Why Jason Garrett Will Never Be Tom Landry

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June 11, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks during a press conference after minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It’s important to point out that Landry also never worked for the kind of owner that Garrett now does, the same one who fired Landry entering the 1989 calendar year. While owner and general manager Jerry Jones was probably wise to move on from Landry in favor of former head coach Jimmy Johnson, it’s clear that the way he did so was as classless as one can imagine and also presented a first look at the personality that still rules all things Dallas Cowboys.

In fact, it’s Jones who wants Garrett to become a synonym for Landry more than anybody else. Dallas fans could care less who’s coaching so long as the Cowboys are a true contender and are winning games. For this fan base, football simply has to be played well beyond Christmas and New Year’s Day—expectations that Landry created.

Without getting into a sermon on Jones’ deficiencies as a GM or person, I’ll simply say that the Cowboys are run by an owner who’s focus is much more on himself and on making yet more money than it is winning trophies named after Lombardi. If this wasn’t true, Landry wouldn’t have been handled the way he was following a 3-13 regular season in 1988, Jimmy Johnson wouldn’t have been shown the door following back-to-back Super Bowl championships in 1994 and Cowboys fans would certainly have a credible, successful and proven head coach in place.

Instead, there’s Garrett, who’s nothing more than a career backup quarterback who never played a whole lot of football as a professional, possibly the driving force behind his desire to be a head coach. The playing career of Garrett meant absolutely nothing outside of a memorable Thanksgiving Day victory for Dallas over Green Bay back in 1994.

No, you don’t have to have been a successful starting quarterback, or player for that matter, to be a successful coach.

On the contrary, it does help tremendously if you have been a head coach somewhere before trying your hand at that role in the NFL—and especially in Dallas.

Only Jones would bestow his illusion of Garrett as some kind of prodigious “chosen one” that can bring balance back to the trophy cabinet at Valley Ranch, like he’s Luke Skywalker, on the largest fan base in the league. If that wasn’t true, Jones wouldn’t be hanging on to Garrett at all costs despite the fact that his padawan learner has trouble with play-calling, clock management, understanding offensive balance and obviously leadership.

Landry was born with character qualities, some of which were certainly expanded while serving as a B-17 Flying Fortress co-pilot during WWII, that would serve him well no matter what he did in his life. Landry chose his love of football and that certainly paid off in ways that even he probably couldn’t imagine. Leadership was probably his most prized asset, even if it didn’t seem that obvious given his stoic demeanor.

In fact, Garrett has called on folks more similar to Landry to do the leading and inspiring for him. Remember the invitations accepted by United States Army General David Rodriguez and former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs to speak to Cowboys players? There was also a visit to the United States Phil Bucklew Naval Special Warfare Center near San Diego so Cowboys players, along with their head coach, could learn about discipline and sacrifice.

Following the SEALs visit, Garrett made the following comments which have stuck with me for well over a year now:

I’m very quick to point out for our football team that what they do is very different from what we do.They’re in life and death situations, we’re trying to win football games. But I’d be hard-pressed to think that we can’t learn something from them, about how they go about their job every day, how they build their teams and how they lead their teams, and the trust they have in each other.

Notice the word “we” near the end, clearly an indication that Garrett is also learning how to both lead and get his message, whatever that might be, across to his players.

I’m not sure about the SEALs, as individuals, but I’m positive that both General Rodriguez, a former defensive end at West Point, and Gibbs, a three-time Super Bowl winning head coach, know plenty about running the ball. One knew it had to be stopped and the other knew it had to be successful, you can figure out who’s who.

Garrett’s tenure in Dallas as offensive coordinator and head coach clearly illustrate a disconnect on those two fundamentals, and in a big way.

Nothing against the general, the head coach or the SEALs who were gracious enough to take the time to talk to football players. It just doesn’t seem like a strong head coach, like Landry, Johnson, Bill Parcells or even Gibbs needed outside help from anybody in order to boost their own message.

Garrett, as he admits, is still learning the ropes,  but when an intern, rookie or novice professional is charged with responsibilities that likely fall beyond their capabilities, what happens?

In Garrett’s case, you end up surrounded by other colleagues that are more qualified, accomplished and experienced than yourself. I’m talking about current assistant coaches like Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli, Bill Callahan and, most recently, Scott Linehan.

Three of those names just mentioned have also been a head coach in the NFL, although with not too much success on their own—remember that Callahan led an Oakland Raiders team built by Jon Gruden to a Super Bowl, much like Barry Switzer took Johnson’s collection of talent to the same peak.

