Danny White is an admired thread in the Dallas Cowboys’ historical tapestry. It’s to the point that when some people deride Tony Romo as being “the next Danny White,” supporters of the 1982 Pro Bowl quarterback ask where Romo ever led his team to three straight NFC Championships. The notion Danny White was anything less than a winner makes Cowboys fans bristle.
This week, I had a chance to spend a little more time with the Cowboys’ ninth starting quarterback in franchise history than I did previously. Here are some excerpts from my conversation with Danny White.
In light of this week’s finalization of the Cowboys’ move to Frisco, one of the first things I asked Mr. White was about 1985’s move from the Cowboys’ practice facility off Forest Lane in Dallas to their brand new digs in Valley Ranch in Irving:
Well, we were all really, really proud of it. We had a state of the art facility at Valley Ranch. We had that famous, giant hot tub and great locker room and meeting rooms, three practice fields, a half-mile track. You know, it was real state of the art. Unfortunately, it didn’t help us win games. We still struggled on the field. We won the division in ’85, but in ’86, we were on track to do it again and I broke my wrist halfway through the season and that basically ended my career. And so even though we had this great facility, we just couldn’t get back on a winning track and so, you know, we’ll see. But if I know Jerry Jones, whatever they build in Frisco is going to be state of the art; it’s going to be the best one anywhere in the league. And hopefully, this time, it’ll be enough to get the Cowboys back into the Super Bowl.
For the record, Danny White never played a down of Dallas Cowboys football under the ownership of Jerry Jones. The 13-year Dallas Cowboy was part of the old regime and retired during the 1989 off-season. He was still on the team when Jerry Jones “classlessly” fired Tom Landry. Even thereafter, Mr. White spent all of the 1990’s and nearly all of the 2000’s away from NFL circles while coaching the Arizona Rattlers and the Utah Blaze in the Arena Football League.
In 2011, Mr. White joined Compass Media Networks as their color analyst for Dallas Cowboys radio broadcasts. In that capacity, he has had the duty to cover the Dallas Cowboys. When asked about how he felt about the 2013 edition, the 1977 Super Bowl champion was rather optimistic:
I agree with the front office and what they’re doing. They didn’t spend a bunch of money in the free agent market. Of course, they didn’t have a lot to spend. They didn’t draft any real high profile players. Their opinion is that they basically have the talent. They need to tweak a couple of positions and a couple of guys need to get better. But I agree with that. I think that last year was just a horrendous year. They lost — they were third in the league in starters’ games lost to injuries. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The story is when you lose guys like Sean Lee and [Bruce] Carter and Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware isn’t 100% — I mean, you lose all these guys on defense your pass rush just disappears. And you can’t lose that many leaders of a football team and really expect to be able to compete. That’s what happened to the Cowboys last year. So I think their biggest problem is staying healthy. They can do that. I think they’ll compete and have a chance to win the division as long as they can stay healthy. So that’s what I’m watching for.
Currently, the Dallas Cowboys are having problems staying healthy. The “pop” we heard at the start of training camp wasn’t a gun shot, but the rupturing of DT Tyrone Crawford’s Achilles. Now, starters like DE Anthony Spencer, DT Jay Ratliff, and CB Morris Claiborne, along with contributors like DT Sean Lissemore, S Matt Johnson, and RG Ronald Leary, continue to miss practice, casting doubt upon the Cowboys’ necessity to stay healthy for a successful 2013 season.
Of course, the Cowboys also had other mitigating factors, like a head coach trying to do too much. This off-season, I asked Roger Staubach if, like current head coach Jason Garrett, his former head coach Tom Landry tried to do too much. Roger agreed, so I figured I would ask the same of the quarterback who started 92 games under Coach Landry:
I kind of agree with that [Landry did too much] because the game was evolving. Back when Coach Landry first started, I think you could do that. I think the game was simple enough and the head coaching position wasn’t nearly as complex as it was at the end of his career. By the late ’70s and early ’80s, it had gotten to where the head coach needed to be a guy that’s dealing with the media and he’s dealing with all of the assistant coaches. You really can’t be a hands-on coach like Coach Landry was trying to do. And I think he did it as well as anybody, but I think the time had come for him to start delegating some of that stuff to his coordinators and to his assistant coaches. And I think that’s something that he was in the process of doing in 1988 when Jerry Jones bought the team and Coach Landry left. I think he realized that. But at his age, I think he didn’t have that many more years to coach and he wasn’t in a big hurry. He told me one time in the off-season after he turned the play-calling over to the coordinator — we didn’t have a very good year. He said, “If we’re going to lose, we’re going to lose with my plays and not somebody else’s.” And that was his philosophy. He wanted that weight on his shoulders and he wanted to bear that burden. He didn’t want to put that on anybody else. It’s just the kind of man he was.”
Coach Landry was also the type of man who instilled in Danny White and the Cowboys before him and with him the will to never accept losing and success comes from working together as a team. These core values are what Mr. White communicates regularly at his corporate speaking engagements, another post-football venture for this Arena Football Hall of Famer.
To listen to my conversation with Danny White in its entirety, including his Arizona State connections and memories of his late father, tune in this Sunday at 7:00 PM Central to The Landry Hat Podcast hosted by Steve Mullenax and Kyle Minton. To learn more about this Dallas Cowboys legend or book him for your next corporate event, visit www.dannywhite.com.