnson’s three-peat squad.
For those of us who have been bleeding blue since birth, “the man in the funny hat” has to be at the top of the last as far as Cowboys coaches go. The image of Tom Landry’s shadow in his trademark fedora pacing the sidelines of Texas Stadium can still bring chills to this Dallas fan. Landry was the only coach the Cowboys ever had until he was unceremoniously dismissed by Jerry Jones soon after he purchased the team prior to the 1989 season. The move didn’t earn Jones any brownie points with the Cowboys faithful. Three Super Bowls later, Jones still hasn’t fully lived down how he cast Landry aside so abruptly without any regard for the class and tradition he stood for during his 29 years at The Ranch.
Landry’s Cowboys played in five Super Bowls, winning two. He also led the ‘Boys to five NFC titles and 13 division titles. Perhaps the most impressive fact is that Dallas appeared in 10 NFC championship games in a span of 13 years with Landry as their coach. His “Doomsday Defense” dominated opponents with names like Bob Lilly, Mel Renfro, Harvey Martin and Randy White executing his “flex” scheme to perfection. Landry’s offense wasn’t too shabby either, with Cowboys greats like Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson and Tony Dorsett providing countless magical moments for Dallas fans. Lest we forget, too, that it was under Landry’s watch that “The Play Maker,” Michael Irvin was drafted into the Cowboys fold.
Dallas’ next coach brought a different, more brash, attitude to the Metroplex. After an embarrassing 1-15 start to his tenure in 1989, Jimmy Johnson soon introduced Dallas to the type of success that had propelled him to a 52-9 record during his five years at the University of Miami. With the infamous Herschel Walker trade, Johnson built the Cowboys into a dynasty during the 1990s that included back-to-back Super Bowl wins. Unfortunately, what has been widely typified as a clash of egos with his former Arkansas Razorback teammate and boss, Jerry Jones, sent Johnson packing in 1993.
Barry Switzer wore the headset for Dallas from 1994-97. Although his resume includes a Super Bowl title in 1995, many attribute his NFL success in large part to the team he inherited from Johnson. Switzer’s most memorable, and cringeworthy, moment for me came in the form of a redneckesque “We did it…we did it!” rant during the Lombardi Trophy presentation after the Cowboys victory.
The laundry list of coaches that followed after Switzer left Big D is rather forgettable with the exception of Bill Parcells, who Jones lured out of retirement to lead his “Boys after three pitiful 5-11 seasons. In his first year at the helm, Parcells brought Dallas back to post season play, albeit an early exit. It was Parcells who gave Tony Romo his first starting nod in week seven of the 2006 season. After that nightmarish botched hold against the Seahawks that ended the Cowboys’ season earlier than expected, Parcells hung up the Cowboys headset.
As we all know, the current Cowboys coach has yet to lead Dallas into the playoffs. Jason Garrett’s best results came after he replaced much maligned Wade Phillips in the middle of the 2010 season and led the Cowboys to a 5-3 record after they had started the year at 1-7. In each of his years as head coach, the Cowboys have finished third place in the NFC East and Garret is almost certain to be on the hot seat when the 2013 season kicks off.