So there sits Garrett, one year removed from an “uncomfortable offseason” which was highlighted by numerous changes and additions to the coaching staff. Today, the trend continues as his boss proceeds to try or allow anything he can to make Garrett something he’s never proven to be, even entering his eighth season with the franchise.

This is why Garrett will never be Landry—or likely anything close.

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  • http://tinyurl.com/CowboyBooksBlog fgoodwin

    How should Jerry have fired Landry? How would you have done it differently than Jerry did?

    • SmartThinking

      I would have met with Landry in person rather than tell him in a phone call. I would have held off notifying the media until the first task was accomplished successfully. I would have given Landry the benefit of the doubt, explained my ‘new’ way of doing things and given him the opportunity to not be blindsided like Jones did but to resign with dignity. I would have called a press conference ‘after’ those items were completed successfully and explained to everyone, for as long as the questions kept coming, that this is a new regime, with new thinking and Landry chose NOT to be a part of that change. I would have begged Landry to remain on the team, even for a year or two, in an advisory capacity or in the front office.

      In other words, I would have shown respect to a bonafide football legend and demonstrated just a tiny bit of class and professionalism rather than creating a whirlwind of controversy with his cheap shot changes.

      If you don’t understand just how poorly Jones bungled his take over with Landry, then I question whether you understand people, honor, or business.

      It’s my contention that, nearly twenty years after the changeover, a great deal of the animosity and downright hatred of Jones and his boneheaded destruction of a football dynasty has as much to do with his classless handling of the Landry affair. Cowboys fans don’t forget. And Jones does himself little good by continually placing himself ahead of the team and out in front of the cameras every time one comes anywhere near him.

      • http://tinyurl.com/CowboyBooksBlog fgoodwin

        You know Jimmy was just as big a control freak as Jerry, right?

        So, how do you think Jimmy would’ve felt with Landry looking over his shoulder for a year or two?

        Do you honestly think such an arrangement would’ve worked out?

        • SmartThinking

          It’s not about the ‘arrangement’ you speak about. It’s about exercising a modicum of class and professionalism in the termination of a football legend and probably the best loved man in Dallas during that period.

          If you don’t understand that, then you’re just plain ignorant!

          • http://tinyurl.com/CowboyBooksBlog fgoodwin

            I’ve been following the Cowboys since 1965 so I think I know a little about them. For you to offer up a scenario that you know darn well Jimmy would not tolerate, and that Landry likely as not would not have accepted, tells me you haven’t really thought this through.

            Look I’m no fan of Jerry, but the truth is, Landry skipped town and Jerry flew to Austin to meet him face to face. Bum offered to fire Landry but Jerry said that was his job. Jerry did all he could do. There is no “nice” way to fire a legend.

            And while it is true NOW that Landry is loved, at the time most everybody wanted him gone. Or have you already forgotten?

          • SmartThinking

            I was at the Cowboys’ first pre-season game so I’ve got some skin in the game, too. If you’re such an expert, you’d have known that Landry kept a summer home outside Austin where he and his wife spent most off seasons. He was there, not Dallas, nor had he been in Dallas, preparing for coaching the next season.

            Jones didn’t have the stones to face Landry mano a mano. That’s what this discussion is about. Or did YOU forget?

          • Chesney Blair

            Are you stilling arguing the fact that Landry firing was a wrong thing? Dumbthinking we won three years shortly after his release. Things went haywire after Jerry took complete control. Landry is one of the best coaches ever but the years had passed by him. New owner = New era. You think the Bills should hire Marv Levy back again?

          • http://tinyurl.com/CowboyBooksBlog fgoodwin

            Like I said, Jerry flew to Austin to meet Landry face to face. Not sure what more you wanted him to do. I haven’t forgotten that fans all over Cowboy Nation wanted Landry gone. Yes, many fans were upset about how Jones fired Landry, but I repeat, there is no nice way to fire a legend.

          • Chesney Blair

            He is one of the best of all time. it was time for him to go just like JG JJ TR but the request is still pending. I certainly enjoyed the three 3 super bowls. Now hire Gruden, or someone who can handle the bright lights and challenge and get us back to winning.

        • Chesney Blair

          we would’t have three sbs. stupid suggestion.

        • Christian Blood

          Jimmy would have never allowed that to happen.

          You’d be surprised exactly how much Johnson delegated his authority.

      • Chesney Blair

        I agree Jones did the firing in a tasteless fashion but the game had passed Landry by the time Jones bought the team. Late eighties were not good for the Cowboys. Landry is a legend but every dog has its day.

        • SmartThinking

          Irrelevant to the discussion or to the manner of termination.

        • Old Frog

          “Every dog has it’s day”. Can I quote you on that if Garrett gets us to the playoffs?

          • SmartThinking

            How about that thing about the blind pig and the truffle?

          • Chesney Blair

            Playoffs is not enough. He should aim for the super bowl that is the ultimate goal for every coach. See this is precisely what is wrong with Cowboy nation. Shooting for playoffs have become the golden standard for success. Btw, Garrett will get fired after a 6-10 season next year. Even Jerry is waiting upon the season to see if he can extend him. More likely is, Romo missing some games, Cowboys buckling, and everyone looking for Romo’s replacement next year, Dez having an epic meltdown and team in complete disarray. Don’t forget some hefty blow-out to some good teams.

          • Christian Blood

            Chesney you are right on all fronts.

            Dallas fans are being dumbed-down to the idea that playoffs are where the magic begins.

            Great rosters and tons of talent are why the magic behins.

            I really don’t believe that Jones remembers the 90s at all; lots of draft picks, lots of depth, great running game.

            Jones is the exact opposite now.

            6-10 at best in ’14. There’s just no resources available to make Dallas better.

          • Chesney Blair

            Yes it is very sad, isn’t it? Since the last Cowboys super bowl only the Redskins and Detroit are the other NFC teams that have not been to the super bowl.

          • Christian Blood



            There’s a game called the Super Bowl too …

          • Old Frog

            Of course we want to go to the Super Bowl but first things first…

        • Christian Blood

          No, the game didn’t pass Landry by. Too many years of success, late draft picks and a bad choice or two is what caught up to the Cowboys organization.

          People get better the longer they’re able to do something, unless that something requires physical attributes.

          Obviously coaching doesn’t.

          • Chesney Blair

            so the game didn’t pass him but someone completely takes over from him and is able to take that team to two super bowls and win that and was largely responsible for another? do you think the cowboys would’ve won 3 super bowls with landry? rip.

      • GoalLineStan

        Landry never would have agreed to any position in the Jones organization after the shoddy, unprofessional way he was mistreated by Jerry. Hell. Landry wouldn’t even attend his own inclusion in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor, he was so PO’d at Jones. But, I do agree, it would have been the right thing for Jones to do, though.

    • Christian Blood

      Jones could have and should have told Landry in person and obviously before his firing was a national story.

  • Old Frog

    As I keep reminding people, even the great Belichick went 36 and 44 his first five years as a head coach. So far Garrett is better than that…not much, but better. Give him time.

    • Chesney Blair

      I disagree with you OF. First of all no one can fix the Browns franchise. 36-44 is probably one of the best Browns coach records even so I see comparison faulty because Belichick got fired when he posted such a record, He is only with the Patriots because he has won three super bowls and constantly wins. In todays NFL three years is long enough time to prove your worth. There was an article where it showed all the playoff coaches and I believe most if not all were with the current team three years or less. The only reason way JG is still around just like Romo is that he is Jerry’s favorite and doesn’t want to be proved once again that he made a wrong decision in regards to coaching. This is just same Jerry doing what he wants to do. He will inevitably fail once again and start all over. You know the story.

      I also want to add in the three years I watched JG his time management(kneeling before the half for two years) his unemotional approach to the game has been woeful. Show some emotions, show some heart. I believe players feed of their coaches and they can sense the indifferent style JG carries. He is just not cut out to be a coach.

      • Old Frog

        Landry was about as unemotional and stoic on the sideline as a coach could be. You could probably count the number of times he showed emotion during a game on one hand.

        • Chesney Blair

          No I want to be pleasantly surprised. I keep hearing about this fairy tale but want to see it to believe it.

          I am sick of you and other Cowboy fans saying lets wait another, lets wait the year after(NO offense). Sick of that to be honest. The year is now and yet again we can’t even get a whiff of the playoff. Good coaches get their teams to the playoff and help them win their. JG doesn’t have that.

          Secondly Seahawks have built up from ground up and they have done it through thinking outside the box.

          I said this before but I will repeat what I’ve said before. Lets pretend JG is the coach of the Seahawks after signing Matt Flyyn. You think he would draft Russell Wilson and have him start? This is so unCowboys like it is ridiculous. We commit to players too long and coaches too. I’ll tell you another thing Wade Philllips should’ve been fired after 1-4 but Jerry had to get humiliated in front of the national tv when Green Bay Packers took the pity on us for him to actually make the switch.

          Jerry waits too long to make personnel moves and that is what has killed us. JG doesn’t cut it in the NFL. I’ve seen enough. Too many kneel downs before the half, too many idiotic moves before the time runs out, too many passes, too many let-downs. Done with being outplayed, out coached, outdone. Is that enough reason to request a change?

          • Old Frog

            Doesn’t matter what any of us want or think. Jerry is in charge. All we can do as fans is relax and enjoy “the show”.

          • Chesney Blair

            The Cowboys fans are like they typical Americans they take what is given to them. Have you seen the Man U fans when the Glazers took over? Of coarse you can do something. It is your team. Stage large protest, sign big Facebook petitions, don’t accept what is given to you. This our team as much as Jerry’s.

          • Old Frog

            I agree, CB. You should go to the games and hold up signs expressing your opinions. Maybe the game commentators will give you some TV coverage. Start a petition. I’m sure people will sign it.

          • Chesney Blair

            Yes sounds like a defeatist. They can take theirmedia coverage, I just want the team to be better and to be run better.

      • John

        Nobody ever said Tom Landry, or for that matter, Bill Belichick was too stoic on the sidelines. Garrett’s culture turnaround for this franchise was remarkable – he just needs the talent to translate it into wins. He’s awful close. He will win Superbowls in this league – I just hope it’s in Dallas.

        • Chesney Blair

          How do you know this? We are the Dallas Cowboys FFS, we deserve a coach who is more eccentric, who goes for 4 and 6th twice at home with NFC championship on the line. This guy is not Phil Jackson, Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson, Pete bloody Carroll, OK? What culture turnaround? With Phillips we won 13 and 11 games in the span of three years. I don’t want this idiot to win 9 games, I want him to win 13 and win the NFC.

          • John

            Judging by the death threats Landry was getting late in his career, and the way fans booed Aikman at home during his swan song season, I’d say Cowboys fans got exactly what they “deserved” during the past 15 years or so…

          • Chesney Blair

            John what team do you support?

          • Christian Blood

            Yeah, Eagles fans as well.

        • Christian Blood

          Garrett will win Super Bowls?

          Well, maybe once he figures out offense, clock management, defense … then I might win one too.

          Sorry, but Garrett has changed nothing about the culture of failure and mediocrity in Dallas.

          On the contrary, Garrett defines those negatives.

    • Christian Blood

      Belichik is a known cheat who doesn’t really belong in the discussion here. After getting busted for activities which took place for years prior to being discovered, the Pats haven’t really done anything but lose a couple of Super Bowls … remember that the AFC East has been stinking since the end of Jim Kelley and Dan Marino.

  • Juanito Juanito

    he never would be like tom landry, because thank good landry never had jerry jones like gm

  • Jack Farguson

    I don’t know how it is going to work out for Jason, but I hope for him to become great, and for that to start this year. Tom and Jimmy had several things going for them that Jason hasn’t. Tom took ten years to build his team, working for an owner that gave him the reins and no salary cap or labor agreements to deal with. I’m probably on my own on these thoughts but as good of an owner as I think Jerry is, sometimes he is in the way. signing big contracts to barely worthy players at bad times. I think some of the drafting of Jason’s predecessor, & Owner, and cap issues are holding him back. Jimmy had a lot of good things happen to help boost his building of a team. NO Cap, No labor Contracts, Hershel Walker Trade. I do think Jason will be a great coach some day and I hope for the cowboys and their fans sake it starts in 2014. I think he see’s the problems but is limited in how much he can do with what he has to work with. Injuries the last two years haven’t helped either.

    • Christian Blood

      Perhaps you’re right. But if Garrett is as weak of a leader as I think he is, he’ll never stand up to that meddlesome GM who’s standing in the way.

      Again, Dallas fans lose. You’re not a great coach when you don’t seem to understand football fundamentals well.

  • Crewe

    Simply, I don’t believe you can fairly judge any head coach while under the thumb of Jerry Jones

    • Christian Blood

      As long as they call upon others to lead and ice their own kicker, they certainly can be.

      Garrett just isn’t a leader, doesn’t know fundamentals either.

    • jayhwk01

      Could not agree more. JJ is Al Davis incarnate and simply cannot get out of his own way.

  • Old Frog

    Christian, thanks for starting this spirited debate. Clearly JG is polarizing topic; even more so than JJ. Most everybody hates the way JJ runs the team but it seems opinions still vary about Garrett as the HC.

  • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

    Along with several other fans I hope Garrett is successful. I was a fan when Landry first started coaching and it bothers me to read about comparisons of Garrett with Landry when the only knowledge the writers have of Landry is based on what they have read or heard. I also recall many fans wanting Landry to be fired after the Cowboys lost two championship games to the Green Bay Packers. His flex defense and the up and down offensive sets were called “gimmicks”. However, you don’t hear about that now when comparisons are made. Landry was possibly the greatest NFL coach of all time but he too had his critics. Considering the owner Garrett has to work for, if he is successful, it will be one of the greatest achievements in NFL history.